The final week of the regular season is upon us, and the 12th Region has lived up to the preseason billing of being wide open and having several teams with legitimate shots at taking the Region crown. Despite each enduring a down week where they looked imminently beatable, both Danville and Wayne County have demonstrated the most consistent performance and currently deserve to be considered Region tournament co-favorites. District play comes first, of course, and the Cardinals have a much easier path (they’re already in) to the Region Tournament than the Admirals, who will have to survive a nervy semifinal game to advance.

If Lincoln County plays their ‘A’ game, they are squarely in a second tier behind the first two, and are potentially alone there. If the Patriots have one of their off nights, which has occurred more often this season than any team would be comfortable with, they might not survive their District much less be able to win three consecutive games in the Region Tournament. Having home court for the Region Tournament may or may not help the Patriots, historically it is debatable whether or not it is a real advantage.

For the next six teams, maybe seven now that Casey County is playing so well, you can almost put them together into a large third tier, each capable of making deep run in the Region Tournament and each at risk for an early exit. Next week’s District Tournament Preview will include an analysis of the tournaments and a few predictions, but for now here are a couple of preliminary thoughts:

· The 46th District Tournament will have to turn away people who want to attend, Burgin’s gym is simply not big enough. The East-West Jessamine regular season games regularly draws far more than Burgin’s capacity, and they will be playing each other in an elimination game on the 19th. Hundreds of fans that want to go may not be able to get in.
· The 45th will be one of the top few toughest District Tournaments in the state to advance through to the Region Tournament (with respect to the 43rd, 27th, others).

Here is a look at the Week 11 results, rankings, and Week 12 key match-ups:

1. Danville –The Admirals hit a rough patch on the road this past week, losing two games in a row for the first time all season as they lost 62-55 (in OT) to Franklin County on Monday and 58-56 at Frankfort on Tuesday. The loss at Frankfort was not a big surprise, they have been one of the 11th Region’s strongest teams this season, can match Danville’s athleticism, and sport an impressive 22-5 record. In the Franklin County game, the Admirals sometimes struggled with shot selection and occasionally let their emotion get the best of them, something that has plagued Danville periodically this season and could put them at risk for an early tournament elimination if it shows up again. Danville bounced back from these two losses nicely, however, defeating District rival Lincoln County 68-62 on Friday. In the first half against Lincoln they once again looked like the team to beat in the District and Region, taking a commanding lead early then holding off a Patriots rally down the stretch. Despite the two losses, as the deepest and most physically talented team in the Region Danville retains the #1 spot but it is very nearly a 1 and 1A with Wayne County at this point. The Admirals play at Russell County on Tuesday this week, at home against Somerset Thursday, and at East Jessamine Friday.

2. Wayne County – Wayne County hit the road this past week, winning 60-52 at Somerset on Tuesday and at 77-69 at West Jessamine on Friday. On Saturday, the Cardinals returned home and lost 67-56 to Warren Central, ending their 6-game winning streak and taking their first loss since the 0-3 meltdown in the Toyota Classic a few weeks ago. Wayne has struggled a bit with the more physical and athletic teams, particularly those that can apply ball pressure, force them out of their offense and requiring the three scorers (Weaver, Gehring, Spencer) to create their own shots, but if they settle into an offensive rhythm that allows them to move the ball comfortably they can score the ball better than anyone in the Region. Boyle County defends physically and is good at disrupting half-court sets, so this coming Tuesdays home game against the Rebels should be a good tournament preparation test for the Cardinals. Wayne also plays at Lexington Catholic on Friday to close out the regular season.

3. Lincoln County – The Patriots won impressively this past Tuesday in a 68-46 win at home against Mercer County, then lost 68-62 at District rival Danville on Friday. Despite a 16-12 record on the season, Lincoln County has shown moments of Region-winning capability, so they hold down the #3 spot as ‘best of the rest’ after the top two. The Patriots have also shown moments of mediocrity with some head-scratching losses. Senior guard Blake Smith has performed consistently all season, the younger players around him have been a bit more up-and-down. Defense is the key for Lincoln, their perimeter quickness can give any team trouble and they need easy buckets from it on those nights when they are not hitting on all cylinders offensively. The Patriots have a nice tournament warm-up week, playing at home against Lexington Catholic on Tuesday then traveling to play an improving Casey County team on Friday.

4. Mercer County– Mercer had a busy week, beating Russell County 61-45 on Monday, having their 6-game winning streak snapped 68-46 at Lincoln County on Tuesday, dropping a surprising 73-60 game at home against Casey County on Friday, then defeating Adair County 67-31 on Saturday. Lincoln County’s perimeter defenders gave Mercer some trouble on Tuesday, as the Titans struggled with turnovers and were held to 27% shooting in a game that was really never in doubt. The Patriots are not a team Mercer wants to be matched up with in the Region Tournament, they have been beaten soundly by them both times this season. The Titans don’t really have an inside scoring threat and rely heavily both on three-point shooting and perimeter players creating their own shot, so teams that can defend the individual skills of good perimeter players will have some success against Mercer. This week the Titans play only one game, at Madison Southern on Monday.

5. Boyle County – The Rebels opened the week with an impressive 64-42 road win at Southwestern where they shot 8-15 from behind the three-point arc. Boyle returned home to play Casey County on Thursday, grinding out a 77-70 victory in a game featuring over 50 fouls and a lot of time watching free throws being shot. The Rebels then dropped a surprising game at home to a struggling Bryan Station team on Friday, losing 67-49. Boyle County has a strong test and tournament preparation week ahead, playing at Region #2 Wayne County on Tuesday and at Oldham County on Thursday.

6. West Jessamine – The Colts faced two challenging opponents at home this week but dropped both games, losing 74-49 to 11th Region power Woodford County and 77-69 to Region #2 Wayne County. West played well at times against the Cardinals, taking a small lead into the 4thquarter, but Wayne County’s shooters got free for open shots on a couple of key possessions late and was able to pull away from the Colts. West has now lost six of seven games and seem to be in a downward spiral, although they have been going through a very difficult portion of the schedule. The Colts have the talent to make a strong tournament run, but they continue to struggle with a ‘my turn’ offensive mindset and a no-help approach to defense that allows opponents to comfortably isolate defenders. This combination makes them a high risk for an early tournament exit. West Jessamine will play a single game this week to close out the regular season, hosting a Paul Laurence Dunbar team on Tuesday they defeated back in December.

7. Somerset – Somerset lost two home games this past week, 93-69 to 13th Region power Knox Central on Monday and 60-52 to Region #2 Wayne County on Tuesday. Somerset also traveled to play Green County on Saturday, coming away with a 75-63 victory. The Briar Jumpers continue to knock on the door of the Region elite, they have a strong group of young perimeter scores and multiple ways of scoring, but they occasionally struggle on the defensive side of the ball which could potentially be the cause of an early tournament exit. Despite two wins over District rival Pulaski County this season, Somerset drew the more difficult matchup in the 47th as they will have to face an up-and-coming Casey County team. This week will be a challenge and an excellent tournament warmup as the Briar Jumpers host Garrard County on Tuesday and play at Danville on Thursday.

8. Pulaski County – Pulaski had two solid home wins this week, beating Estill County 87-49 on Tuesday and Southwestern 73-61 on Friday. Since their 30-point beat down at Lincoln County on January 8, the Maroons have played solid basketball, they are two single-possession losses away from being winners of ten straight and look to be one of the hot teams coming into tournament play. Pulaski prepares for District play this week with a game at Corbin on Tuesday, followed by a home game against an athletic Christian County team on Thursday.

9. Garrard County – Garrard beat an improving Casey County team at home 79-66 on Tuesday this past week, lost 84-61 at North Laurel on Thursday, and then won a 98-95 double OT thriller at Rockcastle County on Friday. Garrard played the latter two games without Senior Guard Brice Burkhart, his presence on the court is important as a three-point threat to help open things up for double-double machine Braden Sebastian (26.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG). The Golden Lions play at Somerset on Tuesday this week, then host Western Hills on Thursday to close out the regular season.

10. Casey County – The Rebels had a difficult road trip this week and only went 1-2, but they proved to the Region that they are a force to be reckoned with and they have become a threat to get past Somerset in District play and into the Region Tournament. Casey lost 79-66 Tuesday at Garrard, dropped a hard-fought 77-70 foul-fest Thursday night at Boyle County, then walked away with an impressive 73-60 victory on Friday over Region #4 Mercer. Casey plays three games at home this week, Monday against McCreary Central, Thursday against Taylor County and Friday vs. Lincoln County.

11. Southwestern – The Warriors had two tough home games this week and dropped them both, 64-42 to Boyle County on Tuesday and 73-61 to Pulaski County on Friday. The Warriors play Perry County Central at home on Tuesday this week, then travel to play Cordia on Friday to close out the regular season.

12. East Jessamine – East followed up their big win over West Jessamine with a busy road week, winning 61-59 at Western Hills on Monday, losing 87-68 at Bourbon County on Wednesday, then winning 71-56 at McCreary Central on Friday in a game where Senior Forward Tyler Pitney contributed 21 points and 15 rebounds. This week the Jaguars play Bluegrass United (homeschool) on Tuesday and host Region #1 Danville on Friday.

13. Rockcastle County – Rockcastle lost two very close games this past week, on Tuesday at Jackson County 84-82, and then 98-95 in double OT on Friday against Garrard County. The Rockets host Whitley County on Tuesday this week, South Laurel on Thursday, then complete the regular season on the road against Russell County on Friday.

14. McCreary Central – The Raiders lost 55-48 at Clinton County on Monday, and lost 71-56 to East Jessamine on Friday. This week they play at Casey County on Monday, host Cumberland Home School on Tuesday, and finish the regular season at home against Barbourville on Friday.

15. Burgin – Burgin defeated Kentucky School for the Deaf 57-20, and Cumberland Home School 71-31 this week, then lost 68-60 at Portland Christian on Saturday. The Bulldogs host Danville Christian on Tuesday this week and Jackson City on Thursday.

16. Danville Christian – The Warriors lost 81-78 to Cumberland Home School Monday, defeated Lee County 77-72 on Tuesday and lost 93-56 to Portland Christian on Friday. The Warriors also played at Heritage Academy on Saturday, coming away with a 64-62 victory. Danville Christian plays at Burgin this week, on Tuesday night.

17. Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) – KSD lost 57-20 to Burgin on Tuesday, then lost 50-26 to Georgia School for the Deaf in the KSD Homecoming Classic on Friday, 55-24 to Ohio School for the Deaf and 41-24 to North Carolina School for the Deaf on Saturday. KSD hosts the Danville Homeschool team on Tuesday this week, then plays at Oneida Baptist on Thursday.

Key 12th Region Games of the Week:

Monday, February 11
Mercer County at Madison Southern, 7:30 p.m.
McCreary Central at Casey County, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, February 12
Boyle County at Wayne County, 7:30 p.m.
Lexington Catholic at Lincoln County, 7:30 p.m.
Paul Laurence Dunbar at West Jessamine, 7:30 p.m.
Garrard County at Somerset, 7:30 p.m.
Pulaski County at Corbin, 7:30 p.m.
Perry County Central at Southwestern, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, February 14
Somerset at Danville, 7:30 p.m.
Boyle County at Oldham County, 7:30 p.m.
Christian County at Pulaski County, 7:30 p.m.
Taylor County at Casey County, 7:30 p.m.
Western Hills at Garrard County, 7:30 p.m.

Friday, February 15
Danville at East Jessamine, 7:30 p.m.
Wayne County at Lexington Catholic, 7:30 p.m.
Lincoln County at Casey County, 7:30 p.m.
Southwestern at Cordia, 7:30 p.m.