The Kentucky High School Athletic Association boys’ and girls’ state basketball championships are single elimination tournaments held each March featuring 16 high schools. Colloquially known as the Sweet Sixteen (the KHSAA holds a trademark on the phrase), the tournament takes place over four days at downtown Lexington’s Rupp Arena for the boys and Highland Heights’ BB&T Arena on the campus of Northern Kentucky University for the girls.
The Kentucky High School Boys’ Basketball State Tournament began in 1918. For fourteen years there were 18 regions that encompassed the tournament. Since 1932 there have only been 16 regions thus the term “Sweet Sixteen” was coined. Kentucky is one of only three states (Delaware and Hawaii) that still play a state tournament without a class system that divides large and small schools into separate tournaments.
The first six tournaments were held at the UK Gymnasium in Lexington. After 1923 the tournament continued in Lexington but moved to Alumni Gymnasium on the University of Kentucky’s campus where it stayed from 1924 until 1944. In 1945 the tournament moved to the Louisville Gardens until 1950 when it moved back to Lexington. For five years the tournament was held at Memorial Coliseum on Kentucky’s campus. In 1957 the tournament was held at the newly built Freedom Hall in Louisville. From 1957 until 1964 the tournament alternated each year between Freedom Hall and Memorial Coliseum.
In 1965 Freedom Hall agreed to host the tournament for fourteen consecutive years until 1978. In 1979 the opening of Rupp Arena led to the tournament’s return to Lexington. Since the move to Rupp Arena in 1979 the tournament has traditionally been played in the world-famous arena. However, Freedom Hall has hosted the tournament six times since then with the last being in 1994. Since 1995 Rupp Arena has hosted the tournament each year.