TAYLOR MILL, Ky. -- Steve Fromeyer knew he had a good team heading into his first season as the head coach of the Scott boys’ basketball team, but the story the Eagles have crafted over the past couple weeks has made Year 1 a season to remember for the coaching veteran.
The Eagles (21-12) will play Harlan County (31-3) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the opening round of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys Sweet Sixteen Basketball Tournament at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
It’s the first trip to state since 1989 for Scott.
“It’s been storybook,” Fromeyer said. “I’ve been in the high school coaching ranks for 18 years and I know a lot of people who will never have a season like this. It makes me grateful.”
Scott reached the Sweet Sixteen when senior leading scorer Jake Ohmer hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer from the right corner to beat Campbell County (30-5) and win the program’s first 10th Region title March 7 at Mason County.
Whatever way the season ends this weekend for the Eagles, it’s a story that has been in the works for 11 years at Scott when Fromeyer first met Ohmer and many of the players on this season’s team. Fromeyer had spent five years at Dayton High School as the freshman coach and a varsity assistant. When his job at Dayton ended, the Newport Central Catholic grad caught on as an assistant at Scott.
“I’ve known Coach Fro since I was little,” Ohmer said. “He always told me, ‘You’re going to hang a banner one day.’ It’s a great coincidence that he’s our coach senior year and we did it.”
Fromeyer got the top job at Scott when Brad Carr resigned last March after 12 seasons. That’s when the new coach’s thoughts turned to the players he’d known so long.
“My first thought was that our group of seniors had been with us since they were our Little Eagle Hoopers in first and second grade,” Fromeyer said. “That was our first group, so these kids have grown up with us. A lot of them are baseball players and I’ve coached baseball. It’s just a very special bond between them and myself, so I knew that would be good. But I also knew that with the group of kids we’ve got that this team could win the regional championship. There was no doubt about that.”
To win that regional, the Eagles had to knock off a team that had beaten them twice at the buzzer already in 2017. Campbell County beat Scott 57-55 on Jan. 20 at Scott and again Feb. 24 in the 37th District final at Campbell County Middle School on a buzzer-beater by senior Cole Hegyi for a 59-58 final.
That set up Ohmer’s heroics last week.
“It’s been pretty cool, honestly,” Ohmer said. “I’ve been playing since my freshman year and that’s always been our goal. I think it’s cool that this group has done it because I’ve been playing with them since elementary school.”
Ohmer doesn’t remember much of the post-game celebration, but his brother does. Sophomore Chad Ohmer was on the bench after coming out of the game a couple minutes earlier. He saw the shot go in and went straight for his older brother.
“It was awesome,” Chad Ohmer said. “I just jumped in on him. I can’t even describe it.”
Jake Ohmer will definitely remember sharing the experience with Chad.
“That’s probably been the best feeling,” Jake Ohmer said. “I played with my older brother in eighth grade. I didn’t play, but I got to watch him. Now that we’re both starting, I think it’s cool that we both get to experience it.”
Fromeyer and his coaches allowed their players to revel in the regional title for a few days before going back to work last Friday to prepare for 13th Region champion Harlan County, a program making its first Sweet Sixteen appearance.
Senior guard Cameron Carmical leads the Black Bears with 19.6 points per game. Senior guard Treyce Spurlock has added 15.5 points per game.
“That’s a heck of a team,” Fromeyer said. “They’ve won 31 games and they’re big and they’re strong. From the film that we’ve seen, they’re very well coached. They’re very disciplined. They know their job.”
Chad Ohmer and junior Nelson Perrin will get the assignment of shutting down Carmical and Spurlock. Perrin has guarded the opposing team’s best player much of the year.
“I try to hold the best player on the floor under 20,” Perrin said. “That’s what I’ve done all year.”
So, what can Carmical expect Wednesday?
“No open shots,” Perrin said.
Two of Harlan County’s three losses were to Corbin, the team the Black Bears upset to win the region. Harlan County also lost to 14th Region champion Perry County Central.
“In order for us to beat them, we have to rebound the ball against them,” Fromeyer said. “If we don’t rebound the ball, we’re in trouble. We’re going to play our style. We’ve not changed that one time this year.”
Jake Ohmer is the player Harlan County will have to limit on offense. He is the career scoring leader for the Eagles and has averaged 27.1 points per game this season.
“There is just no way to guard him,” Chad Ohmer said. “He’s going to get his.”
Chad Ohmer has added 8.9 points per game and Perrin has scored 8.5 points. Either can make things tough on the Black Bears if they focus too much on Jake Ohmer. And that would be fine with him.
“At the end of the day, what matters to him is that they walk onto that bus with a win,” Fromeyer said. “He’s been a competitor his whole life.”
Both teams will have to contend with the jitters of playing on the Rupp Arena court for the first time -- at least initially.
“I told them that they’ve got five days to just kind of get over the awe and the aura of the place,” Fromeyer said. “We’re going to get down there a little early so they can handle that. When the ball gets tipped up, it’s got to be no different than playing at Scott High or Calvary Christian.
“We don’t want to go and play one game. We’re not happy with just playing in the state tournament. We want to make it to Saturday and play in front of a full house.”