In a tense and hard-fought high school basketball game in Kentucky earlier this month, a team from a smaller school in Inez turned up without its band. Student musicians accompanying a rival team set to play later in the tournament determined that their Kentucky brethren deserved some fanfare on the court.
What are the details?
The Martin County High School Cardinals faced off against the Lawrence County Bulldogs at the Kentucky High School Athletic Association 15th Region tournament in Pikeville, Kentucky, on March 4.
MCHS, a smaller school where 70% of the students are “economically disadvantaged,” has a 23-member band, which only ever plays home games. Even if it could hit the road, a bus-driver shortage in the area would likely ensure the band couldn’t make the journey, reported the Washington Post.
Over the course of the game, musicians belonging to the Pike County Central High School pep band began setting up in the vacant section, which had initially served as a reminder to all that the Cardinals were songless.
As members of the Pike Central Pep Band migrated into the section and took their seats, they began to befriend some of the Martin County kids, reported the Appalachian News-Express.
The game progressed and these friendships further cemented until the Bulldogs tied the game 64-64 with just seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
When the game ultimately went into overtime, the Pike Central band went into overdrive, called to action by newly befriended Martin County students and fans in the crowd.
PCHS band director Jason Johnson told the News-Express, “In that moment … my band started playing for them in this amazing, organic camaraderie that evolved out the situation.”
Johnson noted that the PCHS band “didn’t care” that their team might soon face the Cardinals “because people from the mountains want to support each other, they want to find ways to cheer each other on.”
Serenaded by their first road band, the Cardinals sealed the deal, winning the game in overtime 80-71.
“It was a good experience of kids supporting kids,” added Johnson, who recalled fans suggesting the PCHS band sonically assisted with the win.
Pike County Central High School Principal Tim Cline underscored that what happened courtside meant much more than brass, points, and tunes.
“With the loss of coal, with the opioid crisis … we need victory,” Cline told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
A rival band comprised of “honest, hardworking, young Pike Countians” playing brothers from farther afield to victory was a victory in itself, reckoned Cline.
“(In) the mountains, we take care of each other,” Pike County Central High School Principal Tim Cline. “Helping your neighbor is what has sustained for us generations.”
Makings of a tradition
WYMT-TV reported that the PCCHS band will once again cheer on MCHS when it plays Frederick Douglass at Rupp Arena on March 16.
“The Martin County band director Cassie Hites will be joining us in a collaboration, so it will be the Pike Central band with the Martin County band coming together for this moment,” said Johnson.
Cassie Gibson-Hites, the band director at Martin County, said the Martin County Cardinal Band and members of the PCHS band will be “joining forces. … We are going to be a wall of sound.”
Cardinals coach and assistant principal Jason James said of the initiative, “More cheering us on to get our crowd going the better.”
Lawrence Co. (19-14) vs. Martin Co. (22-10) – Boys KHSAA 15th Region Semi Final Game #1 (3.4.2023)youtu.be
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