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Region 1 teams surprised many people in the sweet sixteen the past few years, Calloway County in 2015 and Murray in 2016. This year there are a couple teams that truly believe they make a bang at the Sweet Sixteen in 2017 as well.

Region 1 was hit hard by graduation this offseason. 18 of the top 30 scorers in the region were seniors and have moved on. Some of the best teams last year were hit particularly hard and will have a much more difficult time repeating last year’s success, while some of the teams that were mediocre the past few years have a chance to compete at the top of the region. The discussion here will change and morph over the year, but for now here are our Region 1 rankings for the both the teams and the top players.

1. Graves County) – Coach Joshua Frick
2015-16 record: 23-10
Key Losses: Jones (5.1 ppg)
Key Returners: Vogt (17.0 ppg/9.6 rpg), Ryan Mathis (14.4 ppg/4.1 rpg), Jordyn Noranjo (8.1 ppg/3.3 rpg)

The Eagles return 4 of their 5 starters from last year including arguably the two best players in region 1 in senior Chris Vogt and sophomore Ryan Mathis. Vogt stands at 7 foot tall and is the premier big man in Kentucky this season. He is a Mr. Basketball candidate and picked up 15 Division 1 offers before committing to Northern Kentucky. He will be the dominating presence inside no matter where they play, but teams in region 1 will have an extremely difficult time matching up with him. Very few teams even have a player on their team that is taller than 6’5”. Mathis is the engine that runs this team. He came on the scene last year as a freshman and played very well showing great patience and maturity. He still has some growing to do, but he is no doubt the best sophomore in the region, maybe even the second best player.

Coach Frick will have a good supporting cast around his two star players as well. Sophomore Jordyn Naranjo and junior Trevor Grant look to improve on solid performances throughout last season. Teams in region 1 should not challenge this team, with the exception of a couple teams, so their out of region schedule with be the measuring stick. They will play what most think are the top 4 teams in Western Kentucky. They have games with Christian County, Bowling Green, Hopkinsville, and University Heights. They will also play in 3 Holiday Classics including the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic which usually has some very competitive teams.

2. McCracken County – Coach Burlin Brower
2015-16 record: 24-10
Key Losses: Zakutney, Hayden
Key Returners: Tyce Daniel, Nathan Stonecipher, William Sivills

McCracken exceeded expectations last year and proved they can play with any of the teams in Region 1. They were supposed to have a down year with no big time players developed and losing their entire starting five from the previous year. Instead, they played a very balanced attack on both sides of the ball. They ended up having 5 players who average close to 10 ppg and any one of them could step up and have a big game. William Sivills, Tyce Daniel, and Nathan Stonecipher are three of those guys who return this year. With the system that Coach Brower put into play last year, it seems that will be able to plug two more guys in there who can contribute just the same, while the returning players improve on what they accomplished last season.

The Mustangs will also play the same top 4 teams in Western Kentucky this year in Bowling Green, University Heights, Christian County, and Hopkinsville. They are scheduled to play in a Holiday classic in Daytona, Florida, but teams haven’t been announced at this time. The big games for McCracken will be Jan 28 at Graves Co, and Marshall Co on Dec 9 and again on Jan 20. Watch for the Mustangs to continue to improve upon their year last year, and push Graves for the Region title.

3. Marshall County – Gus Gillespie
2015-16 record: 16-16
Key Losses: DJ Pigg (14.3 ppg)
Key Returners: Dylan Walters (13.5 ppg/5.7 rpg), Aaron Reed (8.3ppg/5.1 rpg), Dawson Jolley (6.8 ppg)

The Marshalls had some very exciting games last year. They played the top 4 teams in the region very well and hope to improve on last years .500 record. Marshall County took a big loss in losing DJ Pigg to graduation. He was their star and carried this team in many games. However, last year also saw the rise of now junior Dylan Walters, and he is ready and willing to fill Pigg’s shoes. He will be relied on to do just that in tandem with fellow junior Aaron Reed. The Marshalls also hope that Dawson Jolley can put up numbers like he did two years ago and then some (8.2 ppg). This trio can lead Marshall County to be very competitive in region 1 this year.

Looking at the schedule for Marshall County reveals another team from region 1 going after the top teams from region 2. The Marshalls will play Hopkinsville at the Marshall Co. Hoopfest and then Christian County the last game of the season. They also play in a couple of tournament classics and they will go to South Warren. They should be favored in most of the games they will play this year, especially those inside of region 1.

4. Paducah Tilghman – Coach Brad Stieg
2015-16 record: 27-5
Key Losses: Hart (14.4 ppg), McEwen (14.0 ppg), Warfield (12.2 ppg)
Key Returners: Jerome Reed (10.8 ppg/5.6 rpg), Rodriguez Thomas (6.8 ppg/ 40% from 3 pt)

Bad news first, the Blue Tornados were hurt by graduation this past year. They will lose their top 3 scorers on the team as well as some tremendous leadership in Devon Hart and Sayveon McEwen. Last year was supposed to be the year for Tilghman, and it sure looked like it would be as they didn’t lose a game in the region, until the last one. Murray defeated the Tornados in a slow down game in the Region 1 semifinal.

This year’s Tornado team will look much different than last years. Now for the good news. They return Jerome Reed and Rodriguez Thomas, two players who are extremely talented and will be looked upon to pick up the slack that moved on with graduation. Coach Stieg believes that these two young men can do just that. Most teams who lose that much talent in one off season would have to go into a rebuilding mode, however there is no rebuild here per say, but instead the drive from these two young men to get better. Both were high touted talent last year who may not have performed up to that because of the 3 guys in front of them. Now it is their time to shine. If they can Tilghman will move up in the standings and challenge again for the Region 1 title, if they can’t, they are still good enough to be in the top half of the region.

Paducah’s schedule is just as impressive as last years. They will play out of region games against Christian County, Apollo, Ballard, Hopkinsville, and Henderson Co. This should help prepare them for the level of play they will need to compete for the region 1 title.

5. Mayfield – Coach Chris Guhy
2015-16 record: 13-16
Key Losses: Kennemore (9.4 ppg), Roman (6.5 ppg), Tyler (5.6 ppg)
Key Returners: Carson Guthrie (10.4 ppg), Anton Lumson (9.9 ppg)

The Cardinals were last year’s biggest mover in Region 1. They were ranked 12th to start the year and worked their way up to as high as 5th. They had some big wins last year (University Heights, Graves County, Marshall County) but also some bad losses. This year they feel like they can take the next step forward and compete at a higher level than they did last year. Of course due to Mayfield’s presence in 2A football, some of their team won’t be ready at the beginning of the season, so we may not know what the Cardinals are really made of until after the new year.

While Mayfield lost some key players to graduation, they return their top two scorers in sophomore Carson Guthrie and senior Lumson. They also have a few players who are ready to step up and try to fill those shoes. These guys had some significant playing time last year and should provide a good core for this year. Sophomores Connor Guthrie and Kent Trey Matthews both hope they can fill that roll.

Mayfield’s schedule as of now doesn’t show any top out of region teams, so the Cardinals will have to make sure they will get enough competition within the region to help them when it come tournament time.

6. Murray – Coach Bart Flener
2015-16 record: 30-6 (Region 1 Champs, Elite Eight loss to NCC, runner up All “A” state tourny)
Key Losses: Boone (12.7 ppg), Curtis (10.0 ppg), Clark (8.6 ppg), Hornbuckle (8.2 ppg)
Key Returners: Preston English (12.6 ppg/4.5 rpg/ 40% from 3pt), Zach Flener (5.3 ppg)

For the second year in a row the Region 1 champion was decimated by graduation. Calloway went from Region 1 champs to a bottom dwelling 8-20 last year. Murray will do their best not to let that happen as they lost 4 of their five starters and 7 seniors overall from their Elite Eight run from last year including now Samford guard James Boone and Duke football freshman Tre Hornbuckle. It will start with Murray’s leading scorer from last year Preston English. He is a very talented player who can score from anywhere on the floor. The problem will be, who will play with him. Zach Flener is the only other player to logged significant playing minutes last year so the Tigers are going to have to find some talent somewhere in order to keep from making the same fall that Calloway did last year. Coach Flener thinks they can, but only time will tell.

Murray’s out of region schedule last year had them playing a very good Taylor Co team which they beat and started a streak that didn’t end until their final game in the Elite Eight. As of this article, the only out of region games the Tigers have on their schedule is Elizabethtown and Paris, however there are only 13 games on that schedule.

7. Calloway County – Coach Terry Birdsong
2015-16 record: 8-20
Key Losses: none
Key Returners: Kamden Price (12.4 ppg), Payton Johnson (11.0 ppg/ 7.5 rpg), Jeremy Darnell (7.4 ppg)

Last year was a tough pill to swallow for the Lakers who were coming off a 30 win season with a region 1 championship and a surprise run at the Sweet Sixteen. Coach Birdsong knew they would be in a rebuild mode and they finished with only 8 wins. There were some bright spots during the year. They only lost to Murray by 3 points and played Marshall Co. and McCracken Co tough. The hope is those close games translate into wins this year since their starting 5 have a year of play under their belt.

Kamden Price and Payton Johnson will lead this team into the season with hopes of breaking through to the top 5 again. They have a good core of players who now have some play time underneath their belt and can work on improving on both ends of the floor. If the Lakers can get a couple more contributors, then this team should be above .500 and maybe even able to win 20 games, especially with their out of region schedule which isn’t as impressive (tough games against Meade Co, Barren Co.) as other region 1 teams and should include some wins.

8. Fulton City – Coach Jon Dillard

2015-16 record: 13-18
Key Losses: Malray (10.0 ppg), Howard (7.9 ppg)
Key Returners: Devontae Alexander (11.2 ppg/6.0 rpg), Aaron Ferrell (7.9 ppg)

The Bulldogs are hoping things are on their way up. Last year, Fulton City only had 8 players on their roster, this year, they have 14. They competed last year, but only with the bottom half of the region. It may be more of the same this year with losing the older Malray. However their top scoring threat returns in Alexander. He did a lot for the Bulldogs last year and will be asked to do even more this year. It will be his team for the next three years as he is only a sophomore. If they can pull together a good support team, the Bulldogs can make a run at being a top 5 team in the region. But for now, it will be another year to grow a young team.

The good news for Fulton City is they should be better than most teams in the bottom half of the region. They have a very weak out of region schedule that will inflate their wins just like last year.

9. Fulton County – Coach Jamie Madding
2015-16 record: 8-17
Key Losses: Hampton (13.8 ppg), Jones (6.1 ppg)
Key Returners: Davis Major (16.0 ppg/ 5.6 rpg)

The Pilots were good enough last year not to stay in games for the most part last year, they just weren’t good enough to win those games. This year maybe more of the same. They can compete in with the team in the bottom half of the region, but the top teams will be too much. Davis Major is a senior this year and while the Pilots may not be the most exciting team to watch, Major is. He can score from many different places on the floor and he does so even when teams are solely focused on him. He would easily start on every other team in the region. The problem is the talent pretty much stops there. The Pilots are a one dimensional team, and that dimension is Major. Unless an unknown talent shows up this year, Majors will keep Fulton Co in the game, but they still won’t be able to find many wins above their ranking.

10. Ballard Memorial – Coach Marla Cooper
2015-16 record: 10-18
Key Losses: Cooper (16.0 ppg, Parsons (12.9 ppg), Wray (7.9 ppg), Reed (7.5 ppg)
Key Returners: Jamarrion Williams (12.6 ppg)

The Bombers is another one of those teams who were hit hard due to graduation. 4 of their 5 starters moved on leaving only Jamarrion Williams with significant contribution last year. On top of that, it looks like they currently have only 7 players listed on their roster. This could be a long season for a team that looked promising last year before falling short each time in big games. This was a team built for an upset last year that never came (the closest was Marshall Co.). Coach Cooper is hoping some of the players will be able to get good experience and improve throughout the season.

11. Carlisle County – Coach Brian O’Neil

2015-16 record: 22-9
Key Losses: Everyone – Norsworthy (12.2 ppg), Crider (11.5 ppg), Bailey (10.0 ppg), Weatherspoon (11.9 ppg)
Key Returners: none

OUCH! That is the only thing that can be said about what happened to the Comets over the off season. Everyone is gone…everyone. Trey Wilson is the most noteworthy person returning and he scored 108 points in 31 games last year. That is 3.5 ppg. The Comets averaged 66.2 ppg last year as a team, 60.3 ppg of that graduated. The Comets had high hopes last year because they knew what was coming. They really thought they had a chance to win the Region 1 title, but they couldn’t get past McCracken Co in the region and their season was cut short.

Coach O’Neil has to hope some guys will step up and build something for the future. However right now there are only 6 players listed on the roster. 3 Juniors, 2 Freshman, and a sophomore.

12. Hickman County – Coach Jimmy Long
2015-16 record: 12-17
Key Losses: Prince (14.9 ppg), Spillman (10.0 ppg), Carter (8.3 ppg)
Key Returners: Dalton Jewel (10.0 ppg)

Another team that lost their top two scorers and will rely on underclassmen starters from last year to step up and lead. The Falcons will need Dalton Jewel to take the role of leader in order for Hickman to make any noise in the region this year. Another bright spot may be Grant Davis who averaged 3.4 ppg as an 8th grader last year. Hopefully he has had a summer of maturing and improving so he can add some much needed offense. Hickman should fair well in the lower region, but won’t be a factor in any games within the top 7 or 8.

13. St. Marys – Coach Greg Overstreet

2015-16 record: 12-19
Key Losses: Hubert
Key Returners: Aaron Higgins

Austin Hubert and Aaron Higgins were really the only offense the Vikings had last year. Unfortunately Hubert has moved on leaving only Higgins. The two of them were able keep St. Marys in many games, and were able to win their fair share. But unless someone steps up to fill Hubert’s shoes, it will be hard for the Vikings to get as many wins as they did last year.

14. Community Christian - Coach David Pope

2015-16 record: 1-25
Key Losses: none
Key Returners: Logan Browning (10.7 ppg)

The Good news from the Warriors, they didn’t lose any of their starters from last year. The bad news, it doesn’t really matter. The Warriors have only won 2 games over the past two seasons and the closest they got to winning a game in the region was 36-66 loss to Fulton Co. The same results can be expected this year as the Warriors just don’t have the talent to keep up with the public schools, especially considered they have a number of 7th and 8th graders on their roster.

Top Players to Watch in Region 1

Chris Vogt, Graves County (7’0” Center) Senior
Vogt will look to make waves not just in Region 1, but throughout the state. He is considered a 3 star prospect by ESPN and this year is the best chance he has of getting to Rupp, and he will do everything he can to accomplish that. With his height and talent, Vogt could average close to 20 points a game and a double/double for the year. He currently holds the state single season block record at 190. He needs 212 blocks to break the career record (541). He is a talent the state 1 does not see very often let alone a region 1 school. Typical big man who doesn’t need to handle the ball. Just get him the ball in the post and let him do his thing. He has worked hard at improving his play in the post this year. He already has at least 15 offers from D1 schools and will probably get more as this season rolls along.

Preston English, Murray (6’3” Guard) Senior
English is a great outside threat for the Tigers. He can spot up the 3 three or drive to the basket to score. He is an above average rebounder, especially for his size. He handles the ball well, sees the floor, and makes smart, crisp passes. The Tigers will rely on English to make big shots now that James Boone has moved on. In fact, English looked like the better player at times last year.

Ryan Mathis, Graves County (6’1” Guard) Sophomore
Mathis surprised quite a few people last year when he came on the scene for Graves Co. All the exposure has been on Chris Vogt, but quickly Mathis made himself known as the second best player on the team. He has good ball handling skills, adequate range from 3 point, but he simply is smart for his age and will continue to improve. He seems to excel in big games. He led the Eagles in scoring multiple times last year including games again Bowling Green, Hopkinsville, and in the District Championship (30 points). He should continue to grow and mature. He needs to take advantage of Vogt now, because next year, the focus will be on him.

Jerome Reed, PT (6’6” Forward/Center) Junior
Maybe the most talented player on Paducah Tilghman’s team last year, but he didn’t develop as fast as PT had hoped. Reed had a tremendous summer and looks to be the leader for the Tornados this year. When he is on, he seems unstoppable, but he still makes a lot of mistakes that will improve as he matures and gets experience. He will dominate smaller teams and will probably struggle against bigger ones. Exciting to watch and probably a future college player. With the loss of the team’s top scores, it will be time for him to step up and be the force many are expecting.

Dylan Walters, Marshall County (Guard) Junior
Walters had a nice year last year averaging 13.5 ppg and 5.7 rpg as a sophomore. Now in his junior year and DJ Pigg gone, he will need to be the leader on the court. He sees the floor well and reads what the defense gives him. Very good as the give and go to get to the rim. He is not an outside shooting threat but has good touch inside 12 ft. He has a good presence around the rim, and boxes out well for his size. Needs to improve on his outside shooting, free throw shooting and defense. He could develop into a very nice player for the Marshalls by the time his senior year gets here.

Davis Major, Fulton County (6’3” Guard) Senior
Davis Major is Fulton County this year. He averaged 16 ppg and 5.6 rpg last year for the Pilots, and he did without much of a supporting cast. Nobody in region 1 last year could really stop him as a junior and it will be more of the same this year as a senior. Major has a nice shot from the outside hitting 35% from 3 point range. He handles the ball well, but many times tries to do too much. When he gets to the rim he can finish, and if he is fouled, he hits from the stripe at 78%. He needs to work on getting his teammates involved and not try to force the ball.

Payton Johnson, Calloway County (Forward) Senior
Payton was a nice surprise for Calloway last year after losing so many from the Region 1 championship team. Johnson only played 4 games in the 14-15 season and then came out last year to average just over 11 ppg and over 7 rpg. He still needs to improve in many areas including his ball handling, free throw shooting, and confidence in playing big men. However, he has a decent stroke from the outside. He hit from three point range 43 times last year. He boxes out well and plays good defense for his size. Should have a good senior year.

Honorable Mention:
Kamden Price, Calloway County
Rodriquez Thomas, Paducah Tilghman
Devontae Alexander, Fulton City
Tyce Daniel, McCracken Co.
Carson Guthrie, Mayfield