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15th Region Overview: The region has been controlled by four teams all season and it would be a shock if one of those did not make it to Rupp Arena this March. Two time defending champion Pikeville, Johnson Central who has been to seven consecutive regional title games, a talented Paintsville squad and Shelby Valley who has shown consistent dominance throughout the season all have legitimate chances to punch their ticket at the EXPO if they can get out of districts. Aside from the big four, there are many other story lines that will take place in the district tournaments this week and there should be some outstanding atmospheres. Below is the season recap and team rankings.

2018-2019 Preseason Rankings (Released in November):
1. Johnson Central
2. Pikeville
3. Paintsville
4. Shelby Valley
5. Floyd Central
6. Belfry
7. Magoffin County
8. Lawrence County
9. Prestonsburg
10. Sheldon Clark
11. East Ridge
12. Phelps
13. Pike Central
14. Betsy Layne
15. Jenkins
16. Piarist

2018-2019 Final Regular Season Rankings (Record):
1. Shelby Valley (26-4)
2. Pikeville (19-8)
3. Johnson Central (22-7)
4. Paintsville (17-6)
5. Lawrence County (22-7)
6. Pike Central (17-12)
7. Magoffin County (15-14)
8. Prestonsburg (15-14)
9. Sheldon Clark (10-19)
10. Phelps (13-14)
11. Belfry (8-21)
12. Betsy Layne (13-15)
13. East Ridge (12-15)
14. Floyd Central (4-24)
15. Jenkins (3-26)
16. Piarist (0-28)

Awards (Based solely on author opinion):

Player of the Year: Cody Potter (Shelby Valley)
Coach of the Year: Jim Hicks (Shelby Valley)

All Region 1st Team (Regardless of Position):
Cody Potter – Shelby Valley
Isaiah May – Johnson Central
Brady Whitaker – Magoffin County
Connor Roberts – Pikeville
Trey James – Sheldon Clark

All Region 2nd Team (Regardless of Position):
Jacob Rice – Johnson Central
Colby Fugate – Paintsville
Tyler Maynard – Lawrence County
Trey Francis – Phelps
Nick Keeton - Paintsville

All Region 3rd Team (Regardless of Position):
Keian Worrix – Shelby Valley
Kyle Watkins – Pikeville
Cody Maynard – Lawrence County
Cory VanHoose – Johnson Central
Seth Williams - Paintsville


Honorable Mention: Gabe Ferrel (Johnson Central), John King (Johnson Central), Brady Dingess (Paintsville), Braxton Maynard (Sheldon Clark), Aiden Barnett (Magoffin County), Isaiah Salyer (Magoffin County), Chase Sartin (Lawrence County), Blake Slone (Prestonsburg), Adam Slone (Prestonsburg), Graham Burchett (Prestonsburg), Jordan Frazier (Betsy Layne), Brady Robinson (Betsy Layne), Ethan Smith-Mills (Floyd Central), Cameron Worrix (Shelby Valley), Orbie McPeek (Shelby Valley), Sam Stanley (Shelby Valley), Christian Billiter (Pikeville), Rylee Sammons (Pikeville), Payton Rose (Jenkins), Dalton Wellman (East Ridge), Cameron Hess (East Ridge), Brady Adkins (Pike Central), Dasean Penn (Pike Central), Dezmon Roblee (Belfry), Dominick Francis (Phelps)


57th District Preview

Tournament Location: Paintsville High School
Defending Champion: Johnson Central

Schedule:

Paintsville (1 seed) vs. Sheldon Clark (4 seed) Tuesday 7:00 PM
Johnson Central (2 seed) vs. Magoffin county (3 seed) Wednesday 7:00 PM
District Championship (Friday 7:00 PM)

Match-Up #1: Paintsville [17-6: 5-1 in Districts] vs. Sheldon Clark [10-19: 1-5 in Districts]
Paintsville won a share of the 57th District regular season title as they split with Johnson Central. Sheldon Clark won a share of 3rd place as they tied with Magoffin County. Paintsville won the flip with JC to attain the top overall seed and Sheldon Clark lost a flip with MC to get the four seed. In the regular season Paintsville went 2-0 against Sheldon Clark, winning 55-51 in Martin County and 62-48 at home. In both games, Sheldon Clark jumped out to early leads, playing extremely well into the fourth quarter. In both games, Paintsville’s depth and pressure wore down the Cardinals as they seemed to get tired. Late turnovers and missed opportunities decided the outcome of the first meeting as Sheldon Clark led with under a minute to play and had the ball. In the second game, they simply ran out of gas.

Paintsville wants to play fast, while the Cardinals want to control the game and run everything through Trey James. James has controlled the middle in both contest, preventing driving lanes at the rim with his shot blocking ability. Where the Tigers have been successful is in their full court and half court pressure, allowing them to score in transition. If this game is played in the low 50’s the Sheldon Clark will be there with a chance to win. They cannot, however, get down early as the Cardinals lack firepower to score in bunches.

Notes:
(1) Sheldon Clark awaits news on the eligibility of transfer Uziel Muteba. If he gets eligible and is as good as advertised, this brings another scorer and ball handler to a team that needs just that.
(2) Paintsville is 3-3 in their last six games with losses to Johnson Central, Floyd Central and Pikeville.
(3) If Sheldon Clark does not win the 57th district championship and then state championship, it will be their 3rd 20-loss season in the last 4 years.

Prediction:
Paintsville 72 Sheldon Clark 60

Match-Up #2: Johnson Central [22-7: 5-1 in Districts] vs. Magoffin County [15-14: 1-5 in Districts]
Johnson Central lost the flip for the top overall seed and Magoffin County won the flip for the third overall seed. In the regular season, JC went 2-0 against the Hornets, winning at home 82-62 and on the road 81-61. Johnson Central’s Isaiah May has averaged 19.5 ppg and 7 rpg against the Magoffin in the two contest, but it’s the Golden Eagles pressure defense, bench depth and hectic style of play that wears down the Hornets. JC has put at least three players in double figures in both games despite Magoffin standout Brady Whitaker scoring 32 and 28 in the two games respectively. In the later parts of both games the outcome was decided and the Johnson Central JV finished out the contest. Magoffin County will need to have another big game from Brady Whitaker and then get solid defensive performances from everyone else.

Johnson Central finished the season 2-1 with wins over Floyd Central and Mountain Mission’s national team at home and a loss on the road at Shelby Valley by two. The Golden Eagles were the preseason #1 team and have played very few games with all their players healthy as Bryson Hackney (three eye surgeries), Gabe Ferrell (knee) and Jacob Rice (ankle) have all missed several games each. The good news is they are all back and available for the post season push. Magoffin County enters districts going 4-1 in their last five and outside a regular season finale loss to Pike Central, would have been undefeated since losing to Johnson Central on February 4th.

If Magoffin County can hit their shots from the outside and Brady Whitaker can have a big game to include getting JC in foul trouble, then Magoffin has a chance. A lot of things have to go right, however, as JC is a heavy favorite.

Notes:
(1) Johnson Central has been in 7 straight 15th Region championship games. Jacob Rice became the all-time assist leader in school history this season. Isaiah May became the first ever Sophomore to score 1,000 points at JC.
(2) Magoffin County’s Brady Whitaker was named KABC 15th Region POY. He joined Trenton Russell (2017) on this list as the only Hornets to win the honor.

Prediction:
Johnson Central 78 Magoffin County 62

58th District Preview

Tournament Location: Lawrence County
Defending Champion: Floyd Central

Schedule:
Lawrence County (1 seed) vs. Floyd Central (4 seed) Tuesday 6:30 PM
Prestonsburg (2 seed) vs. Betsy Layne (3 seed) Tuesday 8:00 PM
District Championship (Thursday 7:00 PM)

Match-Up #1: Lawrence County [22-7: 5-1 in Districts] vs. Floyd Central [4-24: 0-6 in Districts]
The Bulldogs finished tied with Johnson Central for the second best record in the region and enter the 58th District tournament as the host and top overall seed. Floyd Central has been through roller coaster of a season. In the Preseason they were in the top five. They won their first game easily then proceeded to lost 20 of their next 21 (the win was against Piarist). They saw half of their team quit, watched a coach resign mid-season, then seen half of their team come back, defeat a very good Paintsville team and finish the season with the third most losses in the region and one of the worst records in the state. Just a crazy season that also saw their best player, Brady Conn, go to Wesley Christian Prep, play basketball, then come back all in the same year.

Lawrence County was 2-0 against Floyd Central this year, winning 75-54 at home and 53-50 on the road. In both games, the Jaguars had all their players back, but in the first contest, one might think they were still working their way into shape after a long lay-off. Lawrence County is playing good basketball right now, winning six in a row to include an overtime win at Johnson Central (Jacob Rice DNP for JC). Floyd Central is playing better than they have for most of the season. Floyd Central is not the same team that lost all those games in a row, but sometimes a team can get accustom to losing. If the game stays tight, this could be a barn burner, but if LC pushes out a lead, Floyd Central could fold early.

Notes:
(1) This is the third district Lawrence County has been in over the last six years (57th, 58th, and now 60th).
(2) When consolidated, many thought Floyd Central would a basketball power in the 15th Region. Their program now sits well below .500 in just two years of competition.
(3) The Floyd Central job is scheduled to be posted this summer.

Prediction:
Lawrence County 65 Floyd Central 56

Match-Up #2: Prestonsburg [15-14: 4-2 in Districts] vs. Betsy Layne [13-15: 3-3 in Districts]
The Blackcats have had one of their better seasons in a long time under new coach Brent Rose. They will finish the season no worse than .500 for the first time since 2011-2012 when they were 16-16 and could get their first winning season since Jack Pack led them during the 2008-2009 season (finished 18-13). Betsy Layne has also had a nice season under new head Coach Brad Short (former Head Coach at Allen Central). The Bobcats are 13-15 against a weak schedule, but have shown steady improvement throughout the season.

Prestonsburg and Betsy Layne split during the regular season with Betsy Layne winning on the road 46-52 and more recently Prestonsburg winning at Betsy Layne by the same margin 48-42. These teams know each other very well and both play a controlled, half-court game with the occasional pressure. This game will be played on a neutral floor in Louisa and should be one of the most competitive games throughout the region in the opening round. It will come down to who makes shots and who don’t. Who can hit free-throws late and who can secure rebounds. The will be a fun game to watch.

Notes:
(1) Prestonsburg is looking for back-to-back regional births for the first time in over a decade.
(2) Brent Rose, Prestonsburg’s head coach, was once the Head Coach at Betsy Layne before returning to the sidelines this season.

Prediction:
Prestonsburg 55 Betsy Layne 49

59th District Preview

Tournament Location: East Ridge High School
Defending Champion: Pikeville

Schedule:
Shelby Valley (1 seed) vs. Jenkins (4 seed) Tuesday 6:30 PM
Pikeville (2 seed) vs. East Ridge (3 seed) Tuesday 8:00 PM
District Championship (Thursday 7PM)

Match-Up #1: Shelby Valley [26-4: 6-1 in Districts] vs. Jenkins [3-26: 0-7 in Districts]
Shelby Valley is the best team in the region going into the tournament and have the best player in the region in Cody Potter. The Wildcats finished with the best overall record in the region, won the All-A and made a deep run at All-A state and won the tie breaker after sharing the regular season 59th district title with Pikeville. They have beat Johnson Central twice, Pikeville twice and Paintsville once with their only loss in the region coming at Pikeville in overtime on a buzzer beater. Jenkins is one of the worst teams in the region and state. After going winless last season, they did pick up three victories this year, but two were against a winless Piarist team.

In the two meeting this season, Shelby Valley won 81-32 and 70-20. Don’t expect a competitive basketball game as Shelby Valley hopes to come away injury free.

Notes:
(1) Jenkins is 3-57 since joining the 15th Region and has only defeated Piarist in regional competition. Piarist has never defeated any 15th Region opponent in school history (dating back to the 90’s).
(2) Shelby Valley is on pace for the first 30-win season in Jim Hicks career and school’s first since 2010.

Prediction: Shelby Valley 85 Jenkins 50

Match-Up #2: Pikeville [19-8: 7-2 in Districts] vs. East Ridge [12-15: 2-5 in Districts]
Pikeville has experience, multiple 1,000 point scorers and the best team defense in the region with their physical play. They closed the season strong, winning 8 of their last 9 to include a current four game win streak as they knocked off Paintsville on the road in the season finale. East Ridge is still young and upcoming and will better next year and the year after. They play a controlled and methodically style of play.

During the regular season the two teams met three times. Twice in district play and once in the All-A. Pikeville won all three contest as follows: 79-54 at East Ridge, 61-45 in the All-A, 69-46 at home. The games were not very competitive in the second half and don’t expect anything different in the fourth contest. The game is at East Ridge which will give the Warriors an advantage and they do play a style that can keep them in big games, but once Pikeville gets the lead, it will be difficult for East Ridge to come back.

Notes:
(1) Pikeville is the two time defending 15th Region Champion
(2) East Ridge Head Coach Randy McCoy is expected to be on the sideline after having health concerns early in the season.

Prediction: Pikeville 68 East Ridge 50

60th District Preview

Tournament Location: Phelps High School
Defending Champion: Belfry

Schedule:
Pike Central (1 seed) vs. Piarist (4 seed) Monday 8:15 PM
Belfry (2 seed) vs. Phelps (3 seed) Tuesday 8:15 PM
District Championship (Friday 7:00 PM)

Match-Up #1: Pike Central [17-12: 5-0 in Districts] vs. Piarist [0-28: 0-2 in Districts]
The Hawks punched their ticket to the regional tournament with by winning the regular season district title and drawing Piarist in the first round. Piarist has forfeited district tournament play in the past so it’s yet to be determined if they will even show up to play the game. Pike Central did defeat Piarist in the regular season by a final of 76-34.

The Hawks best win this season came in their season finale as they defeated Magoffin County. Give them credit though, as they did win their district and will be a factor in the regional tournament.

Notes:
(1) Pike Central has some new faces that could be eligible for post season play.

Prediction:
Pike Central 86 Piarist 31

Match-Up #2: Belfry [8-21: 2-2 in Districts] vs. Phelps [13-14: 1-4 in Districts]
This will be one of the best opening round games in the region outside of Betsy Layne and Prestonsburg. The game is at Phelps and they have the best player in the district in Trey Francis. The two schools don’t like each other as Phelps has lost several athletes over the years to Belfry. The two schools have seen their fans spill onto the court in heated contest before. This game will be a war.

Belfry won both regular season contest defeating Phelps 38-37 in overtime on the road and then beating them again 50-45 at home. Belfry will show the press and try to speed the game up in spots, while Phelps plays more of a half court style that is reactive to their opponent. Look for Trey Francis to carry to scoring load against Belfry. If he stays out of foul trouble this could be a great win for the program.

Notes:
(1) Phelps is looking to advance to the regional tournament for the first time since 2012 when they won the 60th district tournament on their home floor.
(2) Belfry is trying to right the ship after a poor regular season by making it back to the regional tournament yet again.

Prediction:
Phelps 53 Belfry 52

District Championship Predictions:
57th - Johnson Central 65 Paintsville 63
58th – Lawrence County 71 Prestonsburg 65
59th – Shelby Valley 67 Pikeville 64
60th – Pike Central 63 Phelps 60

Agree or Disagree on anything? Feel free to respond!