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Hodgenville High School’s last year of operation in 1958 was highlighted by a famous climb to the top by its basketball team – the Eagles.
The team won the 6th regional tournament, which led the team to the “Sweet 16” state tournament – the first and only time in HHS history.
Eagle pride soared as the team defeated Hart Memorial High School and Caverna High School in the 22nd District Tournament sending the team on to the regional tournament.
Scoring a 75-72 win against the Elizabethtown Panthers in a double overtime game, the Eagles then beat the Bloomfield Indians 54-51 in the semi-finals and Campbellsville Durham 69-58 in the final regional tournament.
Gliding their way to the top, the HHS Eagles went on to play in the Kentucky State High School Basketball Tournament at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington that March.
The Eagles played against Monticello in the State Tournament and bowed out with a loss of 67-61.
Although the Eagles’ season ended at the State Tournament, the team’s journey has remained a memorable experience for many.
David Howell, a former guard for the HHS Eagles, was named to the All-Tournament Team along with forward Thomas Duffer. He scored 36 points during the team’s travel through the regional, semi-final and final tournament games, and remembers the experience well.
“We had four seniors that year,” said Howell. “The most exciting part was when we beat E’town – they were picked to win. We went into sudden death overtime.”
Howell, who now lives in Campbellsville, said the game against Elizabethtown was the highlight of the Eagles trials during their race to the state finals.
“In the E’town game we were in the second half – the last quarter with one second to go. I was fouled and they were ahead two points. I hit both of my free throws and tied us up for the first overtime. Then I hit a jump shot and put the game into the sudden death overtime and Duffer made the winning shot,” said Howell.
The team’s young and new coach Cortland “Corky” Cox helped the team achieve a foundation of teamwork and a drive to win that could not be matched.
“Corky Cox was a good motivator and a good coach,” said Howell. “He knew that we didn’t like to lose and he used that to drive us even further.”
“We were a good team – we won 29 games that year – which was unheard of.”
The team succeeded because of the deeply rooted trust and the knowledge his teammates had of each other’s playing style.
“Most of us had played ball together since the sixth grade. We were a good team – nobody was jealous of each other, we all just enjoyed playing,” Howell said.
After the season was over, Howell went on to play in the All-District Tournament that summer.
“I played with a lot of good people,” said Howell.
The 1958 Eagles was the last HHS basketball team and yet the most memorable.
“It was appropriate, I think, that we won the district and regional tournaments, that we made it to the state tournament and had such a great season – to close out the school that way,” Howell said.
Howell went on to play for Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and later transferred to Campbellsville University.
Drafted into the United States Army in 1961, Howell played basketball for three years – marking the end of his basketball career.
Howell said he hopes that he served as a good role model for the underclassmen Eagles and for the upcoming players who started their careers at LaRue County High School.
“I’m not sure if I made a difference or not – but I hope so.”