Hopkinsville enters the Second Region Tournament as one of the largest favorites in recent memory. The Tigers rolled through region opponents with an undefeated record, with only two teams coming within single digits.
Hopkinsville has only won back-to-back region titles once – 1985 and 1986, with the 1985 team winning the state title. There are some who compare this year’s team to that state title squad.
Hoptown is led by senior guard Jordan Majors, who scored 31 points in the district title win over Christian County. Majors’ mix of size and speed make him tough to defend.
Inside, 6-foot-4 Jaqualis Matlock is one of the top sophomores in the state.
The Tigers also offer a pair of 6-3 guards in T.J. Elam and Trey Edwards – tough matchups on both sides of the basketball.
Hopkinsville carries a 20-game winning streak into the region tourney an overall record of 28-4. Their last loss came right after Christmas to Union City, Tennessee, who hit a long 3-pointer to win the game.
Of Hopkinsville’s five region titles, four have come on their home floor – the site of this year’s tournament.
In the first round, the Tigers will meet Webster County (19-13), the Sixth District runner-up. Trojan head coach Jon Newton will be among the first to tell you his team has overachieved this year after losing 98-percent of their scoring from last year. However, Webster has reached the region tourney with a ball-control style offense that came within eight points of upsetting Henderson County in the district finals.
Guards Kyle Hayes (13.9 ppg.) and Logan Prow (11.9 ppg.) lead Webster in scoring, while 6-3 Dan Boswell averages 9.7 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds a game.
Webster County has lost 10 straight region tourney games and hasn’t won since a double-overtime first round victory over Trigg County in 1995.
Webster doesn’t have the size and speed to match Hopkinsville, but they can be a tough out for Hopkinsville of they can stay out of foul trouble and stay disciplined on offense.
One of the teams to play Hopkinsville to single digits during the season was Madisonville (17-12), who edged past Caldwell County to win the Seventh District title.
Caldwell was effective in taking Daylyn Jones, Madisonville’s leading scorer at 14.9 points, out of the game.
Madisonville is effective by offering a balanced attack with forwards Michael Soder and Ross Thomas each averaging nearly nine points a game.
Like the Hopkinsville/Webster matchup, Madisonville and Lyon County did not meet during the regular season.
Lyon County (15-16) struggled down the stretch, losing five of six entering the postseason.
The Lyons are making their sixth straight appearance in the region tourney, but have not won a region title since 1951.
Sophomores Jordan Gary (13.9 ppg.) and Jericho Wilkerson (12.2 ppg.) lead the Lyons in scoring, while 6-5 senior Thomas Scott had 18 points and 14 rebounds in the district title loss to Trigg County.
Like Webster, Lyon County will have to control the tempo against Madisonville if they are to advance to the semifinals.
Leading off the second night of the tournament is former district rivals Trigg County and Caldwell County.
These teams played twice during the regular season with Trigg County winning both games. In the first contest, Caldwell scored the first 11 points of the game but Trigg’s Deonquez Nance scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to lead a Trigg comeback.
In two games against Caldwell this year, Nance is averaging 40 points, six rebounds, and six steals. In the district title win over Lyon County, Nance scored 32 points and became the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Senior point guard Dee Murphy has been more productive in the final month of the season, while junior guard Cole Gardner averaged 14 points a game and leads the team in 3-point shooting.
The key matchup for Trigg County (19-8) will be their lone big man – 6-3 senior David Wease – against Caldwell County’s Eli Pepper, who averaged 12 points, 18 rebounds, and four blocks against Trigg this year.
Caldwell County (12-18) held a healthy rebound advantage against Trigg in the two games this year that led to many second chance points, but could not contain Nance.
Trigg County is the only team in this year’s field that wasn’t in the region tourney last year and will be looking to extend the coaching career of head coach Mike Wright, who announced before the season that after 16 seasons, this would be his last as coach.
The best matchup of the first round may be the battle of Colonels between Henderson County and Christian County.
If there is a team that can match up with Hopkinsville, it’s Henderson County who only lost to the Tigers by six points back in December. The Colonels (24-5) offer a freakishly balanced attack led by David Simmons and Kaleb Duckworth. The usual starting five for Henderson County all average over seven points a game.
Henderson County only played nine of their 29 games against Second Region teams, which makes them a bit of an unknown as well.
However, they did play Christian County on January 8 and hammered them 78-52. Henderson head coach Tyler Smithhart coached Christian County last year before taking over the helm at his alma mater this year.
Christian County (15-14) features quick guards Jarvis Irby and C.J. Cotton and the inside play of Quan Poindexter and Korey Moseley.
The key for the southern Colonels will be the play of their bench, who has been a key to their success down the stretch where the Colonels won five of seven.
Henderson County is hoping to get the title monkey off their backs. The Colonels have lost in the region title game seven times since winning their last region championship in 1999. But they face a Christian County program that has won 23 of their last 26 region tourney games, including five of the last seven region titles.