District Tournament Recap:
We were able to correctly predict 7 of the 8 regional tournament teams with one of the districts being perfect on winner and runner-up (57th). Competitive Balance has been the name of the game this season and didn’t seem to slow down during the first week of the tournament. This should be one of the best regional tournaments in years as the draw could set up one of the biggest nights in 15th Region semifinal history. Upsets happen, however, as survive and advance is the name of the game this week. Below we break down the 15th region tournament and every quarterfinal game.
15th Region Tournament Preview
Tournament Location: East Kentucky EXPO Center (Pikeville, KY) Defending Champion: Pikeville
Schedule: Session 1 Monday 25 February 2019:
Johnson Central (57th Winner) vs. Prestonsburg (58th Runner-up) – 6:30 PM
Phelps (60th Winner) vs. Shelby Valley (59th Runner-up) – 8:00 PM
Session 2 Tuesday 26 February 2019:
Floyd Central (58th Winner) vs. Paintsville (57th Runner-up) – 6:30 PM
Pikeville (59th Winner) vs. Pike Central (60th Runner-up) – 8:00 PM
Session 3 Friday 1 March 2019:
Semi Final 1 – 6:30 PM
Semi Final 2 – 8:00 PM
Session 4 Saturday 2 March 2019:
Championship – 7:00 PM (Winner will play Region 7 Champion)
Overall Team Rankings Entering the Tournament (Record):
1 – Shelby Valley (27-5)
2 – Pikeville (21-8)
3 – Johnson Central (24-7)
4 – Paintsville (18-7)
5 – Pike Central (18-13)
6 – Prestonsburg (16-15)
7- Phelps (15-14)
8 – Floyd Central (6-24)
Match-Up #1: Johnson Central [24-7: 12-5 in Region] vs. Prestonsburg [16-15: 11-10 in Region]
Johnson Central took home their 21st district championship (4th consecutive) with an impressive 13-point win over rival Paintsville on the road. It was Paintsville’s largest and only double-digit loss of the season. Prestonsburg lost in the 58th district championship at Lawrence County to a surprise Floyd Central team, but are still dancing. For the Blackcats, they advance to the regional tournament for the second consecutive season and have locked up at least a .500 record for the first time since Jackie Pack was the head coach in 2008. It is without saying that Prestonsburg Coach Brent Rose has done an outstanding job in his first year back on the sidelines. As these two teams kick off the regional tournament, Johnson Central will be looking to advance to the championship game for the 8th straight year, extending their 15th region record. The Golden Eagles are 18-3 in the EXPO center over the previous seven seasons.
JC and Prestonsburg did not meet this season and last played in the 2017-2018 regional tournament quarterfinals. Johnson Central won 76-65 in a game they led by nearly 30 almost a year to the date. Phil Cornett led the way for Prestonsburg with 23 points (graduated) while Johnson Central put five players in double figures, led by Gabe Ferrell with 12 point.
Expect Johnson Central to speed the game up with the fast break and full court defensive pressure. Expect Prestonsburg to play either sagging man or some sort of zone. It’s easier to slow a game down than speed one up and that’s what the Blackcats will try to do. With good shooting and a controlled style, Prestonsburg could hang around for a while, but every time Johnson Central scores, they will be able to press and for them, that leads to more scoring. The game could be close for a half, but JC should eventually pull away. Prestonsburg will need to play very well and hit shots to have a chance late as it will be difficult to stop a Johnson Central team that has four players averaging double figures.
Johnson Central (9) – 1972, 1975, 1984, 2000, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Prestonsburg (1) - 1989
Players to Watch:
Johnson Central – Isaiah May (16.3 ppg 6.5 rpg) Cory VanHoose (16.3 ppg 5.8 rpg) Jacob Rice (13.4 ppg 5.2 apg)
Prestonsburg – Blake Slone (14.3 ppg 5.2 rpg) Adam Slone (12.2 ppg 5.2 rpg) Graham Burchett (11.4 ppg 5.4 rpg)
Johnson Central 70
Match-Up #2: Phelps [15-14: 7-8 in Region] vs. Shelby Valley [27-5: 21-2 in Region]
Shelby Valley has been the most consistent team all season long and are undefeated on the EXPO floor. They have led by one of the best players and best shooters in the state in Cody Potter, but also have superstar role players. They are disciplined, physical and well coached (Jim Hicks named KABC COY). They arrive in the regional tournament as 59th district runner-up’s having lost to Pikeville at East Ridge after leading by 8 points with under four minutes to play.
Phelps has not been to the regional tournament since 2012 when they won the 60th district title. They arrive into the regional tournament as champions after knocking off both of their biggest rivals (Belfry and Pike Central) in district play on their home floor. The Hornets are led by Trey Francis, who alongside Cody Potter, comprise the two best juniors in the region. Francis is averaging a high double-double for the second straight season and can do it all on the basketball floor. Phelps, like Prestonsburg, is guaranteed at least a .500 record this season for Head Coach Jason Sanson and have already cut down the nets for a district title. Regardless of the outcome from this game, it has been a successful season.
Shelby Valley beat Phelps December 29th at Belfry in the Mountain School Boy Classic by a final of 53-44. Cody Potter led the way for the Wildcats with 18 points on 7/17 shooting. Trey Francis had 16 points for Phelps. The game was sluggish and slow for the most part as Shelby Valley never really put away Phelps, but rather let them hang around.
Don’t expect Shelby Valley to let Phelps hang around this time. The big (NBA sized) EXPO floor gives Valley guards more space to operate and create for their teammates. It also allows Potter to find areas to release his jump shot, one of the best in KY basketball history. This creates another level of complexity on defense for the Hornets. For Phelps to keep it close, they have to very deliberate on offense and win the rebound battle. Trey Francis will need to produce on both ends of the floor and will likely see Shelby Valley’s Orbie McPeek face guarding him all night. Expect Valley to play straight man with perhaps no help on Francis at times. Expect Phelps to box up Potter. Like the first match-up, this will be a battle of two opposing styles.
Players to watch:
Phelps – Trey Francis (18.2 ppg 11.0 rpg) Dominick Francis (10.4 ppg 4.3 rpg)
Shelby Valley – Cody Potter (22.8 ppg 9.5 rpg) Cameron Worrix (11.6 ppg 2.5 rpg)
Shelby Valley 81 Phelps 60
Match-Up #3: Floyd Central [6-24: 6-10 in Region] vs. Paintsville [18-7: 8-5 in Region]
Floyd Central had one of the most tumultuous seasons ever in the 15th Region. They won their opening game, then had coach controversy that led to players quitting, went on a 20 game losing streak, had their head coach resign, saw the players come back with interim coach, then won the 58th district championship as a four seed beating one the better teams in the region in Lawrence County on their own floor along the way. The up’s and down’s have been polarizing to say the least.
Paintsville has had another solid season and are looking to cap it off with the post season championship they have yet to find. This talented group has not won a district, region or All-A championship despite the expectations and talent level. The Tigers enter the regional tournament dropping two of the last three to include the district championship on their home floor to cross town rival Johnson Central. Make no mistake, however, as this team is more than capable of winning the regional championship.
Floyd Central defeated Paintsville 59-54 on February 2nd at home. The win snapped a 17 game losing streak for the Jaguars and saw Brady Conn go for 20 points and Ethan Smith-Mills tally 17 points and 11 rebounds. Tigers star Seth Williams did not play in this game (injury) and the game was played the day after an emotional meeting at home versus Johnson Central. Paintsville was led by Nick Keeton (17 points 12 rebounds). At the time this was one of the biggest upsets in the region.
Floyd Central plays a controlled, half-court game while Paintsville likes to get out and run. Don’t expect Floyd Central to sneak up and surprise Paintsville this time around as Seth Williams will play in this game. The battle in the middle between Keeton and Conn will be interesting as Conn averaged nearly 25 and 12 in the 58th district tournament, but Paintsville is not a 58th district team. In the end, Paintsville has too many weapons and will likely be laser focused after losing the district championship on their home floor. Floyd Central will need to play their best game of year, win the rebound battle and hit timely shots to have a chance to win late. Expect Floyd Central to play zone, while Paintsville will go man with the occasional full and half court press/trap.
Players to watch:
Floyd Central – Brady Conn (15.3 ppg 8.9 rpg) Ethan Smith-Mills (15.1 ppg 5.2 rpg)
Paintsville – Colby Fugate (16.9 ppg 7.3 rpg) Seth Williams (13.6 ppg 3.0 rpg) Nick Keeton (11.8 ppg 12.0 rpg)
Paintsville 65 Floyd Central 57
Match-Up #4: Pikeville [21-8: 15-2 in Region] vs. Pike Central [18-13: 12-8 in Region]
Pike Central has played little brother to Pikeville since the school’s inception in the early 90’s and this match-up will only reinforce that. The Hawks enter the regional tournament as runner-up in the 60th district and despite having 18 wins, their best win of the season is against a Magoffin County team that finished 15-15.
Pikeville has the best defense in the region, are two time defending 15th region champions and are the only team to beat Shelby Valley in the region this season (split with Valley 2-2). Pikeville enters this year’s regional tournament as 59th district champs, winning their 3rd straight. This team has the experience and coaching to make it three straight as they are currently on a six game winning streak and have won ten of their last eleven overall.
Pikeville knocked off Pike Central 82-56 at home February 12th. Connor Roberts paced the Panthers with 20 points as eleven players scored in the game. Pike Central had no stats posted from that contest. Despite the 26-point win, the game was not that close.
This game is a huge mismatch at almost every level. Pike Central goes long stretches without scoring the ball and Pikeville has an outstanding defense. Pikeville should take control of the game early then cruise to victory late. For Pike Central to keep it close, they will need to hit a ton of shots and hope Pikeville plays their worst game of the season.