By the time Jerry Underwood had graduated from West Carter High School in 1983, he never had experienced the thrill, as only few boys experience, of playing on a varsity boys basketball State Championship team in Kentucky.

Underwood never even had experienced the thrill of ever playing in a Sweet 16 State Boys Basketball Tournament in Kentucky, an opportunity open to only 16 varsity boys basketball teams each year in the Bluegrass State.

On March 24, however, Underwood, 42, experienced a thrill in Ohio only a select number of varsity boys basketball coaches in the Buckeye State ever experience.

The Georgetown High School varsity boys basketball team from Georgetown, Ohio, coached by Underwood, captured the Championship of the Ohio Division IV State Boys Basketball Tournament played in the Jerome Schottenstein Center at The Ohio State University in Columbus.

That State Championship was the first ever for either a boys or girls basketball team from a high school in Georgetown, a village of more than 4,000 people located approximately 85 miles northwest of Olive Hill.

It also was the first State Championship ever for a boys or girls basketball team from Brown County, Ohio, which the Village of Georgetown serves as the county seat, and the first State Championship ever for a boys or girls basketball team from the Southern Buckeye Academic Athletic Conference, in whose National Division Georgetown competes.

The Georgetown players are known as the G-Men, and the G-Men’s State team victory and Underwood’s State coaching victory were made sweeter this year by the fact the G-Men finished their 2006-07 season with a 28-0 record.

Unlike Kentucky, in which all size schools compete for the opportunity to play in a non-division boys basketball state tournament each March, boys basketball teams in Ohio are divided into four divisions based on the number of boys found in each Ohio High School Athletic Association member school.

Four boys teams win State Basketball Championships each March in four different divisions, and Georgetown won the Championship this year in the smallest Ohio division. The G-Men’s perfect season was the only undefeated record of any boys team in any Ohio division.

Another aspect that made the G-Men’s State Championship especially sweet is that they never were ranked as a top Ohio Division IV boys basketball team all season by a group of Associated Press sportswriters who express their opinion about such matters. They defeated the top-ranked team on their way to a State Championship.

In a March 30 interview, Underwood said the thrill of winning a state title he experienced six days earlier was sinking in more and more each day and added, “The most incredible thing now looking back – it’s fantastic that we not only won a State Championship, there was not one game in which we were defeated.”

The G-Men’s undefeated season was the first overall undefeated season ever for a Georgetown boys basketball team and the first undefeated regular season for a G-Men’s squad since 1964.

Their previous season, 2005-06, wasn’t a bad one either. They posted a 22-2 record with their two losses coming by a total of only 5 points.

Just as in 2006-07, they posted a 15-0 record in the SBAAC National Division to win a league title, the sixth such title for Georgetown under Underwood’s coaching, but they had to settle for second place in 2005-06’s Annual Brown County Boys Basketball Holiday Tournament. In that tournament, which features four Brown County high school teams, Western Brown defeated Georgetown 60-56, handing them their only regular season loss of 2005-06.

Their season-ending loss of that season, however, would be a defeat that would prove to be a strong motivator for the next basketball year.

Houston High School, a team from Shelby County, Ohio, defeated Georgetown 50-49 in the Southwest Ohio Division IV District Boys Basketball Tournament Championship Game at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. The G-Men lost that heartbreaker after being ahead by 19 points and failed to win the first-ever District Tournament Title Trophy for their school.

Three starters from that team returned as seniors for the 2005-06 season and were joined by a tall, talented freshman and a junior guard in the starting lineup with another junior who would prove to be a critical sixth man in clutch situations in the post-regular season tournaments of that year.

The Road To The Division IV Title

The G-Men posted a 20-0 regular season record to enter the 2006-07 post-regular season tournaments in good standing, despite the failure to be ranked as a top Ohio team, but all those wins certainly didn’t come easy.

While they won nine contests by 15 points or better, they won six by 10 points or less, but they had no winning margin of fewer than 4 points.

One of their closest battles was the Championship Game of the 2006-07 Brown County Boys Basketball Holiday Tournament. They avenged their previous season’s tournament loss by defeating Western Brown 68-63.

Following a 56-42 home victory over another Brown County team, Eastern Local, to post a perfect regular season record, the G-Men prepared for the post-regular season tournaments.

Unlike Kentucky’s road to a state tournament, which features District and Regional tournaments only, Ohio’s post-season structure includes Sectional, District and Regional tournaments. Also unlike Kentucky’s tournament road in which a District Runner-Up team advances to the Regional Tournament and still has a chance to make State, the season is over for any Ohio team who loses at any level.

One goal the G-Men had as they entered tournament play was to reach the District Championship Game and win the first District Title for their school, Underwood said. G-Men team had played in three previous District Title contests, but had always come up short.

They first had to win a Sectional Tournament Title at Loveland High School in Loveland, Ohio. While they easily defeated New Miami of Hamilton, Ohio, 70-43, they had a tougher time against Cincinnati Christian, a team from Fairfield, Ohio, whom they beat 68-61, and Summit Country Day of Cincinnati, whom they defeated 38-33 to win the Sectional Title and advance to the District Title Game.

They defeated Ansonia, a Darke County, Ohio, team, 55-41 in that contest to capture the first-ever District Tournament Title Trophy for GHS.

“We felt like it was a weight off our shoulders,” Underwood said of Georgetown’s first-ever District Title.

The G-Men got sweet revenge for their previous season’s District loss when they faced Houston in the first Regional Tournament Game at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. They defeated Houston 54-44 to become one of Ohio’s Division IV “Elite Eight” teams and advanced to the Regional Title Game for the chance to win a berth in the “Final Four” State Tournament.

Underwood said the G-Men already had accomplished quite a bit by becoming the first Georgetown boys team ever to win a District Title and the first ever to reach a Regional Championship Contest. The best, however, was yet to come.

In the Regional Championship Game played March 16 at Miami University, the G-Men faced the New Knoxville Rangers, a team from Auglaize County, Ohio, whom AP sportswriters had ranked as the Number One Division IV boys basketball team in Ohio. The Rangers and the G-Men both entered that Title Game undefeated, but only one would advance to State.

The advancing one proved to be unranked Georgetown, who defeated that top-ranked opponent 60-57. In a major defensive move toward the end of the game, Georgetown senior forward Cory Kidwell anticipated where the Rangers were going to throw an inbound pass, ran and got the ball, and then got fouled.

“Through our tournament run when we weren’t scoring, our defense and defensive intensity stepped up and won games,” Underwood noted.

He said of the G-Men’s continued winning drive that helped them become the first Georgetown boys team ever to reach the Ohio State Tournament, “I think they exuded a lot of confidence, and we never felt like there was a team we couldn’t go out and play.”

Underwood added the G-Men were playing fearlessly. “We though we could be as good or even better than any team on the floor.”

The Regional Championship and State Qualification resulted in a big celebration back in Georgetown, and hundreds of fans, if not 1,000, packed the GHS Gymnasium on March 20 for a pep rally to urge the G-Men on to victory.

In the G-Men’s first-ever State Tournament contest on March 23, they played what would become their closest game of the year and one that definitely was a nail-biter for their fans. They edged Berlin Hiland, a team from Holmes County in Northeastern Ohio, 42-41.

Berlin Hiland possessed the ball with about seven seconds to go, but Georgetown’s defense held and denied the Hawks the opportunity to shoot and possibly score a goal to end the G-Men’s season.

When they faced Canal Winchester Harvest Preparatory, a Columbus-area team, in the Championship game, the G-Men already were guaranteed some hardware to take back to Georgetown. They would receive a Runner-Up Trophy if they placed second, but the Championship Trophy if they won.

They kept the game against a bigger-size team under control and didn’t let themselves or their fans down as they defeated the Warriors 75-66 to win the first-ever State Championship Boys Basketball Title for any Georgetown team or any Brown County team.

The celebration in Georgetown began long before the G-Men arrived back in their hometown a little after 11 p.m. Motorists were driving cars and trucks throughout the village and honking their horns, signs were hung everywhere including the Brown County Courthouse doors to celebrate the State Title, and scores of fans gathered on the streets to give the thumbs-up and victory signs to the passing cars and trucks,

Signs were put up at some Brown County businesses, even in some villages where Georgetown’s regular season opponent teams were based, to congratulate the G-Men and welcome them home as the 2007 Division IV State Champions.

Their bus stopped briefly to greet some fans in Fayetteville, Ohio, a village in Northern Brown County, before they continued their long but triumphant trip home.

Their bus was “mobbed” by scores of excited fans when it stopped in downtown Georgetown, and Underwood triumphantly held high the Championship Trophy to loud applause for his unranked G-Men’s team who had stunned many pundits and earned the unique distinction of being the only Ohio boys basketball team in any division to finish the 2006-07 season undefeated – 28-0.

Underwood Speaks At Rallies

After a brief visit in downtown Georgetown, the G-Men headed to the GHS Gymnasium for a welcome home rally that didn’t begin until after midnight. An estimated 1,200 fans gathered during the earliest minutes of March 25 to cheer the returning victors.

Underwood told the fans he couldn’t really say just how hard the G-Men had worked all year to end up with their history-making accomplishments for GHS – the first-ever District, Regional and State Tournament titles for their school, the most wins ever in a single overall season by a Georgetown boys basketball team, and the first Georgetown boys basketball team to post an overall undefeated record in the combined regular and post seasons.

“These young men had a great season,” Underwood said, obviously understating their unforgettable year.

He also reported that when someone at the Columbus press conference that followed the G-Men’s Championship had questioned where Georgetown was located, he had responded he knew where it was “and that’s all that matters”.

That comment was just one of many that elicited huge applause and yells in the crowded gym.

A final rally to conclude the G-Men’s highly memorable season was held March 31 as part of the GHS Annual Winter Sports Program.

The GHS Gym scoreboard was lit up with “28” on one side and “0” on the other to commemorate the G-Men’s remarkable record. GHS Athletic Director Greg Barlow told the crowd of about 1,000 fans he had heard from an OHSAA official no Ohio boys basketball team had ever posted a record with that many wins since 1989.

The athletic director praised the G-Men, Underwood and assistant coaches for playing those 28 games without getting a single technical foul called against them.

Underwood thanked many people at the rally for their support, including all the fans, and had some highly-positive comments for his players during their final gathering at the school.

“Guys, I thank you for everything you have done,” he said. ‘You have represented your school, your community and everyone who has come in touch with you to the highest.”

State Sen. Tom Niehaus, who represents Brown County in the Ohio Senate in Columbus, praised the G-Men at the rally, and Georgetown Mayor John Jandes handed the players, coaches and cheerleaders congratulatory certificates.

Videos showing highlights of post-regular season tournament victories were played at both the March 20 and 31 rallies, but the March 31 video was especially sweet for the G-Men and their fans as it showed scenes from their two state victories.

Barlow showed the fans a plaque he had authorized for GHS which noted the G-Men’s 28-0 season, their status as the only undefeated boys basketball team in Ohio, and their State, Regional, District, Sectional and SBAAC Titles. The three final words on the plaque no doubt poignantly summarized the G-Men’s hard work and efforts of their remarkable year: “It Ain’t Easy”.

Members of the crowd, who included many still wearing the gold and black shirts that flooded the Jerome Schottenstein Center, ended the rally with a pep chant that had become very popular as the G-Men’s winning ways continued all season, “Oooh, Aaah, Mighty, Mighty G-Men.”

Those attending the rally included Underwood’s parents, Guy and Ruth Ann Underwood of Olive Hill, who also attended the Ohio State Tournament to cheer on their son’s team. Underwood said several Carter Countians either attended the State Tournament to support the G-Men or sent him congratulatory messages later.

This year’s remarkable season improved Underwood’s coaching record to 197-85 in 12 seasons, only one of which was a losing season. All were played in the SBAAC except for the first season, during which Georgetown was still a member of the Southern Hills League.

Underwood’s Road to GHS

Before Underwood became a coach, he played basketball all four years he attended WCHS and was directed by former West Carter Boys Coach Jim Webb. He was voted All-Eastern Kentucky Conference as a 2-guard his junior and senior years, also was voted All-62nd District those two years, and was voted an All-16th Regional Player as a senior.

He also played as a second baseman on the Comets baseball team for two years. He ran cross country his junior year and qualified for the State Meet as an individual runner and played tailback on the Comets’ football team his senior year, earning All-EKC honors.

Underwood, looking back on his days as a West Carter Comet, said he thinks a high school athlete learns a lot from the coaches and community he plays for and teammates he plays with including pride, work ethic, drive, community spirit and friendship. He said a person realizes later just what all he has learned.

Following his senior year, he enrolled at Morehead State University and majored in health and physical education. He graduated from there in 1988 and earned a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Dayton in 1992.

He said he found his way to GHS after being told about an opening in the school district there by Bennie Carroll, a former Olive Hill area resident who was teaching in Georgetown.

Underwood, a health and physical teacher at GHS, is married to the former Rachael Henderson, a 1987 WCHS graduate who played as a guard on that school’s girls basketball team. Mrs. Underwood earned a bachelor’s degree in English from MSU in 1991 and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Dayton in 1995 and is academic supervisor at Southern Hills Career and Technical Center in Georgetown.

Underwood had coached four seasons at GHS, beginning with the 1994-95 season, when he took the 1998-99 season off to devote more time to his family and to see if he really was interested in coming back as a coach.

A tragic event that made him decide to take that one year off occurred in 1998. Derek Madison, the Underwoods’ first son, was stillborn.

The couple since have been blessed with three other children: Solomon, 8; Kennedy, 6; and Alexander, 3.

Solomon has helped his dad manage the G-Men’s team the last two seasons during which they compiled a 50-2 record. The coach said his son loves being with the basketball team, is always a nervous wreck in games and always questions him about the games.

Underwood said he is only one class away at the University of Dayton from being certified to become a school principal.

“Administration is something I’ve always thought about, but coaching has been very good,” he said.

While the successful coach is pondering his future in the educational field, he noted that it’s hard to be successful as both a coach and a school administrator.

But whatever the former Olive Hill resident decides to do, he has made a mark upon many people in his chosen new residential town of Georgetown, Ohio.

“He’s a man of the utmost integrity,” Barlow said. “He’s fair, consistent and an excellent leader of our young men.”

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Larry Boblitt served as managing editor and a sports and news writer for The Grayson Journal-Enquirer and The Olive Hill Times from 1995 to 1997. He is a staff writer at The Brown County Press in Mt. Orab, Ohio, and his stories may be read on that newspaper’s Website at www.browncountypress.com. He also has a weekly column, “Wayne’s Words”, published in that Website’s Blogs Section. Boblitt resides with his wife, Jean, in Goshen, Ohio.

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