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Members of an elite club of McCreary Central alum met again Friday night to be honored 40 years after its formation.
The 1983 Raiders regional champions were recognized during halftime of the boys’ district win against Somerset Christian, marking a four-decade reunion of McCreary Central’s sole Sweet 16 trip.
The reunion of Raiders not only honored the boys from ’83, but it also introduced the team to younger fans, while giving the guys time to remanence about the Raiders unlikely run to Rupp, and enjoy company from one another, especially those who’ve moved away since that magical season.
The current administration topped off the event by giving the team members replica 1983 Region Champs shirts and a lifetime pass to all Raider games and unveiling a team photo placed beside the scoreboard nearest the Raiders’ locker room. A tribute that meant a great deal to the team.
“It means so much that I don’t have the words to explain it to you,” said longtime Raiders coach and the coach of the 83 team. “I just appreciate them doing this for us.”
He wasn’t alone as members of the team echoed his appreciation for more time together.
While the halftime event may have lasted eight minutes, the time together stretched into hours of memories and stories.
“We ate together earlier and got to spend time talking with each other and that was great,” Stephens said.
The players each had their own memories about that season so many years ago.
For then-senior Jeff Conatser it was the Raiders finally coming out on the winning side.
“The three previous seasons it seemed like we just couldn’t win anything, and when we were in the district tournament against Monticello and it was close at the end and we were down, and I thought ‘here we go again,’” Conatser said.
Instead, the Raiders won the game and headed into the region where Conatser said he liked their chances because Laurel County had been knocked out in district play.
When the Raiders ran through the region to the finals, a good Pulaski County team awaited, but McCreary Central took the win to punch their ticket to the state tournament.
For Brad Stephens, playing at Rupp Arena is a special memory that high schooler and Kentucky hoops fans dream of.
“Just to walk on the floor at Rupp was something and getting to play on that court was unbelievable,” he said.
While the players had plenty stories to share, they seemed to relish in the time they got to spend together during the early 80s building the team that still means a great deal to the school and community.
“I still run into people who say ‘I remember when you all played in Rupp. I was there,’” said Brad Stephens. “It still means a lot to the community too.”
While it remains an elite club, it’s not because the members have been resisting additional teams over the past four decades. In fact, coach Stephens said he’d like to see the club grow.
“I’d love it,” he said.