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District Tournament Recap:
We were able to correctly predict 5 of the 8 regional tournament teams with 1 of the 4 districts being perfect predictions on winners and runner-ups (58th). We did correctly predict every District Champion. Lets see how the district tournaments played out in the 15th Region.

57 District Recap
The 57th District tournament opened as expected as Johnson Central defeated Paintsville by a final of 77-61 in a game that was not as close as the score indicated. The Golden Eagles put the running clock on the Tigers around the five minute mark of the 3rd quarter, leading by as many as 37. Paintsville did close the gap after the contest was decided. The second game of the tournament was the much anticipated match-up between Sheldon Clark and Magoffin County. The Cardinals did not trail in the game until under two minutes to go in the 4th quarter, seeing a ten point lead at 3:30 mark vanish in just under a minute of game time. This was accomplished by the Magoffin County press as they put pressure on Sheldon Clark, forcing four consecutive live ball turnovers (all led to scores). A deep 3FG miss by Dylan James was secured by Jaren Lovely of the Hornets and Magoffin County would hold the ball for over 90s with the game tied. With 1.1s left to play, Dalton Peters was fouled and made one of two free throws for the final margin. Magoffin County would survive at home 54-53.

The district championship would see Johnson Central smother Magoffin County with pressure and win by a comfortable 79-55 margin. The Hornets never led in the game and struggled from the field, seeing standout co-player of the year Trenton Russell go 1/15. Mason Blair and Cole Crace paced Johnson Central with 22 points each as the Golden Eagles put four players in double figures to include Jacob Rice and Dalton Collins (career high 12 points no missed shots). The Hornets avoided a scare moving into the district tournament as super athlete Ryan Mullins appeared to have a devastating knee injury late in the 3rd quarter that turned out to be little more than a tweak. He did return!

58th District Recap

In the opening game of the 58th district tournament, Allen Central knocked off host Betsy Layne in a contest many expected to be close. The final score was 44-40, but the game was tied late into the fourth quarter. A few careless turnovers by the bobcats gave Allen Central the edge they needed, converting crucial FTs down the stretch. The second game of the tournament might have been one of the best district semifinals in the state as South Floyd edged Prestonsburg in double overtime. The Blackcats had just defeated South Floyd at Hi Hat a few weeks earlier on a last second shot and almost did so again as a full court heave at the end of the first overtime rattled, popped up, rattled again and then fell short. South Floyd was able to survive in double overtime with huge contributions from their bench as almost every started had fouled out. This might not have been two of the top teams in the state going at it, but you couldnt tell from the crowd. This was a great game.

The District Championship did not disappoint either as the Raiders avenged an early season loss to Allen Central by a final of 71-62. The completed a 58th district 3 peat for the Raiders as they moved on to the 15th Region tournament.

59th District Recap

The first round game between Pikeville and Piarist went down as a 2-0 forfeit in favor of the Panthers as the Knights elected to go on a ski trip rather than play (Pikeville declined to reschedule). The second game was a battle of execution as both teams were methodical in their approach. Shelby Valley was able to edge out East Ridge 37-36 as the Warriors were unable to get a basket down the stretch to take control of the game. Give the young Wildcats credit as they showed poise and ball control in heated contest.

The district championship would see Pikeville jump out to an early 12-2 lead only to watch Shelby Valley slowly claw their way back into the game. The score would be tied midway through the first, but the star power of Wyatt Battaile would prove too much as Pikeville pulled away for the 60-52 victory. This game could have gone either way as the 2-3 zone of Valley coupled with an off shooting night from Pikeville created a contest that was worth the price of admission.

60th District Recap

Two time defending champion Lawrence County opened with a dominating performance versus Phelps and high flier Christian Mounts. The game was within a few possessions most of the first half, but a late 2nd quarter run would fuel a blowout second half for the Bulldogs. The final score would be 88-53 Lawrence County. The second game in the 60th featured two teams that do not like each other and dont mind physical play. Pike Central would lead for the better part of three quarters, only to see the guards of Belfry take control with defense and give the Pirates a late push. Belfry would hold on, sending Pike Central packing for the second straight season by a final of 56-52 (Pike Central had recently defeated Belfry on the road by double digits).

The district championship would watch the Bulldogs three peat (they have won every 60th district title since moving into the district from the 57th next season they will be part of the 58th district) by a final of 71-53. Tim Dalton would not go for huge numbers, but still put up 30 and got to rest before cutting down the nets one last time on his home floor. Belfry had no answer for Dalton much like last season in the district tournament as he would gather rebounds and lead the offense to either an open shot or high percentage look for himself. Despite the score, both teams move into the regional tournament playing well.

15th Region Tournament Preview

Tournament Location: East Kentucky EXPO Center (Pikeville, KY)
Defending Champion: Lawrence County

Session 1 Wednesday 1 March 2017:
Johnson Central (57th Winner) vs. Shelby Valley (59th Runner-up) 6:30 PM
Lawrence County (60th Winner) vs. Allen Central (58th Runner-up) 8:00 PM

Session 2 Thursday 2 March 2017:
South Floyd (58th Winner) vs. Magoffin County (57th Runner-up) 6:30 PM
Lawrence County (60th Winner) vs. Pikeville (59th Runner-up) 8:00 PM

Session 3 Saturday 4 March 2017:
Semi Final 1 7:00 PM
Semi Final 2 8:30 PM

Session 4 Monday 6 March 2017:
Championship 7:30 PM (Winner will play Region 14 Champion)

Overall Team Rankings Entering the Tournament (Record):
1 Johnson Central (25-6)
2 Magoffin County (18-11)
3 Pikeville (20-8)
4 Lawrence County (21-11)
5 South Floyd (20-12)
6 Belfry (14-17)
7 Shelby Valley (16-14)
8 Allen Central (14-18)

Match-Up #1: Johnson Central [25-6: 15-2 in Region] vs. Shelby Valley [16-14: 8-11 in Region]

The Golden Eagles are 57th District Champions for the second consecutive season and enter regional play on a twelve game winning streak. Their defense has been the calling card during post season play as they wear down teams with an up-tempo style and bench depth. Mason Blair (top 10 in the nation) and Cole Crace lead the scoring charge as Johnson Central has three players averaging double figures on the season.

Shelby Valley is young and had their ups and downs the year. They play a controlled style and like to keep the score in the 50s. During post season play they have relying on a packed in 2-3 zone to go with opportunistic man pressure and the occasional press/ jump trap. When they are shooting the ball well they are tough to beat.

Previous Match-Ups:
The two teams met once during the regular season with Johnson Central coming away with a 75-49 victory (played at JC). A running clock was established early in the third quarter and when he came out of the game at the six minute mark (3rd), JC standout Mason Blair had 41 points and Shelby Valley had 40 points. He was 16/19 from the field and played only 19 minutes. Shelby Valley struggled with the pressure applied by Johnson Central all night.

The Game:
This contest will be much different form the first game played on December 13th. Shelby Valley has improved at controlling tempo and the young squad has adjusted to the speed of varsity competition. Look for Valley to play a 2-3 zone of box and chaser on Blair while being very methodical on offense. Johnson Central wants the game to be hectic and fast paced so their athletes can get out and run. If JC controls tempo it will be tough for Valley to stay close. If Valley controls tempo, it could be a one possession game late. Can the Wildcats handle the press of Johnson Central? Will Tommy McKenzie and the Golden Eagles continue their ridiculous record at the EXPO (14-1 in last 15 games)? We will find out Wednesday night!

Regional Titles:
Johnson Central (9) 1972, 1975, 1984, 2000, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Shelby Valley (7) 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 (State Title), 2011

Players to Watch:
Johnson Central Mason Blair (31.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg) Cole Carce (20.9 ppg 7.5 rpg, 6.0 apg) Jacob Rice (11.4 ppg, 5.6 apg)

Shelby Valley Cody Potter (17.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) Blake Burke (11.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

Johnson Central 81 Shelby Valley 65

Match-Up #2: Lawrence County [21-11: 13-6 in Region] vs. Allen Central [14-18: 8-13 in Region]

The Lawrence County Bulldogs are coming off three straight 60th District Titles and have been in the regional championship game the past two seasons (both against Johnson Central split). Led by Timmy Dalton (nations leading scorer), Lawrence County had no trouble with their district foes as they advanced to the EXPO for regional play.

Like Lawrence County, Allen Central has also been to the regional tournament for three consecutive years, but unlike the Bulldogs, each season they have entered as the runner ups from the 58th District. They are in great shape and play very very hard, but sometimes the team struggles with scoring the ball and will go through extended droughts on offense. Proof: They only hit one jump shot in their opening district game versus Betsy Layne. The Rebels look to play a controlled style and will try to keep the scoring at a minimum.

Previous Match-Up:
The two met on December 10th at Allen Central in the Johnny Martin classic. The Bulldogs came away with a 79-50 after leading by 31 at half time. Timmy Dalton had 21 points and 7 rebounds, but did not play the 2nd half of the contest. Allen Central was led by Dylan Caudill with (15 points) and Ethan Smith-Mills (11 points).

The Game:
Allen Central will have no answer for Timmy Dalton, but hey can potentially limit his scoring opportunities by not allowing put back buckets on his misses (easier said than done). The Rebels will also have to pay close attention to Jared Wellman as he is a great shooter/floor spacer for Dalton on the wings. If Allen Central can frustrate Dalton or potentially get him in foul trouble they will be in the ball game. If Lawrence controls the pace and gets in transition it will be a long night for Allen Central.

Regional Titles:
Lawrence County (1) 2016
Allen Central (1) 1994

Players to watch:
Lawrence County Timmy Dalton (37.8 ppg 11.8 rpg) Jared Wellman (14.7 ppg 5.4 rpg)

Allen Central Ethan Smith-Mills (13.3 ppg 3.4 rpg) Nelson Cameron (12.1 ppg 6.7 rpg) Dylan Caudill (10.2 ppg 6.8 rpg)

Lawrence County 80 Allen Central 58

Match-Up #3: South Floyd [20-12: 11-8 in Region] vs. Magoffin County [18-11: 15-6 in Region]

South Floyd has won the 58th District Championship for three straight years and will be looking to make a deep run into the 15th Region Tournament. They will be facing Magoffin County in the first round of regionals for the second consecutive season. The Raiders have all the pieces to be great. A solid big man down low in Brady Conn (one of states top rebounders), a strong point guard who can score when needed in J.R. Tackett, and a swing player in Jacob Collins. When they are clicking on all cylinders they are tough to beat.

Magoffin County comes into regional play for the second consecutive year as the 57th district runner-up. Last season they knocked South Floyd out of regions before losing in the semifinals to Lawrence County. Magoffin has two great players in Trenton Russell and Jaren Lovely to go with solid post presence in Ryan Mullins and Dalton Peters. In fact, they can play with anyone in the region. The problem is they have a tendency to get tired and worn down as the game progresses due to lack of bench production. They can play multiple styles but prefer to walk it up and down the floor and run sets. They will press when they have too and can be very effective in it.

Previous Match-Up:
The two teams split during the regular season, both winning on their home floors. Magoffin defeated South Floyd in the season opener 63-56 (played at Magoffin November 29th). South Floyd recently defeated Magoffin 80-74 (played at South Floyd February 9th). In the first game, Magoffin was led by Trenton Russell with 25 points and South Floyd was led by J.R. Tackett with 20 points (Brady Conn (SF) had 10 points and 14 rebounds). In the second game the Hornets saw Jaren Lovely go for 35 points while Trenton Russell scored 23 (Ryan Mullins only had 2 points). Both Russell and Lovely both had double-doubles with over 10 rebounds each. South Floyd had three kids over 20 points in the second game as Conn (another double double), Tackett, and Collins all hit the mark. Both games could have went either way and were tied very late in the contest.

The Game:
Magoffin County will see Lovely and Russell take a majority of their shot attempts as most sets run through them, but will go into the post with Mullins whenever they can. They run a very good sideline fast break and if nothing is there will back it out and get a set. South Floyd plays much of the same style but gets more scoring and rebounding from the post. Look for this game to be half court dominated with teams walking it up and down the floor. You will see the occasional press from both in opportunistic times (like on a made FT or late in either half) but dont expect it the entire game. If Magoffin can get normal production from Lovely and Russell they will be fine, but South Floyd is a scary team with all the pieces to knock them off. The Raiders will look to be balanced on scoring and if they can win the rebound battle will likely be a great position late. This should be one heck of a ball game that might be decided by a bench player for either team coming through down the stretch.

Regional Titles:
South Floyd (1) 2001
Magoffin County None

Players to watch:

South Floyd J.R. Tackett (18.8 ppg 5.1 rpg) Jacob Collins (15.5 ppg 2.5 rpg) Brady Conn (15.4 ppg 12.9 rpg)

Magoffin County Trenton Russell (24.1 ppg 7.1 rpg) Jaren Lovely (19.4 ppg 5.3 rpg)

Magoffin County 62 South Floyd 58

Match-Up #4: Pikeville [20-8: 16-2 in Region] vs. Belfry [14-17: 12-8 in Region]

Pikeville comes in as the champions from the 59th District after finishing as the runner-up last season. They are guard dominated with Wyatt Battaile playing the wing position and providing versatility both inside and out. They move the ball well and shoot the ball well from all five spots, are tough to press, and very disciplined. They mix up defense often, but play more zone than man. The Panthers will press in opportunistic spots.

Belfry is much like Pikeville and actually matches up well against them. They are guard dominated with Woolum and Catron and have deep shooting with Roblee. In fact, their guards are extremely quick and good with the ball in either hand. The Pirates are also strong in the post with Jessie and Blankenship although Blankenship will sometimes play the guard position as well. Belfry likes to run sets but will get out in transition at every opportunity. The scary thing about the Pirates is they really have no set style of play, making them hard to game plan against. They will run and gun or play a slow tempo. They usually have a different leading scorer each night with multiple players hitting the final box tally. If Belfry can avoid scoring droughts they can be in any ball game. Dont be surprised to see them man press at times.

Previous Match-Up:
Pikeville defeated Belfry in 69-58 at Belfry in their only meeting this season (played January 14th). In the game, the Panthers were led by Wyatt Battaile with 16 points but also saw Conner Roberts and Kyle Watkins each score 11 as they pulled away early in the 4th. Belfry was led by Catron (26 points), Roblee (13 points), and Woolum (10 points) as Blankenship and Jessie combined for only 2 points. Belfry got dominated on the boards in the game 27-17 as both teams shot a high percentage (over 50% from the field for each) in a very controlled game.

The Game:
This game has the potential to be closer than many think. Pikeville is guard dominated despite the fact Battaile can play in the post or on the perimeter and Belfry has the personnel to keep up defensively. The question is, can Belfry score enough against the Panther defense? Rebounding must also be taken into consideration for the Pirates. Pikeville does not take bad shots and moves the ball very well. When you run an offense with such discipline, there will always be a player in offense rebound position. This was key in the first matchup as Pikeville won the rebound battle by ten with over half coming on the offensive glass. This has the potential to be a great game as the both teams will play hard. The difference is Belfry does not have a Wyatt Battaile. In fact, no one else in the region does. His versatility will be tough to overcome.

Regional Titles:
Pikeville (9) 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1974, 1999
Belfry (3) 1990, 1991, 1992

Players to Watch:
Pikeville Wyatt Battaile (20.1 ppg 7.1 rpg) Conner Roberts (9.7 ppg 2.3 rpg)

Belfry Isiah Roblee (14.4 ppg 2.9 rpg) Koleston Blankenship (10.6 ppg 5.3 rpg)

Pikeville 58 Belfry 50

Semi Final 1 Prediction: Johnson Central 88 Lawrence County 80 (Dalton and Blair combine for over 80)
Semi Final 2 Prediction: Magoffin County 62 Pikeville 60 (This game will be a war)

Championship Prediction: Johnson Central 77 Magoffin County 70 (Bench depth wears down Magoffin late)

Agree or Disagree? Feel free to respond and discuss!