16th Region Tournament Preview
So, now that the draw has been held here are the match-ups that we'll see at Johnson Arena on the campus of Morehead State University starting on Tuesday Feb.26th.
Tuesday 6:00 Ashland vs. West Carter
Tuesday 8:00 Fleming County vs. Lewis County
Wednesday 6:00 Russell vs. Boyd County
Wednesday 8:00 Morgan County vs. Rowan County
How They Got Here
Ashland-the Tomcats are the district winners in the 64th after barely breaking a sweat in the first round vs. Rose Hill winning 83-25, then with a sound beating of the Lions of Boyd by a score of 67-48. Ashland has won 9 of their last 10. Season record stands at 22-9. They average 69.8ppg and give up 59.5ppg. Ashland has a region record of 14-3.
West Carter-the Comets are the district runners-up of the 62nd after beating East Carter on their home floor in the opening round 45-39, then losing in a closely contested final to Morgan by the score of 64-58. West has won 4 of their last 10. Season record stands at 9-19. They average 56.6ppg and give up 61.5. West Carter has a region record of 9-14.
Fleming County-the Panthers are the district winners of the 61st after a relatively smooth first round win over Bath Co. 82-49, and a closer battle with Rowan in the championship 66-58. Fleming has won 8 of their last 10. Season record stands at 25-6. They average 67ppg and give up 57.7ppg. Fleming has a region record of 17-1.
Lewis County-the Lions are the district runners-up of the 63rd after defeating Raceland on their home floor 71-67 in a close one, and losing to Russell in the final 62-43. Lewis has won 5 of their last 10. Season record stands at 15-14. They average 65ppg and give up 62.4ppg. Lewis has a region record of 9-11.
Russell-the Red Devils are the district winners in the 63rd after defeating Greenup in the first round by 69-59, then soundly defeating Lewis 62-43 for the title. Russell has won 7 of their last 10. Season record stands at 25-7. They average 65.4ppg and give up 54.4ppg. Russell has a region record of 21-3.
Boyd-the Lions are the district runners-up of the 64th after defeating Fairview in the first round 69-59, and losing in the final to Ashland 67-48. Boyd has won 8 of their last 10. Season record stands at 21-11. They average 68.4ppg and give up 61.6ppg. Boyd has a region record of 15-5.
Morgan County-the Cougars are the champions of the 62nd district after defeating Elliott in a tight one in the first round 63-60, then in comeback fashion defeating West Carter 64-58 for the title. Morgan has won 8 of their last 10. Season record stands at 22-7. They average 66.3ppg and give up 55.1ppg. Morgan has a region record of 16-3.
Rowan County-the Vikings are runners-up in the 61st after squeaking out a 64-63 victory over host Menifee in the first round, then falling to Fleming 66-58 in the final. Rowan has won 6 of their last 10. Season record stands at 18-13. They average 63.2ppg and give up 62.3ppg. Rowan has a region record of 12-7.
First Round Match-ups
Ashland vs. West Carter- these teams met at Anderson gymnasium on Feb 12th with Ashland the victor 63-50. Ashland will have a definite size advantage. Dikembe Dixson at 6'6" will be a difficult matchup for West along with Nick Miller and Stephen Friley in the post and Zach Hart out front. Look for Ashland to challenge every shot at the rim and take control of the boards. We could look at numbers but at this point, those don't mean much. For West, can coach Webb get enough from his star Kyle Brown and enough from his supporting cast to keep Ashland from advancing? If there's a coach in the region able to game plan to maximize his talent, it's Jeremy, and Brown has been outstanding all season. In the end, however, look for Logan Salow to be the difference maker. His pressure on the defensive end and ability to just make plays on the offensive end are the key to Ashland's success. (Ashland advances by double digits)
Fleming County vs. Lewis County-these teams met in Vanceburg on Feb 5th with Fleming in a relatively close contest winning by a score of 70-61, in overtime no less. That game, like it or not, will go down in infamy because of a Fleming assistant losing his mind on an official at the end of the contest resulting in technical fouls being shot to send that one in overtime. If not for one missed FT, they'd have lost that one. But this one is on a different stage with more marbles at stake. Darion Burns and Troy Steward will be matchup nightmares for Lewis and Austin Crisp is always steady. Coach Starns has his kids playing well, and maybe most importantly the defensive improvement over last season is the difference maker. Can Coach Hampton get enough from Brett Ruckel and Sammy Holder and Wade Adams and company to stave off Fleming for what would be the biggest upset in the regional tournament? Tough task to say the least. (Fleming also advances by double digits)
Russell vs. Boyd County-these teams split this season with Russell opening their season on their home floor with a defeat of Boyd 68-62 back on Nov. 27th, then Boyd defeated Russell on their home floor by a score of 79-59 on Jan. 22nd in Summit. There's several story lines in this one. The biggest one is that Russell has gotten a huge boost from former BC Lion Lance Evans. Boyd is led by former Russell Devil, Austin Hunt. This game will come down to execution and who makes shots. In the first contest, Russell made several shots from the perimeter and Boyd didn't score well inside. In the second meeting, Boyd scored from everywhere on the floor and Russell shot it poorly. The teams are relatively evenly matched. Russell relies on Kyle Skaggs as their backbone offensively. Jacob Porter has been steady on both ends of the floor and Lance Evans has been a force in the paint. Boyd has been very balanced. Hunt has been the leader in the scoring column, but they are best when the scoring is balanced. Brandon Taylor has been steady underneath and Grayson Griffith and Todd Stacy provide solid shooters from the perimeter. This is likely not the draw Russell wanted in the first round, but they get to avoid Fleming until the final if they advance that far. This one should be a close game. (Russell advances with a narrow victory)
Morgan County vs. Rowan County-these two met on Feb 9th in West Liberty with Morgan narrowly winning 56-53. You want big men? Rowan has 6'11" Matt Brown. Morgan has 6'6" Alexsander Malinic. Both occupy space and are solid if you let them catch it in the paint. You want talented guards? Rowan has Tyler Thacker and Jalen Stone who can both stroke it. Morgan has Jordan Perry and Jordan Whitt who can both fill it up. At this point you have to wonder who has more bullets. Sam Agguire runs the show for Morgan, and unsung Josh Barnard battles in the middle for Rowan. This game has all the pieces to be the most intriguing of the first round. Rowan has experience. Those kids know what it's like to be battle tested and the lights won't be too bright for them with the playoff experience that they've enjoyed over the past 2 seasons. Morgan hasn't had much success in the postseason lately, and is primed to make a run. 2 coaches that will be active on the sidelines for sure. (Morgan also wins by a narrow margin)
The Tuesday games, while likely competitive are hard to see much chance of the favorites not advancing to the round of 4. Wednesday, however, is a different story. I don't think anyone would be shocked to see the runners-up both advance to face one another in the semi-final. Some really great players in the region this year are about to sail off with one last hurrah. Kyle Skaggs, likely as solid a scorer we have seen since the Elliott County crew dominated the region. Kyle Brown, West's all time leading scorer, has knocked down treys at will in every gym in the region. Austin Hunt, already with his basketball future determined in college has been the key in making Boyd relevant again. Logan Salow just keeps making plays, what he's always done. What about those juniors? Darion Burns, Troy Steward from Fleming. Brett Ruckel from Lewis. Tyler Thacker from Rowan. Very solid class that will be leading the charge again next year. And the Sophomores? Well, Ashland's Dikembe Dixson and Nick Miller are already outstanding. And the frosh? Hard to discount the already 1000pt scorer from Morgan, Jordan Perry. There's plenty of talent in this tourney with lots of great stories to be written. Good luck to all of the teams. Here's hoping that everyone is healthy and plays to their best ability.