“One Kind of Game”
By: Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham

A couple of weeks ago, on May 7th, I was the keynote speaker at a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone for the historic old Calloway County Courthouse in Murray. As we were gathering for the event on a fine spring afternoon on the front lawn of the courthouse, I was approached by a gray-haired man about my age and size. He stuck out his hand and said, “January 12, 1962. I’m Mickey Boggess.”

I immediately knew who he was and what he was talking about. On that winter night so long ago, we played in one of the most unusual high school basketball games I have ever seen. I hadn’t remembered the date like Mick had, but I have never forgotten that night.

The Calloway County High School Lakers were the force of the First Region. They had come to Benton High School in December undefeated, 8 and 0, and were number one in the region. Benton had a good team too, but not perfect. The Lakers were easily picked to win. Before a full house in the Chambers Memorial Gymnasium in Benton, we shocked the Lakers by beating them 17 points.

In January, we had to go to their place. And we knew what to expect. They would be laying for revenge. And they were. A packed house of Calloway County fans were screaming, stomping, yelling, and whistling from the very get go. At first, it looked like they would get their revenge as the game started close. But by early in the second half, the Benton Indians had begun to pull away. Instead of the Lakers getting their revenge, it looked like it was going to be a replay of our December encounter.

Then, in the fourth quarter, Calloway County made a run. The Lakers cut the lead to one point with less than 20 seconds to go in the game. We tried to hold the ball until the time ran out as the whole place came apart at the seams. As the clock ticked down into single digits, an incredible series of things took place. Mickey Boggess knocked the ball out one of my teammate’s hands. The Benton Indian swiped desperately at the ball, but instead got a big piece of Mickey. The referees called a foul and we all looked at the big score clock to see if time had expired. There were nothing but zeros on the clock, but inexplicably the horn had not sounded. Bad news for the Indians. Mickey Boggess would shoot one and the bonus for Calloway County with no time left on the clock.

There is no more of a pressure situation in basketball than this. The Lakers are down by one point and Mickey is going to the line for one and the bonus with no time on the clock. If he hits the first basket, the game is tied. If he doesn’t, the game is over and his team is defeated once again by those pesky Benton Indians. If he hits both baskets, the Lakers win the game. At least that is what everyone in that gym thought that night.

Ice water Mick went to the free throw line in the deafening noise and bedlam of the moment and knocked down those two free throws like he was kicking two cans out of the road. The home standing Calloway County fans went berserk. They ran onto the floor to embrace the winning Lakers and especially the hero of the moment, Mickey Boggess.

The referees, however, had the presence of mind to remember one very important thing. The horn had not sounded. That was long before the modern second hand time clock. Technically, the game had not ended. The referees began to wave the crowd off the floor. If I remember correctly, they even had the help of a couple of state policemen dressed in their familiar gray uniforms and Smokey hats. Confident that their celebration had been only momentarily postponed, the happy crowd moved back to their seats.

Finally, the floor was cleared and only the ballplayers were on the hardwood. One referee yelled at us and said, “You’ve got the ball till the horn sounds.” My teammate, Steve Miller, stepped into the end zone, took the basketball from the official, and looked down court. He spotted Russell Anderson open near the mid-court line and about 60 feet from Benton’s basket. He heaved the basketball to Russell baseball style. Russ grabbed the ball and pivoted toward our basket. Here is how one writer described it: “He caught the ball just behind the mid-stripe and all in the same motion pivoted, crouched, and then let fly a two-handed shot exploding from his chest.”

I stood near mid-court and watched the flight of the ball. It headed up into the dark stratosphere of the arena and started its downward trek as the air went out of over 2,500 people. I remember thinking, “It’s long.” And it was. But not too long. The ball came crashing down upon the glass within the square above the rim and banked back through the basket. The refs looked at each other in astonishment and both extended their left arms and made the downward motion of their right hands. The basket counted.

We had won by one point thanks to that amazing shot by Russell Anderson. Now the Calloway County fans, who had been celebrating only seconds before, stood numb in disbelief. The joyous Benton Indian fans stampeded onto the floor. Four points had been scored with no seconds left on the clock. Had the three point line been in use then, it would have been five points. To my knowledge, it still stands as a Kentucky high school record.

At that courthouse ceremony the other day, I had not seen Mickey Boggess since that basketball game over 50 years ago. Time and the destructive hand of consolidation have done what the Calloway County Lakers could not do. Destroy the Benton Indians. They are no more. The Calloway County Lakers are still going strong. I guess ole Mick and his boys got the last laugh after all.