1. South Laurel (20-5 overall, 10-2 vs. 13th Region competition) — The Cardinals, like many other teams in the 13th Region, haven’t gotten many games in due to Mother Nature, but they did manage to get past Whitley County, 61-42 on Saturday, and are now back in the driver’s seat for the 50th District Tournament’s top seed. A win over defending 13th Region champion Williamsburg on Wednesday (they’ve already defeated the Yellow Jackets on the road earlier this season, 68-20) will lock up the top seed. Two of the big reasons why South Laurel has been playing so well is defensive play, and sharing the ball on offense. Caleb Taylor continues to dominate the boards, and block shots for the Cardinals while Andrew Griffith has turned his play up a notch. South Laurel is riding a five-game win streak, and could very well be peaking at the right time.
2. North Laurel (21-4, 10-3) — The Jaguars snapped a two-game losing streak by disposing of Barbourville Saturday, 108-82. The 108 points marked the highest point output of the season for North Laurel, and not to mention the second time this season the Jaguars have scored at least 100 points. No one is playing as good as junior Peyton Broughton is at the present time. He has scored 34, 30 and 39 points respectively during his past three games and became Laurel County’s all-time career leader in points scored along with becoming the first Laurel Contain reaching the 2,000 point plateau. He now has 2,026 points in his career.
3. Clay County (20-7, 13-3) — The Tigers saw their five-game win streak snapped Saturday after dropping an 85-73 decision to Lexington Catholic. Blake Smith had a huge game for the Tigers, scoring 29 points while grabbing 10 boards. Trey Smith added a 20-point scoring effort, and has scored 67 points during his past three games. Clay County’s 65-43 win over Oneida Baptist this past week was a whole lot closer than the final score indicated. The Tigers trailed late in the third quarter before pulling away during the game’s final eight minutes.
4. Harlan County (19-4, 10-1) — The Black Bears haven’t played since their 62-52 win over Richmond Model on Feb. 6. Harlan County is scheduled to wrap regular season play up with three straight home games this week against June Buchanan, Cordia and Middlesboro.
5. Knox Central (13-9, 7-3) — The Panthers’ inconsistent ways continued this past week with a win over Paintsville and then a disappointing loss to Somerset. Knox Central’s Chad Marsee scored 32 points against the Tigers while Austin Allen has been scoring in double digits the past three games. One concern, though — Knox Central is 3-4 during its past seven games.
6. (tie) Whitley County (15-11, 8-8) — The Colonels let a golden opportunity slip away Saturday. Whitley County saw its hopes of being the 50th District Tournament’s No. 1 seed come to an end by dropping a 60-41 decision to South Laurel. Now the Colonels will face-off against Corbin in an elimination game during semifinal action of the 50th District Tournament next week. The two teams split a pair of games this season with Whitley County losing at home, 63-49, while getting revenge on the road, thanks to a 58-54 victory.
6. (tie) Corbin (17-9, 11-5) — Tony Pietrowski’s squad managed to get one game in this past week, a 69-54 decision over Pineville. Corbin will round out regular season play this week with home games against Lynn Camp and Harlan.
8. Barbourville (12-13, 7-7) — The Tigers are a dangerous team, but if they don’t turn some things around, they could be headed to their first losing season since the 2009-10 campaign when they finished with a 13-16 mark. Barbourville’s duo of Brent Perry and Markelle Turner are hard to stop, but the Tigers struggle stopping anyone on defense.
9. Bell County (10-14, 5-7) — I compare the Bobcats to Barbourville, both teams are good enough to pull off an upset here or there, but they’ve got to get a tad bit better if they want to make a serious run at the 13th Region crown. Bell County’s woes come on the offensive side.
10. Harlan (15-11, 7-7) — The Green Dragons picked up two big wins this past week by defeating Pineville and Oneida Baptist in back-to-back days. Drew Parks and Killian Ledford has played big roles in Harlan’s recent success. Park has scored 39 points the past two games while knocking down 10 three-pointers in the process. He continues to be one of the best shooters in the state. Ledford has scored 34 points during the two-game stretch while hitting six three-pointers.
11. Pineville (18-8, 12-5) — The Mountain Lions dropped out of the top 10 after falling to both Corbin and Harlan this past week. Pineville is 3-4 since winning the 13th Region All “A” Classic Tournament championship.
12. Oneida Baptist (12-14, 10-12) — The Mountaineers put a scare in Clay County before falling, 65-43, and then followed that loss with a 68-51 defeat to Harlan.
13. Lynn Camp (15-9, 8-6) — The Wildcats looked to have turned the corner before seeing their three-game win streak come to an end a week ago to Oneida Baptist. Lynn Camp has an important week ahead with games against Corbin, Harlan and Middlesboro coming up.
14. Jackson County (8-16, 2-9) — The Generals continue to struggle, and haven’t won back-to-back games since starting the season 3-1. They are 2-9 during their last 11 games.
15. Williamsburg (2-15, 2-13) — The Yellow Jackets are losers of five straight and 1-11 during their last 12 games. It’s odd seeing they have only played 17 games so far this season.
16. Middlesboro (1-24, 1-17) — The Yellow Jackets have now lost 20 in a row.
17. Red Bird (3-20, 0-15) — The Cardinals have lost 36 straight games against 13th Region opponents. The last time they won a region game was back on Feb. 18, 2013 in first round action of the 49th District Tournament. They defeated Oneida Baptist, 72-68.