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The 2016-17 season is upon us, coming off the 15th year of the 14th District Era of dominance, and the 3rd year of the Purple dynasty. Bowling Green had a few challenges as the year rolled along, and Barren County gave them a go, but ultimately, the Purples whitewashed the region en route to an 18-0 region slate – part of 30 consecutive region wins – and their third straight region title. The only thing that didn’t go their way was the state tournament draw, which squared them off with eventual champion Dunbar in the quarterfinals. Though the Purples led into the third quarter, they faltered late, and had to look to this year to finish what they’ve started in the Sweet 16.

Preseason 4th Region Rankings

1. Bowling Green – Last season the Purples continued to raise the bar to new heights, as they had the two years prior. Bowling Green ran out to a sterling 31-3 record, equaling a school record for wins, and have now posted 91 wins in their last three years. After a loss to Ballard in the King of the Bluegrass, the Purples would reel off 25 straight wins before their loss to Dunbar. If you played the Purples last season and were not from Louisville or Lexington – you lost. But they are still seeking the state title that has eluded them, that they have some close to obtaining. After all, their three Sweet 16 losses were to the eventual champions. Gone from last year’s team are two key pieces, Thomas Booker, who tied Kyran Jones for second leading scorer by PPG (12.3), and Perry Ayers, often seen as the heart and soul of the team and someone who just somehow always made the plays. And while they will miss those pieces, they have a veritable embarrassment of riches returning. It begins with senior forward Terry Taylor. The 6-6 Austin Peay signee has been a cornerstone of the last two region title teams, and averaged a double-double last season, with 15.3 PPG and 11.9 RPG. He’s an absolute nightmare to match up with, as he can post up, drive to the rim, or shoot from outside. He should join the 1,000 point club at Bowling Green very early in the season. Alongside him is forward Kyran Jones, who likewise averaged a double-double, with 12.3 PPG and 10.1 RPG. You can basically apply the same analysis as to his capabilities compared to Terry Taylor – post, drive, shoot. Jones has been playing football this season for the first time, so may take a bit of time to warm back up, but by January should be in full swing. Guard DeAngelo Wilson also returns with an 11.8 PPG average from last season. Wilson has quick hands and is lightning quick, with a knack for driving to the rim, drawing contact, and getting to the line. The Purples have young talent to build around as well, receiving eighth grader Zion Harmon via transfer, rated the #1 player in America for the class of 2021 by some publications, and we should also see the first appearances for freshman Vito Tisdale, a two sport stud player who has often been rated the top player in Kentucky for the freshman class. Simply put, the Purples have talent coming out of their ears. Coach Sherrill’s squad seems to be close to a lock for their fourth consecutive title, and should open the year as the state’s top ranked team and odds on favorite to cut down the nets at Rupp.

2. Franklin-Simpson – The only thing that Bowling Green doesn’t have is the region’s best player (arguably). That honor is bestowed on Franklin’s Tavin Lovan, who averaged – AVERAGED – an eye-popping 26.3 PPG for Dee Spencer’s squad a year ago. We said it last year and it remains true – no team relies on a single player as much as Franklin does on Lovan, but he usually delivers the goods. He’s not the best shooter, but he’s typically the best athlete on the floor, has great handles, and can drive the rim at will. Crucially, he shoots nearly 80% from the foul line, where he had 266 attempts a season ago. And, like Taylor and Jones from Bowling Green, he averaged a double double with 11.3 rebounds as well. As Lovan goes, so will go the Wildcats. Though that’s not to say he’s totally alone. Only little used De’shun Martin does not return from last year’s 24-5 squad. Carlesso Doaks (9.2 PPG), Ollie Eutsey (8.2 PPG), Daelon Payne (6.3 PPG), and Josiah Robey (6.0 PPG) – all part of a huge senior class – return to help shoulder the load. Their emergence and Lovan’s health were the big difference in a 9-18 season the year before and the 24 win team in 15/16. They’ll have heavy competition from Russellville in the 13th District, which returns a great deal as well, but the Wildcats are the early favorite. Key games to circle include January 13th and February 3rd when they tangle with Russellville, and January 23rd when they host Bowling Green. Those three games should give us what we need to know about their chances of contending for the region title, which they have not brought home in a quarter century.

3. Russellville – Call this 2B. The Panthers had an outstanding year of their own a season ago, running up an 18-8 record, but faltered in most of the biggest games, going 1-4 against Bowling Green and Franklin-Simpson and getting run down in the opening round of the region tournament by a sensational performance by Kel Stotts and Russell County. It continued a region tournament drought for Russellville – still the last non-14th District team to win the region (2001) – sending them out after the first round for the fifth time in six years. But like the Wildcats, they return almost everyone, including big man DeAndre Bradshaw. Bradshaw, who committed to Belmont in August, averaged 21.1 PPG a season ago for the Panthers, and pulled down 12.2 boards per game, making him yet another top tier talent in the region to average a double-double. Despite being 6’5”, he is one of the best ballhandlers on Russellville’s team, and his length gives teams a lot of trouble on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers do lose two seniors from a year ago, including second leading scorer Jason Mitchell, but bright spots returning include a trio of players to average around 9 PPG, in Jaylyn McMurry, Jacob Naylor, and Micah Naylor. They’re part of a massive class of 11 seniors returning for Russellville, which should give Phil Todd’s squad a healthy dose of urgency. Russellville has not brought home a trophy since Bradshaw’s freshman year, and after this season, they may be in rebuilding mode. They’ll have an early season test in hosting Hopkinsville on December 12th, and have a loaded February slate, traveling to both Franklin-Simpson and Bowling Green while hosting Warren Central.

4. Warren Central – There may be a decent gap between our 3 and 4 teams. There is no doubt that Bowling Green, Franklin-Simpson, and Russellville are at the top, but there will be several teams looking to claim the role of dark horse. This is another year where that includes the Warren Central Dragons. It’s not a role they are used to, having played the role of front runner for so many years since the turn of the century. Last season saw them miss the region finals for the first time since 2009, falling just short against Barren County in the semis after upsetting Franklin-Simpson in a first round blowout. Five seniors depart from that team, including crucial players like Darrell Bowman (15.2 PPG) and Tristen Murray (12.3 PPG), their two leading scorers. Leading their hopes this season will be talented junior forward Skyelar Potter (9 PPG), a bit of a guard/forward hybrid who has the ability to play down around the rim, rebounds well, and was co-leader on the team with 40% shooting from behind the arc. They will need him to do big things if they are to hold off teams chasing them for that role behind Bowling Green in District 14. Other key contributors include three point specialist Ziyan Milliken (40% from three), center Josh Moss – who has great potential but in his senior year it will have to become reality, and PG Luke Bailey, who has a similar style to that of Bowling Green’s DeAngelo Wilson. The Dragons open with some heavy hitters like Bullitt East, Henderson County, and Owensboro, but the story on them may be told in January as it was to some extent last year. They’ll host Franklin-Simpson, Warren East, Barren County, and Bowling Green, before playing Hopkinsville twice in a week’s time. All of that in an 18 day span. The window may be closing on the Dragons for contention, they’ll have to find a way past the Purple monster.

5. Clinton County – Last year was an ugly kind of bookend season for the Bulldogs. After starting 0-3, Clinton County reeled off a 14-5 stretch and looked to build momentum into February. But the end was a 1-6 disaster that saw the Bulldogs only defeat one-win Cumberland County. For the fifth consecutive year, the Bulldogs found themselves out of the region tournament after the first round. They’ll roll back in this year with most of their starters returning, including All-16th District players Jamison Summers, Brett Gibson, and Colin Langford. The Bulldogs typically play a methodic, medium paced game, and are not likely to burn up the scoreboard. Their lack of depth will likely limit their upside, but due to their district, they are always in the mix for the region tournament. They have some key early matchups against Franklin-Simpson, Male, and Monroe County, and will tangle with Russellville in the All “A” opener.

6. Warren East – The Raiders are still looking to emerge from the wilderness that has seen them fail to advance to the region for two decades. After opening 8-1 last season, they stumbled to a 6-14 close, including falling in seven of their last eight games. They lose three of their four leading scorers from that 14-15 team, but return Patrick Satterfield, who just oozes athleticism. Lightning quick, he averaged 12.2 PPG a season ago. You can extend the athletic description to most of Warren East’s team, which has usually flashed raw athleticism in recent years, but can’t quite put it all together.

7. Barren County - The Trojans were this close to ending Bowling Green and the 14th District’s dominance a season ago, but could not hold a late lead, falling 49-46 in the region title game. Unlike many of the teams in the region, they were more of a veteran squad, and so should take a step back from contention. Junior Jared Coomer is the biggest name returning, averaging a modest 7.5 PPG and 7 RPG a season ago, and Chase Dile and Branson London are the only seniors on the roster.

8. Monroe County – The 2015-16 Falcons suffered a massive disappointment when they fell 56-54 in the district tournament to a Glasgow squad they had defeated by an average 31.5 PPG during the regular season. It was an ugly end to an eight win season, but the Falcons have a talented junior class headlined by Billy Michael Dyer and Ty Mink. Dyer was the leading scorer a season ago with 16.6 PPG, while Ty Mink added 9 PPG. The 15th District is up for grabs this year, and the Falcons will hope to return to the region tourney after a year’s absence.

9. Logan County – Coming off of a district champion effort with a massive senior class, the Cougars took a step back, yielding to the dominant Franklin-Simpson and Russellville squads. Logan County had flashes a season ago, with strong efforts against Russellville. They lose leading scorer Noah Whittinghill, but return Lorenzo Garcia (12 PPG) to a team that will feature a good-sized senior class.

10. Glasgow – A season ago the Scotties had their brightest spot in a run to the region’s All “A” crown, and a light surge with an upset of Monroe County to secure a spot in the region tournament. Ben Hughes is the key returner for the Scotties, averaging nearly 10 points per game a season ago. Dessi Austin has a solid frame developed while quarterbacking for the football team, and should also be a key contributor.

11. Greenwood – The Jordan Carter era ended abruptly after two years, giving way to Bob Pels at the helm of the Gators. His most valuable asset will be guard Dawson Crump, a sharpshooter that often proved willing to shoot from just about anywhere.

12. South Warren – The Spartans are channeling the Warren Central football plan, burning through coaches quickly, landing on Nelson Cundiff for the fourth coach in four years. South Warren didn’t manage to escape the district in four years with Dayton Gumm, and will lean on Dylan Beckham (7.8 PPG) in a rebuilding season.

13. Russell County – This is a ranking almost entirely on faith in the Laker system, which has typically kept them near the top of the region. Six seniors departed last year’s region semifinal squad, but the most devastating loss was Kel Stotts, who transferred back to Adair County. Landon Hargis is the lone senior on the squad, and new coach Billy Edge has a squad of almost entirely unknown quantities.

14. Allen County-Scottsville – Speaking of multiple coaches…. Lex Lindsey has come out of retirement to take on a Patriot squad that is on its third coach in three years. They lost seven seniors from a 6-23 squad, including their top four scorers. Jack Ward (5.5 PPG) will try to pick up the slack.

15. Todd County Central – New HC Frank Johnson will look to build on the momentum of a team that snapped a long losing streak and won nine of 15 down the stretch last season.

16. Cumberland County – The Panthers got just one win last year – over Metcalfe County – but returns second leading scorer Elidjah Anderson for new head coach Kurtis Claywell.

17. Metcalfe County – The Hornets have one advantage over some of their fellow low-ranked squads – they have the same head coach from a year ago in David Clemmons. Nick Pennington’s 4.9 PPG is the highest from returning players.

Top Players in the 4th Region

1. Tavin Lovan, G, Sr. (Franklin-Simpson) – Enjoy the last year of Lovan in the region. He’s sure to put on a scoring showcase.

2. Terry Taylor, F, Sr. (Bowling Green) – Taylor has been the biggest key to the Purples’ success, and is a double-double machine.

3. Kyran Jones, F, Sr. (Bowling Green) – Another double-double man, he’ll confound coaches who have to choose who to focus on, him or Taylor.

4. Pedro Bradshaw, F, Sr. (Russellville) – Pedro will remind you of a smaller scale Anthony Davis type – tall guy with great ball handling.

5. DeAngelo Wilson, G, Sr. (Bowling Green) – The last of the BG trinity, he gets to the rim any time he wants.

6. Skyelar Potter, F, Jr. (Warren Central) – The great Dragon hope will have to shoulder a heavy scoring burden.

7. Patrick Satterfield, G, Sr. (Warren East) – Satterfield is a pure athlete with blinding speed.

8. Billy Michael Dyer, G, Jr. (Monroe County) – After posting 16.5 PPG as a sophomore, Dyer could push into the twenties.

9. Jared Coomer, F, Jr. (Barren County) – Coomer is the last man standing from last year’s big names on the region runner-up Trojans.

10. Dawson Crump, G, Sr. (Greenwood) – Crump is a player that will shoot from anywhere.