By Mark Mathis, Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer
1. Ohio County (26-8)
Paul Decker inherits the defending Third Region champion as first-year head coach at Ohio County.
“We have 4 returning seniors that will provide the leadership we need to continue our successful program,” Decker said. “One strength will be the presence of a dominant big man (Josh Clemons). He will force teams to help on him and allow our good shooters to get open looks. Depth could be an issue early in the season until some other players gain experience.”
Clemons has been improving each and every day to become one of the best big men in the state.
Jordan James (5-10 senior) and Josh Vaught (5-10 senior) are two hard-nosed players who make their teammates better. Shaun Maiden (5-8 senior) is another returning starter that has made big shot after big shot his whole career. Maiden hit six 3-pointers in the regional final to push Ohio County into the Sweet Sixteen.
Collin St. Clair (6-4 junior) and Shawn Heflin (6-3 junior) are two newcomers who will help Ohio County. They are two gifted athletes.
Alex Embry (6-2 junior) has been constantly improving to get stronger and is one of the better shooters in the region.
2. Owensboro Catholic (24-8)
Owensboro Catholic reached the regional championship game last year and will depend on its Big Three once again to make a run at a trip to Rupp Arena.
Jay Ivey is a 6-foot-8 center who has signed with Middle Tennessee. Ivey averaged 12.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots per game.
“With his size and aggressiveness he can dominate games at times,” Catholic coach Mike Orr said. “He needs to avoid foul trouble and read double and triple teams to be effective. He’s a great shot blocker and has improved his post moves.”
Travis Owsley (14.4 ppg) is Catholic’s point guard with a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“He’s the most improved player on the team,” Orr said. “He has worked extremely
hard on his outside shot and has picked up about 15 pounds, all of it muscle, He has matured in to a great floor leader.”
Andrew Howard (15 ppg) is one of the best defensive players in the region and has great range at 6-2. He usually guards the other team’s best player.
“He has a great understanding of the game and is one of the best fundamental players in the game,” Orr said.
Getting some quality depth will help Owensboro Catholic this year.
3. Meade County (13-14)
Meade County coach Jerry Garris is excited about his team’s first year in the 3rd Region. The Green Wave could make an immediate impact on the regional championship race.
“I think we will compete for a regional championship this season,” Garris said. “We'll be a guard-oriented team (starting four guards) but our inside guys will be vital for us
to have a chance at getting to Rupp. We have very good team chemistry & pass
the ball well. We have good size on the perimeter. This is probably the best team we have
had here in the last 10-12 years, so hopefully we'll play well, keep everyone healthy & have a chance come March.”
Meade County has four returning starters: Jordan Benock (6-2 senior guard) who led Meade County with at 18.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Adrian Whelan, a 5-9 senior guard was the second-leading scorer at 14 points per game. Riley Benock, a 6-5 point guard averaged 10 points, six assists, 3.5 rebounds, and two steals per game.
Bryan Dowell could be the best point guard in the region. The 5-9 guard was quarterback on the football team and is a good defensive player. Levi Mattingly is a 6-6, 195-pound center who will have to increase his numbers for Meade County to compete for the regional title.
Three juniors and two sophomores will compete for key backup roles.
“I haven't seen all the teams in the Third Region yet, but our perimeter kids are pretty good, Garris said. “We're not as big as Ohio County and Owensboro Catholic inside and that's where we'll have to have our inside kids step up some.”
4. Owensboro (10-16)
The Red Devils have a new coach with Jimmy Voight this year after Mike Stinnett resigned and took a job at Iroquois High School in Louisville.
Both Tyler Wimsatt and Dominque Jones were all-district last year and should be team leaders, along with Andrew Cotton and Brad Voight, the coach’s son who was one of the top sophomores in Oklahoma last year.
Owensboro’s first-round appearance in the Class 4-A football playoffs will slow the early progress for the Red Devils. Jackson, Cotton, Voight, Myron Christian and Beau Worth have been in early workouts.
“It may take awhile before the players get use to a new offensive and defensive system,” Voight said. “It will take me awhile to get use to what a players strengths and weaknesses are on the basketball floor. We have a lot of returning players with varsity experience. That should be a real strength hopefully for us. I do think we possess some talent and a lot of depth. My goal would be for us to contender for district and regional honors before the season is over.”
5. Apollo (12-13)
Apollo High School has four starters back, led by wing players Doug Denton (14.8 ppg) and Jake Wells (11.2 ppg).
Apollo has a strong sophomore class led by Tyler Brown, a very athletic wing player. Four out of Apollo’s top 10 players will be sophomores.
“This year's team will be more athletic and a better shooting team,” Apollo coach Tony Hopper said. “We will have an emphasis on shooting the 3 and we will run a lot more. We hope to play nine or 10 players, much different from last year when our depth was very limited.”
Other players that will contribute for Apollo will be Ben Duvall and Justin Little, who both started last year, along with Brad Morris, Terrance Johnson, Logan Robbins and Carlos Alas.
6. Breckinridge County (22-6)
Breck County should be a solid team with All-State candidate Jon-Michael Fletcher and point guard Adam Board are back for their senior seasons after starting the majority of
the Tigers’ games the past two years. Fletcher can play strong around the basket and is a good shooter. They both averaged scoring in double figures.
Joining them will be John Kennedy, a 6-4 junior forward, and Cannon Alexander , a 6-3 senior forward-center. Both players saw considerable action last season and had very good summers.
Seniors Bradley Board and Adrian Mucker, along with junior James Young and sophomore Justin Reynolds all battling for the other starting guard spot.
All four will see considerable action. Junior Justin Phillips, sophomore Mitch Tucker and freshman Justin Oliver should also contribute.
The Tigers should be strong defensively and have some flexibility on offense.
7. Muhlenberg North (23-7)
It would be unwise to overlook the Stars, although they lost six seniors, including wing scorer Derek Adams.
The Stars don’t have any proven scorers heading into the season. North is very young and will take some time to gain game experience, according to veteran coach Steve Sparks.
The Stars will depend on junior guard Lincoln Evitts, who averaged five points a game as a starter last year. Aaron Morris and Matt Groves will also have to play well for North to enjoy its usual run of success.
8. Muhlenberg South (15-14)
Muhlenberg South returns four starters and could be ready to make some moves in the district and region this year.
Three of those are in a very talented junior class. Corey Civils is a 5-8 guard who averaged 15 points and five assists a game last year. Guard Bryan Shrewsberry (6-1 senior) averaged 12 points and four rebounds last year. Richard Carver (6-1 junior) is another guard who averaged seven points and four rebounds last year. Logan Matheney (6-3 junior) had eight points and eight rebounds last year and was all-district tournament and all-regional tournament last year.
Tyler Smith (6-2 junior), Logan Diedrich (5-8 sophomore), Jordan Vincent (6-3 junior), Harper Rowlett (6-2 senior) and Kent Sumner (6-1 senior) will also be expected to contribute.
9. Daviess County (17-13)
Daviess County will try and replace two super scorers in John Janes (21 ppg), Joe Janes (14 ppg).
Michael Lane, a 5-10 senior is the only full-time starter back. Lane averaged 12 points per game. Sam Crisp, a 6-foot junior, and Matt Belcher, a 6-7 senior were part-time starters last year.
Daviess County will be looking for a lot out of Jonathan Herzog (6-5 junior), Mike Wegryzn (5-9 senior), Nathan Maxwell (6-1 senior). Jordan Payne is a 5-8 junior who transferred in and will play a big role for Daviess County. Derek Bevil, a 5-10 sophomore, Nathan Janson and Byrce Garrett will also be counted on.
“Our weaknesses will be lack of experience on the floor and unproven scorers,” Daviess County coach Charley Broughton said. “I believe we will be a better defensive and rebounding team than last year, but probably not as explosive on the offensive end.
“We lost more than anyone in our district so we will have our work cut out for us this year.”
10. Hancock County (13-11)
The Hornets will be young but very deep. They have a new coach in Curtis Shelton, who starred at defunct Central City in Muhlenberg County.
They will be a guard-dominated team with Derek Roach and Mike Mosby returning in the backcourt, but the inside game could be the difference. That could mean a big year for 6-5 senior Wade Gaynor, who averaged 11 points a game last year.
With an aggressive style of defense, the Hornets should be much improved and should make a run for the 11th District Crown.
11. Grayson County (14-16)
Grayson County will be very young and inexperienced. The team lacks a post presence.
Top returning players include Kyle Skaggs, a 6-foot-3 junior wing player who is the team’s best shooter and a very smart player, junior Josh Smith, a 6-1 wing, who is the leading returning scorer at four points a game, and Jon Meredith is a 5-10 senior who started some games at guard last year.
Jared Clemons is a 5-10 wing came off the bench last season and Sean Embry is an athletic 5-10 sophomore wing player who came off the bench last year.
Key newcomers will include Travis Johnston , an 8th grader who will play point guard. Eric Sims, a 6-3 junior who will see some time at the center spot. Timmy Yochim, a 6-1 junior who will also play some center. Lance Boone is 5-10 forward with little varsity experience.
12. McLean County (7-23)
McLean County coach Andy Groves said the Cougars should be exciting to watch with a more uptempo style. “We will play the game at a faster pace,” Groves said.
Guard/forward Ryan Brown is the lone returning starter for the Cougars. Brown is aggressive player who can see the floor well.
Bryson Phillips was the second-leading scorer last year and can create matchup problems. Lance Shutt has gotten stronger around the basket.
Sophomore Nick Heflin is being charged with replacing leading scorer Michael Ruby. Heflin worked hard in the offseason to try and improve his post play.
Tyler Swift will challenge for a starting guard position. He is a nice ball handler and can be a scoring threat. McLean County is also looking for Swift to become a better defensive player.
13. Edmonson County (9-18)
Edmonson County returns six of its top ten players from last year. The should be the Wildcats’ best team in three seasons under Coach Jarrod Wills.
Edmonson County has size wth 6-5 center Brandon Browning, 6-2 senior guard Kyle
Culbreth and Dustin Lindsey, a 5-9 junior guard. There are some good juniors and sophomores to provide depth for Edmonson County, also a new team to the Third Region. Overall team experience will be a plus.
14. Whitesville Trinity (1-24)
Whitesville Trinity had a tough year at 1-24, but the Raiders are looking to improve. Trinity has four returning seniors in Logan Clouse, Chase Boarman, Ryan Hamilton and Nathan Roberts. There are also eight juniors and sophomores coming back.
15. Butler County (7-18)
The Bears will continue to rebuild after losing some key players after a 2003 regional tournament run.
16. Cloverport (5-18)
The Aces have one of the state’s youngest head coaches in Jeff LaGrange at 23. Jason Grubbs and Joe Wethington lead a solid group of six juniors.
Top Players in the Region
1. Jay Ivey, Owensboro Catholic, 6-8, senior, center. A fantastic player who was impressive against Ohio County in the regional final
2. Josh Clemons, Ohio County, 6-10, senior, center. Has tremendous ability with a nice shooting touch.
3. Travis Owsley, Owensboro Catholic, 5-11, senior, guard. Great at distributing the ball and can score when needed.
4. Jon-Michael Fletcher, Breckinridge County, 6-4, senior, forward. May be one of most talented players in the region.
5. Andrew Howard, Owensboro Catholic, 6-2, senior, guard. Very underrated player who maybe the key to Catholic.
6. Jordan James, Ohio County, 5-10, senior, guard. Makes the Eagles go and is a clutch player.
7. Corey Civils, Muhlenberg South, 5-9, junior, guard. Quick and could be a break out player for the Suns.
8. Jordan Benock, Meade County, 6-2, senior, guard. Good scorer and rebounder at guard.
9. Riley Benock, Meade County, 6-2, junior, guard. Considered a top junior in the state this year.
10. Doug Denton, Apollo, 5-11, senior, guard. Very good point guard in Tony Hopper’s system.
11. Adam Board, Breckinridge County, 5-11, senior, guard. Runs the team and can rebound.
12. Jake Wells, Apollo, 5-10, senior, guard. Good athlete who can score.
13. Michael Lane, Daviess County, 5-11, senior, guard. Great shooter and can slash.