PAINTSVILLE — Coach Bill Mike Runyon was going to see what his 1986-87 Paintsville team was made of by giving them a very tough schedule for the season. With back-to-back trips to the state tournament, Runyon believed that by toughing up the schedule, the Tigers would have a good chance to use that experience to win their third consecutive 15th Region crown and to make a run at a state title.
Going into the season Runyon said, “I expect a whole lot more success than what we had last year. If we work hard, and the kids stay hungry, I feel like we can really make a name for ourselves.”
The Tigers were going to play in the prestigious Hillbrook Classic at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington; the Panther Classic at Louisville PRP; the King of the Bluegrass in Louisville; the Belk Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; and the Motocraft Classic at Oldham County. Runyon described the schedule as, “Definitely one of the best Paintsville High School has ever had and, overall, one of the better schedules in the state of Kentucky.”
There was immense pressure on the Tigers in the pre-season. One publication stated, “Paintsville High has emerged from basketball obscurity to become one of the state’s most prominent programs.” The pressure would be distributed among the Paintsville players. Among whom, included 6-foot-7 senior Mr. Basketball candidate John Pelphrey who averaged 18.9 points per game and almost 11 rebounds as a junior; 6-3 senior Joey Couch who averaged 15.5 points per game and 8 rebounds a game the previous season; 6-1 senior guard Mike Minix who had averaged 14 points and 4 assists a game as a junior; and 6-1 junior Keith Adkins, a long range shooter who had averaged 11 points a game as a sophomore. Those four players were among the top 15 players in the 15th Region, Pelphrey was among the top players in the state, and they would be counted on to carry the Tigers back to Rupp Arena. Magoffin County head coach Danny Adams just added to the pressure when he told a reporter: “They [Paintsville] have the potential of winning the state. Right now, they’re in a class by themselves.”