2012-2013 Kentucky High School Basketball Preview - 10th Region Boys
The previous seven seasons of 10th Region boys basketball have been dominated by perennial powers Mason County & George Rogers Clark. Entering last season the popular thought was that this trend would come to a screeching halt. But when the smoke cleared and only two teams were left vying for the top spot in the 10th, there stood, yet again, the Royals and the Cardinals. Scott Humphrey's squad won that battle in Mt. Sterling – earning their third trip to Rupp Arena in seven years. Not since Pendleton County's 2005 triumph has a team outside of Winchester or Maysville represented the 10th Region in the Sweet 16.
With the start of the 2012-13 season, most prognosticators are forecasting a changing of the guard at the top of the 10th. Montgomery County and new head coach Happy Osborne are loaded with talent, led by the region's top player, Omar Prewitt. A triumvirate of 37th District squads – Scott, Campbell County & Bishop Brossart – also seem poised to make a deep March run. Yet looming in the shadows are Mason and GRC, absent the talent they have enjoyed in the last decade, but most certainly present with unparalleled tradition & winning pedigrees. Time will tell if the duo's stranglehold on the region will continue.
10TH REGION: RANKING THE TEAMS
1. Montgomery County - Happy Osborne, who spent three decades at Georgetown College and had a brief stop at Tennessee Tech, now takes over a roster that is laden with talent. Swingman Omar Prewitt is the best the 10th Region has to offer. The 6'4" senior averaged a double-double last season (21.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg), but he will have plenty of assistance, particularly from transfer Bryan Wallace. The 5'11" junior averaged 17 points in 28 games for Shelby County last year & will give Osborne another lethal back court scoring theat. Darius Jones returns, bringing versatility and athleticism to the table. Another junior, Matt Koser, adds tremendous work ethic and leadership, while senior Tanner Combs will be expected to improve his two points and two rebounds per game from a season ago. A pair of freshmen could be key contributors as well. Center Shelby Combs is a 6'5" wide body who will be a hulking presence in the paint. Guard Art Walker is a fearless competitor who can supply additional perimeter scoring. Perhaps the diamond in the rough for the Indians will be talented senior point guard Tyler Jones, a transfer from Las Vegas. Jones' strengths are said to be shooting, ball-handling, and an impressive degree of athleticism. Add it all together and there seems to be plenty of talent to call Osborne's group the pre-season favorite in the 10th.
2. Scott - As it was last season, the battle for the 37th District will be something else to watch. Scott gets the edge for now, as Brad Carr's group combines talent, depth, and experience. The Eagles hope to improve upon last year's 15-15 record, which ended with a 37th District runner-up & first round exit in the 10th Region tournament (49-44 loss to Mason County). Scott loses only one senior from last year's team and returns nine – led by Nick Jackson. The 6'3" forward averaged 15 points and 7.5 rebounds per game in 2011-12. Jackson's relentless effort, shooting ability & rebounding prowess makes him one of the 10th's top performers. Senior guard Josh Felts averaged just under double figures in scoring (9.4) and will be joined in the back court by fellow seniors Eric Pouncy & Tyler Buckner. The Eagles also expect production from junior guard Josh Castleman and sophomore guard Blake Schneider. To ensure his team's postseason readiness, Carr has compiled a daunting schedule filled with contenders from the 9th, 14th, 15th & 16th regions, as well as the usual difficult competition from within the 10th region itself.
3. Campbell County - With the return of senior swingman Nate McGovney (20 ppg), folks in Alexandria have had their sights set on a regional championship. But when McGovney went down with an ACL injury this past June at an NKU team camp, those hopes were put on hold. Third year head coach Aric Russell says he expects McGovney to return sometime in late November or early December, but added this: "We will definitely not rush it. We want what is best for Nate." Joining McGovney as a top returnee will be junior guard Corey Holbrook (14 ppg), whose play was pivotal in Campbell's run in the 37th a season ago. A pair of Franzen forwards – junior Luke and sophomore Jake – will also contribute. While there are parts to be replaced, Russell's Camels will be a formidable group whose strength will be perimeter shooting. "Rebounding will be a key for us too," Russell stated, "because we will be undersized."
4. Bishop Brossart - The Mustangs ended the 2011-12 season with a heartbreaking district tournament loss to arch-rival Campbell County. And while Mike Code has some pieces to replace, namely Joe Jennings and Zach Fardo, the cupboard is far from bare. Senior Justin Saunders (15 ppg) returns to lead the charge for the Mustangs. The 6'3" swingman buried 47% of his 3-point attempts last year and is poised to have a breakout year in his final season. Brossart also possesses good size, with 6'6" junior forwards Drew Burns & Alex Trentman. Both big men shot a high percentage from the field last season and will give opposing front courts fits with their rebounding ability. The back court is in experienced hands with senior Ben Uebel, a savvy point guard who sees the floor extremely well. Look for junior Jake Jennings to compliment Uebel in the back court. Brossart will most certainly be favored to win the 10th Region Class "A" for a fourth consecutive year, but the Mustangs will also be in the thick of things come March.
5. Mason County - The Royals overcame what was expected to be a down year last season, as Chris O'Hearn and company were once again playing in the region's final contest. Mason County will have to replace Tyler Black, who was a force (19.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg) in the paint. Bouncy senior forward Steven Chambers (7.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg) could be poised for a breakout season and junior forward Shawn Johnson (9.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg) will provide production down low. O'Hearn acknowledged that the main questions to be answered about his team revolve around the back court. "Our guard play will be critical to our success," O'Hearn observed. Returning seniors Alazion Harrison, Bryeon Gibbs and Alex Stahl, along with junior Lukas Greenhill, have shown improvement and played meaningful minutes a season ago. O'Hearn is confident he will get quality production from a talented sophomore group – one that claimed the 10th's freshman regional title last year. Jake O'Mara, at 6'3", will give Chambers and Johnson support down low. The sophomore corps features several guards, including Ryan Johnson, Cameron Frame, Dorian Henry, Ashton Humphry, Will Griffith & Dee Johnson – with Frame and Ryan Johnson the current frontrunners to start at the point. As of this writing, a lot of uncertainties remain due to the number of Royals being involved with football. But the staples of defense, depth, and forcing turnovers will be very much present for the Royals this season.
6. Harrison County - The Breds bid farewell to 10th Region coaching stalwart Mike Reitz, and also to the outstanding Caleb Ford (19.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg). Longtime assistant Larry Kendall fills the position held by Reitz, and the first-year head coach will look to 6'3" junior Dillon Pulliam to fill the void left by Ford. Pulliam's 14.7 ppg & 5.5 rpg will certainly increase, but he will get help from senior guards Scott Kendall (5.7 ppg) and Jordan Stubbs (4.7 ppg). Also look for key contributions from senior forward Jordan Martin. Kendall has orchestrated a solid schedule for his team – one that will prepare the Breds for what will most certainly be another dogfight with Pendleton County for bragging rights in the 38th District.
7. Pendleton County - There were big expectations from the Wildcats in 2011-12. While Pendleton County won another exciting 38th District tournament, the squad exited the 10th Region tournament early against host Montgomery County. Gone from last year's squad are sharpshooting guard Gabe Antrobus and reliable post-man Jared Rering as well as head coach Chad Simms. Returning, however, is one of the region's top guards in 5'10" senior Mason Monroe to lead the attack for new coach Ed Cravens. Monroe may well exceed last season's 18.7 ppg, but questions remain as to who will share the scoring load. Look for the primary assistance to come from a pair of seniors – center Ethan Moore (5.6 ppg) and guard Garrett Appleman (4.8 ppg). Cravens and his staff see rebounding and defense as two keys that will determine the team's success. "We're not big so we will need to outwork and outhustle everyone, and team rebound," stated assistant Jon Wirth. "All five guys on the floor are going to have to rebound, and defense will have to be our staple. Our defense will have to win us some games this year."
8. George Rogers Clark - The two-time defending regional champions lost a plethora of talent from last season's dominating squad. The Cards finished 31-6, losing within the region only once (58-56 to Montgomery County), and steamrolled its way to Rupp Arena, where it bowed out to eventual state champion Trinity in the quarterfinal round. As great as last season was in Winchester, the page is now turned to the 2012-13 season, where head coach Scott Humphrey has more questions than answers – at least for now. The most experienced returnee from last year is guard Malachi Israel, who averaged 1.4 ppg in 34 games played. But look for significant growth and development from Khmarkis Blanton. Forward Blake Roberts averaged 3.7 ppg in 27 games last season and will most certainly have to assume a greater scoring responsibility. Regardless of GRC's personnel, it is safe to assume the key ingredients to the team's success are the trademark defense and teamwork that ignited them last year. While the Cardinals lack the household names from the previous two seasons, one would be remiss to discount GRC by the time March rolls around.
9. Augusta - This tiny school nearly pulled off a shocker of epic proportions in last season's 39th District championship game. But it was not meant to be, as Brent Bach's last-second put-back hung tantalizingly on the rim, only to roll off, resulting in a 72-71 win for mighty Mason County. Bach's return, however, is the primary reason folks in Augusta and around the region are looking forward to 2012-13. The 6'0 junior averaged 18.5 ppg last year and is among the region's top players in the pre-season. The adversity facing the Panthers, though, is the loss of nine seniors from last year's squad. Second year head coach Jason Hinson will look immediately to Tanner Kelsch, a senior guard who averaged 7.3 ppg and 5.9 rpg last season to provide experience & production. Kelsch plays bigger than his 6'1" frame, meaning he will be counted upon to help with rebounding. Hinson also expects to get some help from juniors Dustin Freeman and Trenton Barrett, as well as senior Austin Conn. Also look for serious playing time from a talented freshman class that enjoyed a 19-2 record last season. If the supporting cast surrounding Bach & Kelsch can produce, the Panthers could be special.
10. Bourbon County - Robert Goodman takes over for Jay Bordas on the sidelines for the Colonels. The new coach will pleasantly welcome the return of 6'2" senior guard Chris Gillispie, who missed all of last season with an injury. Point guard Snoop Johnson, a nifty 5'9" junior transfer from Lafayette, will solidify back court strength and bring a lot of athleticism and shooting ability once football season is over. Seniors Jacob Pitts (6'1") and Tyler Moore (6'2") are the top returners from last season. All told, Goodman expects a veteran team of at least eight seniors suiting up this season. Size is an area of concern for Bourbon County, but opponents will have to defend the Colonels' impressive speed and shooting ability. While there will be the expected adjustment period of a new coaching regime, the Colonels look to make some serious noise in a 40th District that has long been dominated by George Rogers Clark and Montgomery County.
11. Nicholas County - In his first season at the helm of the Nicholas County boys basketball program, Kevin Reinhardt came oh-so-close to ending the Bluejackets' long-time 10th Region tournament drought. Not since the 2000 season (Nicholas was then competing in the 37th District) had the school made an appearance in the storied tournament. Reinhardt's squad battled Deming in a triple overtime thriller, but came up on the short end of the stick. The dawn of the 2012-13 season brings renewed hope in Carlisle, as Reinhardt returns several veterans, who hope to improve on a 6-24 campaign from a season ago. Sophomore guard Landon Sexton is the team's top returning scorer, but balance will be the key for the Bluejackets. Contributions will also be made from sophomore guard Devin Trussell, junior forward Logan Fryman, senior forward Ethan Smith, and senior center Zack Howard. Reinhardt's squad is certainly capable of making noise in the 10th Region Class "A" tournament, but also of making a long-awaited return to the post-season Regional tournament. Nicholas County will be tested early and often, particularly as they open the season on the road against favorite Montgomery County on November 30th.
12. Bracken County - The Polar Bears experienced their first losing season under head coach Chad Persinger during 2011-12, accumulating a 13-18 record. Bracken County hopes to rebound with the help of a senior trio who will provide experience and leadership. Leading the way will be Grant Crawford, an athletic 6'0 point guard who will not only be the team's primary ball-handler, but also its lockdown defender. "We are going to be very active on defense," Persinger stated, "and Grant will often be called upon to guard the other team's best player." Joining Crawford in the back court will be 5'10" sharpshooter Austin Ray. Persinger said that Ray is looking to expand his offensive game by becoming better at driving the ball and getting to the free throw line. 6'1" bruiser Eli Florer spent the fall knocking heads on the gridiron, but will most certainly be a powerful presence in the paint. While scoring is admittedly a concern for Persinger, an experienced group of returning reserves will provide the Polar Bears with a depth that will allow for a more up-tempo style of play. If Bracken County can get the kind of scoring production Persinger is looking for, they could be a pleasant surprise in a 39th District that seems more balanced than in previous seasons.
13. Paris - Geoff Cody graduated four starters from last year's team that garnered a record of 7-20. While some coaches would be apprehensive entering a new season with such prospects, Cody's mindset is the exact opposite. "Even though we are young, I really like my team," the fourth year head coach commented. "They are going to be fun to coach. They are going to play hard for 32 minutes and they will show up to compete every single night. They won't back down from anyone." The Greyhounds' top returner is senior guard Nate Stevens. Stevens not only quarterbacks Paris' football team, but also will be Cody's primary source of leadership – both on and off the hardwood. Aside from Stevens and fellow senior Nick Pridemore, the Greyounds will distribute the bulk of their minutes to a host of freshmen and sophomores. Cody said he expects significant minutes from five freshmen and four sophomores. Whereas most coaches with such a young roster would water down a schedule, Cody has chosen a different route. By the time Santa Claus comes to town, Paris will have traveled to Montgomery County, Mason County and perennial 14th region power Knott County Central. "Competing in the 10th region, you have to play good competition because that is what you get every single night you play a region opponent. We very well could take some lumps early on, but that will better prepare us for late January and February."
14. St. Patrick - The Saints' faithful bid goodbye to a great deal of the team's 2011-12 squad – one that finished runner-up in the 10th Region Class "A" tournament. Gone are the talents of five major contributors, including Ryan Gallenstein (17.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg) & Taylor Slack (14.1 ppg, 43.8% 3pt. FG's). All is not gone, however, as head coach Andy Arn does return talented senior guard Cory Jodrey, who netted 16.6 ppg last season while connecting on 37% of his three-point attempts. The senior guard also helped on the boards, hauling down 4 rpg. But apart from Jodrey, there is very little returning in terms of experience or production. Senior guard Nick Gallenstein averaged 1.6 ppg in 25 games and fellow senior guard Harrison Applegate scored 3 ppg in 17 games. If Arn can build a consistent supporting cast to surround Jodrey, the Saints could surpass a lot of expectations.
15. Deming - The Black Devils' 2011-12 campaign ended with an appearance in the 10th Region tournament (a loss to Campbell County) and a 12-21 record. This new season is somewhat bittersweet for head coach John Brown's squad. It's bitter because Brown loses over 2,000 career points from the graduated Calvin Schalch (18 ppg) and Jonathan Pilosky (15 ppg). Deming also says goodbye to its top rebounder from a season ago, big man Jordan Earlywine. The "sweet" part comes from a brand-new school, Robertson County High School, that will be occupied in January 2013. The community is abuzz about the new school and Brown hopes that, by that time, his somewhat inexperienced team will have gelled to become a more effective unit. The top returning player is 6'1" sophomore guard Dawson Cooper (3.4 ppg). Additionally, Brown will look to utilize the skills of a junior threesome: 6'1" wing Justin Pilosky (2.8 ppg), 6'3" forward Darrin Edwards (2.6 ppg), and 5'8" guard Tyler Burns. "We are young and don't have a lot of varsity experience," Brown stated, "but the group has played together on the Junior Varsity level and lower levels before that. They are unselfish and like to share the basketball."
16. Silver Grove - It is a new era for Big Trains basketball, as Bobby Aldridge brings vast coaching experience (at all levels) to Silver Grove. Aldridge is inheriting a roster that is full of experience, with senior forward Dallas Dunaway returning as the team's primary scorer. Fellow senior Johnny Clark returns at the guard spot. Clark will be joined in the back court by junior Chris Lambert and sophomore swingman Billy Miller. If the returning players can quickly adapt to Aldridge's new system, it could spell success that hasn't been experienced in Silver Grove for quite some time. The Trains will have a good gauge of their progress in their season opener, as they play host to Class "A" counterpart St. Patrick on November 30th.
17. Calvary Christian - The Cougars endured a tumultuous season a year ago, amassing a record of 2-26. New coach Chris Douthit, though, inherits a team that is littered with varsity experience. Calvary returns five of its top six players from 2011-12, most notably senior guard Jake Lamb and his 14 ppg from last year. Senior forward Nick Whitt put up impressive numbers of 10 ppg and 7 rpg. Another trio of seniors – guards Dillan Bray and John Moran, along with forward Orry Madden – combined to score 14 ppg last year. Douthit will also have a talented group of sophomores who will be counted upon to contribute early and often. While contending in a brutal 37th District might be out of the question, there is good reason to believe Calvary will make significant strides in 2012-13.
10TH REGION: THE TOP 10 PLAYERS
1. Omar Prewitt - 6'4" Sr. (Montgomery County) - Potential Mr. Basketball candidate, committed to William & Mary, is a deadly scorer from everywhere on the floor; averaged a double-double last season while shooting 40.7% from three-point land.
2. Nate McGovney - 6'3" Sr. (Campbell County) - Opposing coaches salivate over McGovney's versatility, strength & scoring ability. ACL injury is a setback, but not expected to sideline him for long.
3. Brent Bach - 6'0" Jr. (Augusta) - Silky smooth scorer who opened eyes in last year's 39th District tournament.
4. Mason Monroe - 5'10" Sr. (Pendleton County) - Crafty left-hander who can get to the basket and score at will. Has had a long, accomplished career for the Wildcats.
5. Chris Gillespie - 6'2" Sr. (Bourbon County) - Injury kept him sidelined last season, but if his senior season is an improvement from a 20 ppg sophomore season, watch out.
6. Nick Jackson - 6'3" Sr. (Scott) - Highly skilled forward who can do damage in the paint and from the outside. Hard-nosed, relentless effort makes him a favorite among opposing coaches.
7. Justin Saunders - 6'3" Sr. (Bishop Brossart) - Outstanding perimeter shooter and fundamentally sound swingman.
8. Bryan Wallace - 5'11" Jr. (Montgomery County) - Shelby County transfer who adds yet another scoring weapon to a deadly Montgomery County arsenal.
9. Dillon Pulliam - 6'3" Jr. (Harrison County) - Solid forward who gets to the basket, but can also hurt you on the perimeter.
10. Shawn Johnson - 6'6" Jr. (Mason County) - Long, athletic forward who will be a tough assignment for most front court players. Could have a breakout season.
10TH REGION: CIRCLE THESE 10 DATES
Dec. 6th - Augusta @ Pendleton County...two of the region's top scoring guards, Augusta's Brent Bach & Pendleton's Mason Monroe, go head-to-head in Falmouth.
Dec. 7th - Madison Central @ Montgomery County...battle of the top teams in the 11th and 10th regions respectively.
Dec. 14th - Holy Cross @ Harrison County...two teams in the middle of the pack in their respective regions; good early test and barometer for both.
Dec. 15th - George Rogers Clark vs. Russell...as part of the Lewis County-McDonald's showcase; Russell considered one of the favorites in the 16th and GRC will be coming off a very tough five game stretch.
Dec. 18th - George Rogers Clark @ Bourbon County...early test to see if the Colonels can be a player in the 40th district.
Jan. 5th - Bishop Brossart @ Campbell County...perhaps the most intense rivalry in the region; Mustangs will be looking to avenge last year's District tourney loss to the Camels.
Jan. 22nd -Fleming County @ Mason County...another outstanding rivalry, with the Panthers among the favorites to win the 16th.
Jan. 29th - Covington Catholic @ Scott...about a month away from the post-season, a good gauge for where both teams stand in the 9th & 10th.
Jan. 29th - Montgomery County @ Mason County...perhaps a preview of a regional tournament semifinal or final game?
37th District Tournament...only two teams will survive and advance to the regional tournament...who will they be?
10TH REGION: 10 PRESSING QUESTIONS
1. Happy Osborne: Can the long-time coach transfer his collegiate accomplishments to Mt. Sterling in his inaugural season?
2. Nate McGovney: When will he be at full strength for title hungry Campbell County?
3. The 37th District: Knock down, drag out district last season could be even more competitive this year. Who makes it out?
4. Mason County: Can O'Hearn get the guard play he desires to make yet another postseason run?
5. George Rogers Clark: Do the Cards have the horses to replace the mass exodus of talent?
6. Bourbon County: If Chris Gillispie is healthy and Snoop Johnson is as advertised, are the Colonels the sleeper in the 10th?
7. Mason Monroe: Can Pendleton County find scoring help for the do-it-all senior guard, and will it be enough to make a title run?
8. Larry Kendall: How will the long time Breds assistant adjust to being the head man in Cynthiana?
9. Bishop Brossart: Can the Mustangs use the way their season ended last year as motivation for a championship run this season?
10. Jason Hinson: Can the second year Augusta coach find a supporting cast for Brent Bach & create a magical season for the Panthers?