Stars shone brightly over Elizabethtown, KY last weekend. Basketball stars that is, and none were brighter than Breathitt County’s own Irene Moore. The former Lady Bobcat, Kentucky’s 1978 Miss Basketball, was inducted into the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame, one of 12 added to the prestigious hall for 2019.
“I had dropout written all over me,” said Moore in her introduction video displayed on the big screen in Elizabethtown’s State Theatre. The two-time all-stater, Breathitt High’s first first-team all-stater in 1978, credited basketball, as well as the love shown to her as a freshman, especially that of Ms. Addie Murphy Henry, for setting her on a track that would eventually lead to greatness. Instead of dropping out, Irene dropped in enough baskets to make a name forever remembered around the state. “From potential dropout to the hall of fame,” said the still spunky Moore, looking as if she could pick up where she left off those many years ago.
Halls of fame are nothing new to the MVP of the 1978 state basketball tournament, as Moore has also been inducted into Morehead State University’s Hall of Fame, the Mountain Sports Hall of Fame, and the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame.
Moore’s teammate at Morehead, Robin Harmon (Sheldon Clark), was also inducted Saturday, as was Harlan’s Charles Thomas. The three were the only ones from southeastern Kentucky to be included in the 2019 Class. Others included: Steve Miller (Henry Clay), Scott Draud (Highlands), Charles Hurt (Shelby County), Sammy Moore (Central High), Curtis Turley (Henderson Co. Coach), Nell Fookes (Boone County Coach), William Falls (Hopkinsville Attucks Coach), Rich Jones (Scott Co.), and Doug Schloemer (Cov. Holmes). Masters of Ceremony were WKYT’s Dave Baker and Christi Thomas.
Irene was well represented by loyal fans which made the trip to E’town. Coach Carolyn Mayes, Moore’s high school coach as well as Breathitt’s first girls’ basketball coach, along with her husband Bob, were at Irene’s side, just as they were 41 years ago when their Lady Bobcats were only a few points away from a state championship. And Breathitt’s most recent girls’ basketball hire, Derek Goff, was also there, bookends to one of Kentucky’s most celebrated girls’ basketball programs.
It goes without saying the Clemons girls were there in support of their celestial cousin. Karen (Griffith), Lisa (Gross), and Dana (Fugate) were beaming, as was Janie Griffith, another cousin. Karen was fortunate to accompany Irene to all aspects of the weekend event, which started Friday evening with a star-studded event attended by 50 of the state’s biggest basketball names. Despite the near three-hour drive, Moore had as many there in support as did any of the other inductees, which says a lot about her influence, still shining.
The most celebrated athlete to ever graduate from Breathitt High, which is rich in athletic prowess, was right at home amongst the state’s greatest basketball players of all time, and the little lady from Whick humbly took the ceremony in stride, as if it were something that happens all the time. In a way, I suppose it does.
“I’m ready to go home,” said Irene, as she removed the heavy hall of fame ring from her petite finger while still on the stage at the end of the ceremony. “That’ll stay in the box.” Someone nearby exclaimed, “I’d never take it off!”
Despite still being one of the most diminutive in frame, Irene doesn’t need a shiny ring to draw attention; opposing coaches and loyal fans learned that a long time ago. And for as long as basketballs are bounced in Kentucky and the stars continue to shine; Irene’s aura will continue to be the brightest in Breathitt’s basketball galaxy.