PAINTSVILLE — It was not until the 1921-22 school year that the first boys and girls high school basketball teams was organized at Paintsville. One of the teachers that school year, John Sterling Jackson, had a great love of athletics, so it was under his care that the basketball history of the school began. Coach Jackson was born in Allen Co., KY on October 18, 1900. He had graduated from Western Kentucky Teachers College (now Western Kentucky University) with a BA and received a Master’s Degree in Chemistry from the University of Illinois.
One of the first steps in creating a high school team was to apply for membership into the governing body of high school sports in Kentucky – the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA). On January 9, 1922, Principal D. A. Taylor, who later coached Paintsville, sent the following letter of application to Mr. Ralph E. Hill of the KHSAA:
“Please find the enclosed application for membership in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, together with the
fee for service. Please send literature covering rules, etc. of the association + dates for tournament. Note that you now put
Paintsville (Johnson County) in the 16th district.”
Paintsville High School was accepted into the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) on January 13, 1922 and began play.
Because of the scarcity of newspapers during that time, not all of the games played by either team are known. The only recorded games from that season are from the 16th District Tournament held at Pikeville in early March 1922. The Tigers lost in the tournament finals to Pikeville College Academy. The Comets (the girls team), also coached by Jackson, beat the Pikeville College Academy team and Pikeville High School to win the 16th District title, the first in school history!
From that first season (1921-22) until the 1930-31 season the Paintsville girls basketball team racked up a record of 70 wins and 22 defeats. In the process the girls won six district titles, and made back-to-back appearances in the KHSAA state tournament in 1925 and 1926. In 1925 the Comets lost in the first round to Lawrenceburg, 7-6, in 1926 the ladies made another first round exit as they lost 16-12 to Winchester. However, none of these teams were the best in school history. That recognition belongs to the 1931-32 Paintsville Comets.