by Gilmore Layne
The old friends and rivalries that have been the trademark of the Sixth Region for more than 30 years are a changing this winter.
Sure, some of the heated rivalries – Pleasure Ridge Park vs. Fairdale and PRP vs. Butler – will still be contested but under a the new statewide alignment the Sixth Region was affected about as much as any region in the state.
The four districts are all new this time around, while Bullitt East, North Bullitt and Bullitt Central have moved in from the Eighth Region. St. Francis, a small school in downtown Louisville, also moved in from the Seventh.
But while those things have changed, the favorite has stayed the same – PRP.
The Panthers have a load of talent back from last year’s team that won the school’s second consecutive regional title and are favored again. Central, Doss, DeSales, Bullitt East and Iroquois figure to be among the top challengers.
Here’s a look at each team:
1. Pleasure Ridge Park (31-6): Dale Mabrey’s program has been a beacon of success in recent years, winning the region two years in a row and claiming 20 wins or more each of the past 15 seasons.
Don’t expect that to change this winter.
JaJuan Spillman has graduated along with several other stars, but Vincent Crutcher is one of the top candidates for Mr. Basketball. He averaged 15 points, 10 rebounds and four assists as a junior.
Troy Frazier and Tyler Phipps are other top seniors in the fold.
Mabrey has a wealth of solid underclassmen, including sophomore Zach Cox who is a standout basketball and baseball player and transfer from Taylor County. Cox led Taylor County in scoring, rebounding and assists as a freshman.
Sophomore guard Adam Decker and post players Allen Murry and Kerry Benson give the Panthers a bench that could go seven deep without much drop off.
2. Central (16-13): Doug Bibby has the Yellowjackets program back on the rise. At one time, Central was a dominate program in the Louisville area, and now with a lot of talent Bibby has the program in position to win its first title in 27 years.
Senior forward LeRoy Nobles, who is 6-foot-5, is one of the most athletic and most improved players in the state. The scary part for opponents is that Nobles was already pretty good after averaging 18 points and five rebounds as a junior.
But there’s more talent in the fold.
Darryl Bell and Lamar Sistrunk are quality, experienced players, while Leevaugh Morris and Randy Skeens could be high-scoring sophomores.
Bibby has the best freshman class in the state with three potential All-Staters in the class. Ridge Wilson, Paul Bunton and Lee McGee – remember those names.
3. Doss (19-10): Coach Shawn Purlee has two of the regions top players in Davin Anderson and Wan Thomas and the Dragons will be one of the top teams in Louisville.
Anderson is a solid 6-1 guard and is one of the top juniors in the state. He averaged 15 points, six rebounds and four assists as a sophomore.
Thomas doesn’t get nearly the same exposure as Anderson, but the 6-foot senior averaged 14 points last season and would be the star on many other teams.
Doss has a lot of depth, including seniors Jeff Elliott and Josh Taylor and junior Tony Brown. The Dragons could get a huge lift from Shawnee transfer Jeff Brooks (6-7), if he is ruled eligible by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
KHSAA commissioner Brigid DeVries initially ruled Brooks ineligible but a hearing officer overturned that ruling. The case will come before the KHSAA’s Board of Control sometime during the first few weeks of December.
Brooks was sensational at times as a sophomore and could turn into the best player in the region if he’s allowed to play, so the decision is huge for Doss.
4. DeSales (25-6): The school went young in finding a replacement for coach Tom Crews, who built the program into one of the state’s finest.
Chris Stobaugh, who was Crews’ assistant coach for four years and is a 2000 graduate from the school, is the new head coach at the age of 23.
DeSales lost a talented senior class but there’s still some talent on the roster for the new coach, including returning starters and senior leaders Nathan McCauley and Nathan Reid. McCauley is solid in the middle and Reid is a quick guard.
Junior Aaron Tandy will be a surprise in the paint, while Eric Wilkie played some last year as a sophomore and showed promise.
5. Valley (14-14): After several years of disappointing finishes, veteran coach Fred Copass think he has one of his better teams in 25 years at Valley.
The Vikings return three players who started some last season, including the region’s most underrated player in Jermie Tribble. The 6-foot guard has led the Vikings in scoring to years in a row and averaged 17 a game last season.
Lydell Green is a football standout and is healthy for hoops this season. He broke his leg prior to last season and missed a lot of basketball time.
Shawn Thompson will be a solid forward, while Copass expects Dazzie Turner to be one of the best sophomores in the state before his time is up. Turner is a lightning-quick 5-foot-7 guard.
6. Bullitt East (25-8): The defending Eighth Region champion Chargers were as good as any team in the state last season. But coach Troy Barr watched as 80 percent of his scoring walked down the aisle at graduation last spring.
Those six seniors helped win 69 games in three years but there’s still some talent left behind for Barr, who also had some good youngsters.
Robert Troutman is another in a long line of star players with the Troutman last name, while Garrett Lowrey and Travis Broughton are also solid players.
7. Western (5-18): It’s been a successful season for the Warriors athletic program already this year, winning district soccer for the first time and advancing far into the state football playoffs this November.
Now it’s the basketball team’s turn.
K.C. Goodin, a football assistant coach, replaces Paul Handley as the head coach.
Goodin has one of the state’s top players in 6-9 senior Adrius Pegues, who came to Western last season from North Carolina. He averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots and has signed with Western Kentucky University.
Jimorris Johnson is another talented senior for the Warriors, while Andre Barnes has averaged double figures for three years in a row.
8. Iroquois (12-17): Jimmy Just and his winning ways have gone to Jeffersonville (Ind.), so the Raiders turned the program over to a veteran.
Michael Stinnett, who had 91 wins as the Owensboro coach the past six seasons, is the man Iroquois has tabbed to replace Just.
Stinnett said a squad that returns eight players with varsity experience, including senior Ryan Thruston. The 6-foot-1 guard averaged 12 points a year ago.
9. Fairdale (17-12): Lloyd Gardner won 274 games and a state title with the Bulldogs head coach and was an assistant for two other state titles.
But he retired and longtime assistant Gregg Longcacre, a 1984 alum of Fairdale, is now the head coach for the Bulldogs.
Josh Thompson is only 5-foot-5 but the senior is a great shooter and leader. Reggie Smith, Clinton Lucas and Kelvin Gates are other top players.
10. North Bullitt (11-16): Third-year coach Lee Barger has an experienced bunch of Eagles that should be successful in the move to the Sixth Region.
Eric Carter is back after averaging 15 points a game, while Nick Coffey is back after two double-figure scoring years in a row.
11. Southern (15-13): Todd Raque has turned things around for Southern, which won 15 games last season after just 21 the four previous combined.
Now, the Trojans are rebuilding a bit.
But Raque does have two nice building blocks in Al Magwood and Shelton Sweeney. Magwood is one of the regions top players after averaging 15 points.
12. Butler (12-15): Bears’ coach Mike Campbell is dealing with a young and inexperienced group after senior standout Darren Petty decided not to play.
Without the double-figure scorer, Campbell doesn’t have a lot of scoring punch and this team won’t be very high scoring.
Junior Chad Rogers, who averaged eight a game last season, must be the leader. Justin Graves and Deon Montgomery are two of the other top players on the roster.
13. Bullitt Central (13-18): Josh Jarboe, Kyle Baugh and Doug Manley are experienced players back this season for new coach Joe Pat Lee.
Lee, a former assistant coach at Louisville Male, is the fourth coach in four years but is also a Bullitt Central graduate and is looking to stick around.
14. Holy Cross (9-17): The Cougars will be young with sophomore Nick House
leading the way. He started as a freshman and is a solid guard for coach Jody Thornsberry, who has several youngsters that will contribute.
Brent Thompson, Steve Wright and Eric Floyd are other top players.
15. Shawnee (9-21): The Golden Indians have their third head coach in three years with former Manual assistant Dwight Bransford taking over.
He’ll face a rebuilding task but Bransford is excited about his team. Kris Bush is a solid returnee and LaTwan Childress is a promising transfer from Western.
16. Portland Christian (4-21): The Eagles have a shot to be much improved this season with six of their top players returning. Adam Morrison and Michael Cooper have both started for two years. Morrison averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds last season, while Cooper also averaged 13 points.
17. St. Francis (6-19): The Wyverns move in from the Seventh Region and should be competitive with the small schools in the region. Zayd Abukar is a junior who averaged 12 points a game last season and could be a star in the making.
18. Beth Haven (11-16): Joe Bailey won 300-plus games during his 22-year career and then retired, leaving the job for 23-year-old Beth Haven alum Brad Morgan.
Morgan has some talent on the roster in his first season, including Brent Lamkin and Spencer Shull. Both averaged around double figures last season.
19. Evangel (6-21): James Lee is the new coach. Yes, the same James Lee who starred for the University of Kentucky some 28 years ago.
Lee is coaching a high school team for the first time and said he just wanted to get into the game and give something back to the kids.
He doesn’t have a lot to work with. Chris Webster averaged nine points last season and is the top returning scorer. Matt Fulks and Andrew Gilley are two other players that Lee hopes can help the team to double-digit wins.
20. Brown (10-16): James LaPointe has Chris and Kevin Williams – both double-figure – scorers back in the lineup this season. The Bears are hoping to compete for the All “A” Classic regional title, but will do it with a small squad.
TOP PLAYERS IN REGION
1. Vincent Crutcher, PRP: He might be the best all-around player in the state because he can do it inside and out.
2. LeRoy Nobles, Central: Coach Doug Bibby expects a huge year from a player that can dominate inside and hit the perimeter shot.
3. A’Darius Pegues, Western: He’s only been playing organized ball for over a year; Western Kentucky didn’t sign him for nothing.
4. Davin Anderson, Doss: Could be the best junior guard in the state!
5. Al Magwood, Southern: Has helped turn things around at Southern and should average double figures again.
6. Nathan McCauley, DeSales: One of the returning stars for the Colts, McCauley will lead the team in scoring this season.
7. Jermie Tribble, Valley: There’s not much he can’t don on the floor for the Vikings.
8. Ryan Thruston, Iroquois: The most underrated player in the region, Thurston can drain it from downtown.
9. Wan Thomas, Doss: His teammate Anderson gets all the props, but Thomas can hang with anybody in the Louisville area.
10. Josh Thompson, Fairdale: Pound-for-pound – all 125 of them for him – he’s the best player in the state of Kentucky. If only he were a bit bigger.
11. Robert Troutman, Bullitt East: As solid as they come, just like all the other Troutman’s before him in Bullitt County.
12. Darryl Bell, Central: Almost averaged a double-double last season and should be able to do the same this winter.
13. Adam Decker, PRP: The sophomore guard could be the next big thing for Panthers.
14. Ridge Wilson, Central: Yes, he’s only a freshman but one look at him and you will find out he’s a future stud.
15. Zach Cox, PRP: Transfer from Taylor County will fit in well at PRP.