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4th Region Preview

Going into the 2012-13 season, the 14th District was casting its usual long shadow over the region. They’d won every region title since the 01/02 season. Six of those years it was two 14th District teams in the finals. A similar result was predicted this year, but the region got two very early 2013 Christmas gifts within two weeks of each other. First, Warren Central and Bowling Green ended up drawing each other in the 14th District tournament, the result of a three way tie for first in that district. Then, Greenwood upset #1 seed Warren East, eliminating one of the few teams that had 20 wins entering the postseason. Now, several teams will be thinking this is their chance to break through.

The Contenders
Warren Central (25-6) – Outside of playing Warren East, the Dragons have had their way with the region for the most part. They averaged winning by 19.5 PPG in their 13 region wins, and only Bowling Green (twice) and South Warren have played them within 10 points. That average margin goes up to 24 PPG when you look at games against teams that made the region tournament, including a 32 point pasting of Barren County in December. But the team that will likely serve as their biggest challenge is one of only two regional tourney teams Central hasn’t played, Russell County. And Dragon fans would do well to remember 2009, when Warren Central was the prohibitive favorite but were sent packing by the Lakers. Coach William Unseld will have to make sure his team is ready to play right away – the region begins only two days after their district final.

Russell County (24-5) – The Lakers enter the tournament tied for the best record among region teams, led by senior Tyler Robertson and his 21.2 PPG. Russell County has won 18 of their last 21 games, and in early February erased the bad taste of a loss to Barren County by knocking off highly rated Madison Central 89-83. Seemingly every year the Lakers are considered one of the favorites outside the 14th District, but have yet to make a region final game. That looks to change this year as they may have gotten the ideal draw. Fellow favorites Warren Central and Barren County are on the other side of the bracket.

Barren County (24-5) – The other team entering the region with the best record, there are probably not many teams with that impressive a win total that are more overlooked this season. The Trojans operate in the shadow of their Bowling Green brethren and often even in their own town of Glasgow. But it’s Barren County that carries the longest winning streak in the region into the postseason, winners of 9 straight, including a 78-70 win at Russell County on February 5th. The Trojans feature four seniors, led by guards Jaucoby Poore and Clay Simmons. They’ll be looking to bring home Barren County’s first win in a region tourney game since 2008 at bare minimum, but will be a serious threat to reach Rupp for the second time in school history, the first since 1999.

The Dark Horse
Clinton County (18-11) – Early in the year it was all going Clinton County’s way. They started 5-0 which included a win at district favorite Russell County. What followed was a 9-9 stretch that had its highs (4th Region All “A” Title) and lows (33 and 31 point losses to Covington Catholic and Warren Central, respectively). Following a loss to Allen County-Scottsville on February 7th, the Bulldogs put together 4 wins in 5 games with the lone loss coming to region contender Barren County by only 3. The Bulldogs have junior forward Colby Langford and super soph Keifer Dalton leading the way, but have once again gotten the difficult draw. They'll likely have to defeat every 20 win team that is in the regional tourney to win it.

The Longshots
Russellville (17-12) – The Russellville Panthers advanced to their 10th straight region tournament, tying Franklin-Simpson’s run from 2002-2011 for a record among 4th Region teams. But they’ve had precious little to show for it. They haven’t made the finals in that time and only advanced to the semis four times. And every single year they’ve met their end at the hands of a 14th District team, including the last three years losing to Warren Central. This year they turned to coach Phil Todd, whose last year previously was the beginning of this run in 2004. He also led the Panthers to the state tourney 3 out of 4 years from 1998-2001. They’ve found mixed success, with their only wins over regional tournament teams coming against district mate Franklin-Simpson and surprise team Greenwood. Russellville has shown little sign of being a team that can reach the promised land. But with coach Todd leading them, Russellville has pulled off the unexpected before.

Franklin-Simpson (15-14) – First year head coach Dee Spencer has had his work cut out for him much of the year, as his Wildcats didn’t win consecutive games until the end of December and have not won more than 3 in a row all year – a streak they reached once. Their brightest spot in the year was the last win of that streak, a shocking 51-49 upset at Barren County on January 4th. They won four of five late in the year to generate some positive momentum, but they’ll struggle to stop a string of three straight region tourney losses, part of an overall run of losing 9 out of their last 11 games at Diddle.

Allen County-Scottsville (15-16) – By most measures, coach James Willett and the Patriots shouldn’t even be here. They started the year 7-3 before collapsing into a 7-12 record the rest of the regular season. That included four consecutive losses entering the district tournament to take on Monroe County, which had beaten them by an average of 11 points per game during the season. But a key 10-0 run to start the 3rd quarter broke a 21 all tie in their district semifinal meeting, and the Pats held on to reach their first region tournament since 2010. They’ll need more of that magic to stop a streak of 5 straight losses in the region tournament. They haven’t won a regional tournament game since their last season under coach D.G. Sherrill, who has since gone on to lead Bowling Green to two region titles.

Greenwood (16-15) – In all likelihood, no one outside of the Greenwood program saw them advancing to the region tournament for the first time since they won it in 2008. They posted an 0-8 record against district teams in the regular season. They entered as the #5 seed, which had never won a game since the district expanded to five teams in 2011. They played South Warren, which had beaten them by 17 and 18 points during the season. They’d never won a game as the host school of the district tournament. They overcame all of that to beat South Warren 52-50, but that was just to reach the semifinals against #1 seed Warren East. That added more history to their challenge. In the 14 years the district had been seeded, the #1 seed had never lost a semifinal game, winning by 19 PPG. East had most recently dropped them by 25 points after a more modest 6 point win earlier in the year. Yet somehow the Gators knocked them off, never trailing from the second quarter on. The Gators enter as a dark horse by some metrics, winning 7 of their last 9 games, but should be considered a longshot as they enter a mere 2-5 against region tourney teams. Then again, that didn’t stop them during the district.