PAINTSVILLE — I have written many guest articles concerning Paintsville basketball, its history and some of its former players. What I haven’t yet written about is the 1996 Paintsville team and the story of our state championship season. I am going to save many of those stories for the upcoming book I am writing, but because the state tournament is being played this week I have decided to write this story to show how an intense rivalry can be put aside for a while so that a state championship can be celebrated.
Most 15th Region basketball fans know of the intense rivalry between the Paintsville Tigers and the Magoffin County Hornets. It is not just in basketball, it covers all sports. Since the two schools began play in the 1977-78 season the rivalry has been there, made so in basketball by two of the most hard-nosed coaches in the 15th Region – Bill Mike Runyon (Paintsville) and Danny Adams (Magoffin County). Over the years there have been many spirited games between the two schools and a look at the first games between the rivals show how competitive the games were.
From 1977-1983, seven games were played between the schools, the largest margin of victory was 7 and that was an 90-83 Magoffin County win in 1983. Paintsville beat the Hornets in the 1987, 1989, 1990, and 1995 57th District championship games. They also met in the finals of the 1995 15th Region championship game at Sheldon Clark, which was won by the Tigers 95-66. But it was the two teams post season in 1996 that took the rivalry to another level.
That season Paintsville and Magoffin County had an intense rivalry as ever. Grayson Smith, a senior forward on the Magoffin County team in 1996 (and who later played football at the University of Kentucky) recalled, “Every time I played Paintsville I thought we would win. We all thought we would win. We practiced at levels beyond the norm to prepare ourselves to win a regional championship. We prized the competition and we starved for the atmosphere that came with playing Paintsville wherever it was.”