By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Four years ago, an extremely talented group of young men led the Madison Middle eighth-grade team to a middle school state championship.
On Sunday at Rupp Arena, four of those players won another state title.
Dominique Hawkins, Daniel Parke, Quan Taylor and George Walker all played significant roles as Madison Central claimed the school’s first-ever Sweet 16 championship. Those seniors combined to score 41 points, pull down 27 rebounds and dish out nine assists as Indians defeated Ballard, 65-64.
That second state title was certainly a fitting end to an outstanding career for Hawkins, Parke, Taylor and Walker.
“We knew it was going to be a great group,” Madison Central assistant coach Brandon Fritz said of those four seniors. “We knew they had the ability, but our whole focus for them was to make them a good team, a good family and to make them love one another more than any stats or anything else. We knew that reaching the state tournament (with that group) was a possibility. We won the state championship this year because of that chemistry.”
Those four seniors showcased their talents at an early age.
The 2009 Madison Middle team finished the season with a 25-3 record and won a district and Southern Division championship.
At the middle school state tournament in Lexington, the Panthers won seven-straight games in three days, including an overtime win against Lincoln County, before wrapping up the title with a 49-40 win over South Laurel.
In the title game, Hawkins had 22 points and Parke added 11 points
Hawkins, who scored 114 points and had 19 assists in just six games, was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
Four years later, Hawkins is one of four finalists for Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball award.
“We had some high expectations for him as a youngster,” Fritz said of Hawkins.
Just a few days after leading Madison Middle to a state title, Hawkins put on a Madison Central jersey and played for the Indians in the 44th District Tournament and the 11th Region Tournament.
He scored eight points in Indians’ 70-52 win over Western Hills in the opening round of the 11th Region Tournament.
Hawkins joined the varsity team full-time the next season, while Parke, Taylor and Walker were leading the freshman team to an outstanding season.
That squad went undefeated — 15-0.
As freshman, Taylor was already showcasing his ability (and fondness) for throwing down dunks.
“He had about three of four in freshman games,” Fritz said of Taylor’s dunks. “Of course, that opened a lot of eyes.”
Walker and Parke — both guards — have been solid leaders and performers for Central for the past three years. Even though they may not put up big numbers or grab the headlines, they were integral parts of the Indians’ championship run.
“I think (Central) Coach (Allen) Feldhaus said it best. They are the guys who do the dirty work,” Fritz said. “A lot of times, Daniel had to guard one of the other team’s better players. He accepted the challenge, night-in and night-out. Having George come off the bench, he brought some toughness. George can guard any position on the floor. He did that for us. He never backs down. He’s so tough.”
The 2009 championship capped a remarkable middle school career for that group. As sixth-graders they went 22-0 and as seventh-graders they posted a record of 23-2, won a district title and were the South Division Champions of the Bluegrass Conference.
That team also featured A.J. Hammons, who was a four-year starter at Model Laboratory and scored more than 1,000 points in his high school career.
The 2009 Madison Middle School Eigth-Grade Team included: Jordan VanDyke, Parke, Walker, Hammons, Adam Stanford, Hawkins, Zach Cottongim, Nate Taylor, Chris Wells, Matt Jackson, Daniel Guy, Blake Broaddus and Dylan Lucas.
The team was coached by Robbie Riley along with assistants Chad Luhman and Chester Rose.