Indians in final four 25 years ago: The 1995 season remembered

The 1995 Powell Valley Indians basketball team is celebrating 25 years since their magical run in pursuit of a state title.

It was seven seniors, a band of brothers that had a season to remember. The team ran through the season with only one loss (Oneida) and made it all the way to the semifinal state championship game against Pickett County.

Team members included Ernie Clawson, Jeremiah Bean, Chris Hoskins, Michael Goodin, Jason Russell, Tommy Cutcher and Sean Jessie. Kelly Ramsey was the only junior.

The team had four sophomores: Trevor Bean, Travis Russell, Chauncey Beeler and Nathan Hopper. They were coached by Dennis Cline, who is the current coach of the Cumberland Gap Lady Panthers. Other members were Kari Davis, scorekeeper, and Charlie Coleman, manager.

This team won and won a lot. They went 33-2 during the 1995 season but began in 1993 with a meager 15-12 record before improving the following year to 27-6. This group won a district championship and two regional championships. The Indians reached the state final four during that amazing ‘95 season and were one of only two Indians’ teams to reach that milestone with the first being the 1979 team.

When asked about the team Jeremiah Bean had this to say, “Five of us played together in little league, and we had two sets of brothers on the team. We went 60-8 in our junior and senior seasons with all 5 starters averaging double figures.”

The team used a flex offense and basic basketball motion that helped the talented team to score, and they freelanced whenever they could. The offense was potent.

“Our offense was mostly freelance because everyone on that team could score. We were pretty good on defense too as we were a man-to-man team, but we also ran a 2-2-1 press into a 2-3 trap,” added Bean.

Bean went on to say, “It was the best time of my life besides my salvation, wife and kids. We meet every Christmas and still eat lunch together with coach and the guys who can attend.”

Bean also spoke about the march to the final four, “We beat Brentwood Academy 83-51 and lost to Pickett County 73-50. We didn’t play well, and they had Joseph Amonette (6’6” point guard) who went on to play at Wake Forest. We picked a bad time to have a bad game. They went on to win it all. I think we were better, but they were well-prepared and better on that day.”

Brandon Clawson, current H.Y. Livesay Eagles boys coach, said this about how he remembers the ‘95 team as a 10-year-old boy, “The entire starting five was honestly all the same. Ernie Mac was the scorer and Jeremiah was the one that kept everyone settled down when things got a little rough. He was probably the calming influence on that team.

“Chris Hoskins could put up points in a hurry when he got hot, and Micheal Goodin was just steady. He always seemed to grab 8-10 boards and score 8-10 points. Jason Russell was the one who played with high energy, could shoot and do it all. They all played so well off each other and was just a fun team to watch. One of the best teams I’ve ever seen in person.”

Ernie Mac Clawson now serves as athletic director at Cumberland Gap High School, and he remembers the team this way, “My teammates were constantly working to get better every day. As freshmen, we had a goal of making the state tournament, and we knew in order to succeed we had to spend countless hours outside the gym to achieve our goal. No one was jealous of each other and could care less who scored the most points as long as we won. We were like brothers — always together and still meet up once a year to reminisce.”

Jason Russell said this, “Those guys are my brothers. We began playing together in little league, kindergarten for most of us. The run we had to the state semis in ‘95 was no accident. We would play ball before and after practice many days in high school and all summer long.

“We always hung out together and had a chemistry that you don’t see a lot of anymore. We pushed each other, held each other accountable and loved each other. I coached a lot while I lived in Kentucky, a lot of good teams and I would always tell them; when you put the team before self, you can accomplish anything. Not everyone buys into that, but the PVHS teams we had did.”

Tommy Cutcher also spoke of the bond between teammates as well, “We were passionate about the game of basketball and super focused on being the best we could be. From day one, we were determined to make it to the state tournament, and we did. We were a tight knit group of guys. We hung out almost every day after school playing basketball somewhere. Every year around Christmas, we still try to get together for lunch and catch up on old times.”

Sean Jessie also remembered the closeness, “Everyone knew what the other was thinking and going to do every night on the floor. A lot of that came from most of us playing together since we were little, from backyard ball to little league to middle school. It was truly a brotherhood. We were best friends and that had a lot to do with our success. We never cared about self, only to make each other and the team better.”

Chris Hoskins was kind of an outsider on the team as a transfer, but they quickly accepted him.

“I transferred to PVHS my freshman year. Even though I was a stranger to the team that had played together since grade school, they welcomed me like a brother and a teammate,” said Hoskins.

Michael Goodin had this to say when he looked back to that special team, “It’s been 25 years and there is still not a day goes by that I don’t think about our time at the state tournament. Every time that I step into a basketball gym, I think about my teammates and coaches that were involved in getting us there. I think about all of our friends and family that were so proud of us for making it. They loved and supported us the whole way, win or lose.

“We made it on the trust and love that we had for each other and the motivation that we got from our fans. None of us wanted to let anybody down. If one of us had a bad game, the other would step up and pull us through. Our team had a very special bond and we still do to this day. Twenty-five years later, we all know that we are there for each other. I still cherish that season and I realize how fortunate that we were to get to experience playing in the state tournament. I also cherish the everlasting relationships that were developed from it.”

Coach Cline is still proud of that team to this day, “That was a great bunch of guys to coach. I can tell you many stories, but one that comes to mind is — during the final four game Ernie Mac got two fouls early and I was used to taking him out when that happened. But that night, I left him in and he got his third one before the half. We cut the lead to six points, but we couldn’t get any closer and they had a guy that hit free throws and that’s about it.”

Cline spoke about the ride home that night, “Those kids had so much support from the community and they were afraid that they had let the community down but when we got close to home there were cars beside the highway and people waving at them, cheering them as they went by. Also, when they got to school the next day they were treated special and that made them feel even better.”

Cline went on to say, “You know in my mind I felt that we could play with Pickett and if we played again just one day later that we would have won. What really stands out to me is that they all went out and became successful in life.”

This team and its history should be told to every Panther’s basketball team just so they could see what is possible when a group comes together for only the good of the team. It’s rare today that any team comes anywhere near the level of closeness and trust that these young men had. It’s been 25 years but they remember it as if it was yesterday.