Luther Blanton had a front-row seat in Rupp Arena on Wednesday night, right there on the sidelines at the end of the Harlan County bench for the Black Bears’ game against Scott in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16.
“I’ve been waiting 60 years for this,” Blanton said. “I didn’t know if it’d ever come.”
When he was a freshman at Wallins High School in Harlan County in 1957, Blanton started keeping the basketball scorebook for the Purple Devils.
In 1966, Hall, Loyall and Wallins were consolidated into Cawood High School, and Blanton started keeping the book for the Trojans.
He kept the book at Harlan for several years in the 1980s when Billy Hicks was coach, but then returned to Cawood, where he kept the book until it was consolidated, along with Cumberland and Evarts, to form Harlan County in 2008.
After 56 years of tending a scorebook for about 1,700 high school basketball games — none of them a regional championship that would have won Blanton a sideline seat at the Sweet 16 — he had to give up his avocation, partly because of failing eyesight, four years ago. His last game on the book was Harlan County’s lost to Clay County in the 2013 regional finals at HCHS.
Blanton continued attending Harlan County games, usually sitting behind the scorers’ table. Then came the magic moment last week when Harlan County clipped Corbin 67-65 in the 13th Region finals and earned its first trip to the state tournament.
“The next day (coach Jones) called me and told me I could sit with them on the bench,” said the 73-year-old Blanton. “It took 60 years, but here I am.”