The Buddy LaRosa High School Hall of Fame has elected six individuals and two teams to its 2019 class.
The hall of fame is in its 45th year and has honored 279 individuals since 1975. The latest additions to the LaRosa’s High School Sports Hall of Fame will be inducted during a ceremony in June 2020.
Here are the newest LaRosa’s HOF honorees:
1984 Forest Park girls basketball team
1988 Woodward boys basketball team
Kirsten Allen (Mitcheltree), Ryle, Class of 1988
Amber Gray, Lakota West, Class of 2008
Kendall Hackney (Udofia), Mount Notre Dame, Class of 2009
Katie Schwegmann (Steffen), Bishop Brossart, Class of 2001
Bill Topmiller, Covington Catholic High School, Class of 1971
Coach Lynn Ray, Covington Catholic High School, 1975-2004
(Information provided by the La Rosa’s High School Sports Hall of Fame)
1984 Forest Park girls basketball team
The 1984 Forest Park girls basketball team was the first girls hoops squad from Cincinnati to win a state championship at any level. Blessed with seniors Nina Fields, Nisey Gordon and Cheryl Lackey, it was juniors Gaby Downey and Alesia Davis who garnered the most recognition.
After losing 44-40 to Sycamore in the district final the previous year, the Lady Chargers came out with a sense of determination the following year. They blew through the regular season – with a 50-47 victory over Class AAA State semifinalist Columbus Watterson and a 71-61 victory over eventual Class A state champion, Newark Catholic.
On Senior Night, coach Mark Ehlen deliberately scheduled Sycamore for the home finale – and his team responded by jumping out to a 26-4 lead and an eventual 84-45 win. It set the stage for a district tournament that they won by a margin of 27.5 points.
After capturing the regional title, the Chargers defeated Mentor Lake Catholic 54-29 in the state semifinals, which pit them against Canton McKinley in the state championship game.
Interestingly, Ehlen never substituted as his team never led until 1:59 left in the game. Forced into overtime, Downey hit a jumper with 1:50 left to play in overtime to clinch a 44-41 victory. Downey, who would be named tournament MVP, scored 20 points. Forest Park finished with a 28-0 record.
Downey was named The Enquirer’s Player of the Year, while Davis was tabbed first team all-state guard by UPI and second team by the AP. The Chargers finished No. 13 nationally by USA Today.
1988 Woodward boys basketball team
The Bulldogs are still the only Cincinnati Public Schools high school to win the Ohio Division I state championship. Led by head coach Larry Miller, the Bulldogs dominated opponents throughout most of the season.
The Bulldogs certainly put their offensive prowess on display in the state title game against Columbus Linden McKinley when they raced out to a 34-13 first quarter lead. Woodward never looked back from that overpowering start in racking up a 107-70 victory.
In winning the state title, Woodward also set a school record for most single-season wins. The 34 first-quarter points still stand as an Ohio state tournament record for most points scored in a quarter. The final total points scored (107) also stand as a state record. The Bulldogs were led in scoring by D.J. Boston (27 in championship game, 51 in the state tournament), Chip Jones (24) and Orlando Berry, Sr. (17).
The team captains included Jones, Troy Long Sr., and Kevin Andrew.
Woodward finished with a No. 4 national ranking by USA Today. Boston and Jones were selected first-team all-Ohio.
Boston, who averaged 22.3 points and 12 rebounds, was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the major league free agent baseball draft and wound up playing professional baseball.
Jones (23.1 points per game) enjoyed an outstanding career at the University of Dayton. The team’s “sixth man” was Berry who went on to be a starter at the University of Tennessee.
Katara Reliford (13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) went on to start at Butler University. Melvin Bostic (9.8 points, 7 rebounds) started at St. Francis (Pa.). Andrew was a starter at Denison University.
“These were great kids with a tremendous work ethic,” Miller said. “Our practices were like our toughest games of the year. These were outstanding young men who developed into outstanding men.”
Miller also puts a lot of credit on his assistant coaches – Jim Leon, the late Dennis Bettis, Dave Hammer, Larry Flinner, Scott Owens and Ed Teubner. Principal Michael Brandt went out and hired Martha Gellar from Procter & Gamble to mentor and tutor the athletes and athletic director Tex Meloy also played key roles in Woodward’s success.
“These two men built this program financially and academically,” Miller said. “It could not have happened without them.”
Kirsten Allen (Mitcheltree), Ryle
A true legend in Northern Kentucky high school softball, Kirsten Allen is the first athlete from Ryle High School (Class of 2008) to be inducted into the LaRosa’s High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Allen was nominated twice for the LaRosa’s High School MVP of the Year award, winning it in her senior year. She earned nine varsity letters in her high school career in softball and volleyball.
In five varsity seasons for the Lady Raiders, Allen compiled a remarkable 142-24 record, pitching the team to the Kentucky state championship in 2006. She set 10 Kentucky state records in her career, including pitching 41 career no-hitters, 15 perfect games and 110 career shutouts. She notched 1,865 strikeouts and once pitched 210 consecutive innings without giving up an earned run.
Many of her records still stand today. Allen earned numerous honors for her outstanding accomplishments, including in her senior year being named Ms. Kentucky Softball and Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year. She also was a Northern Kentucky all-star volleyball player. She went on to pitch at the University of Oklahoma and today is a teacher at Randall University in Oklahoma.
Amber Gray, Lakota West
One of finest girls basketball players to come out of Cincinnati in this century, Lakota West’s Amber Gray is the first player from Lakota West High School to be inducted into the LaRosa’s Hall of Fame.
A 2008 graduate, Gray was regarded by The Cincinnati Enquirer as one of the top 50 best female basketball players in Greater Cincinnati history. She was also a heroic athlete who overcame life-threatening odds.
A dynamic basketball player for the Firebirds, Gray set 11 school records, including career points scored with 1,931, and would help power Lakota West to the Ohio state runner-up finish in the 2007-08 season. The team compiled a 49-5 record during her final two seasons.
Gray was named Ohio Ms. Basketball (2008), McDonald’s All-American, Parade Magazine All-American, Nike-WBCA All-American and USA Today All-American (third team). She was twice named Cincinnati Enquirer and the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Women’s Sports Association Player of the Year.
As a collegiate sophomore playing for the University of Tennessee, Gray was recovering from surgery to repair her rotator cuff when her lungs filled with fluid and she suffered a stroke. The stroke eventually led to the discovery of a brain aneurysm. She survived a potential life-threatening surgery and later transferred to play basketball at Xavier University, where she played from 2010-12.
Gray, who also played volleyball at Lakota West, is the daughter of LaRosa’s Hall of Famer and NFL standout Carlton Gray.
She was the first female basketball player to be inducted into Lakota West’s Hall of Fame and is a member of the Butler County Hall of Fame.
Kendall Hackney (Udofia), Mount Notre Dame
Mount Notre Dame became the first school in Ohio high school history to win four straight Division I state basketball championships and All-American Kendall Hackney – the LaRosa’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2008-09 - was the heart and soul of those teams.
A four-year starter for the Cougars, Hackney was named the Ohio tournament MVP twice – as both a freshman and senior. In the final two games of the 2008-09 state tournament, she scored 29 points and had 12 rebounds.
During her career at MND, the Cougars compiled a staggering 101-10 overall record. Her awards and accomplishments were equally as impressive as she concluded her career at MND with 1,212 career points.
Hackney was selected Ohio’s Ms. Basketball in 2009 and was named the Ohio Division I player of the year by the Associated Press. A preseason McDonald’s All-American, she was also named The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Player of the Year.
Her basketball accolades didn’t end there, however. Hackney went on to enjoy stellar success at the collegiate level at Northwestern University.
Hackney was selected to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team; she was a two-time all-Big Ten Honorable Mention selection and was Third Team All-Big Ten as a senior. She had 97 straight appearances in the starting lineup (114 total) and her 126 games played ranks third all-time in NU history. She scored 10-plus points in 82 of 126 career games.
Her 1,547 career points ranks in the top 15. Prior to the 2019-20 season, Kendall ranked sixth in 3-point field goals (147) and 3-point field goal attempts (424), ninth in 3-point field goal percentage (.347), seventh in rebounds (699) and 10th in blocked shots (75). Hackney was Academic All-Big Ten as a senior was named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar.
Hackney lives in Phoenix with her husband, Udeme Udofia, and their 14-month old son, Josiah.
Katie Schwegmann (Steffen), Bishop Brossart
It’s always a special moment when you surpass a high school record and it may have been even more so for Katie Schwegmann when she set Bishop Brossart’s all-time scoring record – previously held by her father, Greg.
That was just one of many accomplishments in one of the truly great high school basketball careers in Northern Kentucky. She was named the 2000-01 LaRosa’s Female Athlete of the Year and is regarded by The Cincinnati Enquirer as one of the top 50 best female basketball players in Greater Cincinnati history. All of that may have seemed unlikely when between her junior and senior years, she suffered what appeared to be a career-ending knee injury over the summer.
Heaped with a multitude of awards as a junior – including being selected as one of six finalists for LaRosa’s Athlete of the Year – she topped those accomplishments as a senior, when she was named Kentucky’s Ms. Basketball, emblematic of the best player in the state. It was the crowning achievement after a season that saw her named Louisville Courier-Journal Kentucky Player of the Year, winner of the Joe Billy Mansfield Award and Gatorade’s Kentucky Player of the Year.
She scored 2,917 career points and was named first-team All-Northern Kentucky five times, Northern Kentucky Player of the Year three times by both Kentucky Post and the Cincinnati Enquirer and earned first-team all-state honors three times. As a sophomore she led Brossart to its first Class A state title, where she was named tournament MVP. She holds numerous other school records, including single-season scoring and single-game scoring.
In addition to basketball, she ran cross country and track, where she won three state titles and was named Northern Kentucky Runner of the Year as a sophomore.
In track, she won a state title in track twice as a member of 3200-meter relay team and captured the 800-meter run as a sophomore. She was all-state three times and the team won three state titles during her career. Her time in the mile run (5:23) still stands at the Bishop Brossart school record.
In cross country, she finished third in the state in 1996 in Class A and was fourth in the state in 1997. She was named first team all-state four times and twice named first team all-Northern Kentucky. She was the team’s top runner 53 times and had 18 first-place finishes. The team was a state qualifier four straight times – for the first time in school history. She went on to play basketball at Miami University but unfortunately suffered multiple knee injuries as a freshman, forcing her to take a medical hardship. She remained a member of the team for four seasons as “student coach.”
Currently, Kate Schwegmann Steffen and her husband, Randy, live in Bellevue, where she is a Certified Integrated Manual Therapist for OrthoCincy in Edgewood, Ky. The couple is expecting their first child before the end of the year.
Bill Topmiller, Covington Catholic
A great all-around athlete and one of the best to come out of Covington Catholic High School, Bill Topmiller in his senior year (Class of 1971) was named first-team all-state in both football and basketball. He was also a standout catcher and hitter in baseball.
He was a consummate team player as he helped power the Colonels to three District and Ninth Region titles during his career. The 1970-71 basketball team went 30-4 with three of the four losses to eventual state champion Louisville Male. The team averaged 83 points per game in the era prior to the 3-point goal.
He scored 1,156 career points in 96 games (12.03 average) as CCH compiled a 107-9 record during his final three seasons. He was named All-District, All-Region and was second team all-state as a senior.
Topmiller was regarded as an even better football player. A three-year starter at wide receiver, he held or set numerous school pass reception records, including most receptions in a game (14) – a mark that stood for more than 25 years. He was named first team all-state as a senior, hauling in 41 passes and scoring seven touchdowns. He went on to become a two-year letter winner in football at Vanderbilt University.
Now retired, Bill and his wife, Peggy, have six children (Jamie, Matt, Michael, Michelle, Jennifer and Jeffrey) and 19 grandchildren.
Coach Lynn Ray, Covington Catholic
A former star athlete at Boone County High School in the early 1960s, Lynn Ray accepted a daunting task when he took over coaching duties of the Covington Catholic High School football program.
A struggling program in the eight years prior to Ray’s appearance, there was even talk that the all-boys school would do away with football all together.
By the end of the 1980s, Covington Catholic football owed its legacy to one man – Lynn Ray. Over the course of his 30-year career at the helm of the Colonels’ program, Ray amassed a 234-132 record, five Class AAA state titles and eight AAA regional championships. His career record is so significant, consider that in the little over 600 total games played in CovCath history – Ray has coached 60 percent of those games – of the more than 375 school victories, Ray accounts for nearly 60 percent of those wins. His total victories rank in the Top 20 all-time in the state of Kentucky and No. 3 all-time in Northern Kentucky.
The Colonels’ five state titles were accomplished in the teeth of the toughest competition in the state in cross-town rival Highlands. Between CovCath and Highlands from 1987 through 2000, those two schools won the Kentucky state Class AAA title 11 of 14 times. Ray won his first state title in 1987 when the Colonels, trailing, 6-2, at halftime, came back and scored 14 unanswered points to defeat Paducah Tilghman, 16-6. They did it again the following year, when – trailing Paducah, 17-3, at halftime, CovCath came back to score 21 points in the fourth quarter to force an overtime victory, 30-24.
Ray, who was president of the Kentucky High School Football Coaches Association in 1994-95, went on to collect numerous honors over the course of his career including being named head coach of the Kentucky All-Stars vs. Tennessee (1990), Kentucky State Coach of the Year (1992), Regional Winner of the National Coach of the Year (1996), and Lifetime Achievement Award from the College Football Hall of Fame (2005).
Ray has been inducted into the Covington Catholic Hall of Fame and the Northern Kentucky Hall of Fame. He is retired and living with his wife, Patti, in Florence, Ky.