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8th Region Week 1 Review: Region 8 Stakes Its Claim
By Colonelmike

In the pre-season rankings, I pointed out that this might be the deepest, most talented 8th Region in some time. At least ten teams could have the right combination of talent and coaching to win the region this year – and the first week of the season has done nothing to dispel that notion.

The depth and quality also means that some very good teams will not make it to the regional tournament. It’s a simple mathematical certainty, especially in districts like the 29th and the 30th, which boast 7 of the region’s 10 top-ranked teams…at least, in this week’s ranking.
Those ten teams held the region 8 banner high in Week One. Combined, they went 19-6 overall, including 14-3 against teams from outside of region 8. Even more impressively, these ten teams went 3-0 against teams in the pre-season top 20.

Only four Region 8 teams remain winless after week 1: North Oldham (0-1), which played at Iroquois without Justin Powell, their pre-season Player of the Year candidate, Gallatin County (0-2), who opened with Holmes and #5-ranked Collins; Carroll County (0-3), which was a bit of a surprise, and Owen County (0-2), which is in the midst of a rebuilding campaign.
On to the rankings…

1 - Collins (3-0) Last week: #1 – The Titans, ranked #5 in Kentucky in the Kentucky High School Sports - Latest Articles preseason top 20 poll, did nothing to cast any doubt on their preseason ranking as the 8th region favorites with a 3-0 record after one week of play. The Titans started the season with a convincing 19-point victory over #19 North Laurel, then pounded North Bullitt by 31 and 8th Region rival Gallatin County, 66-44.

Collins shot over 50% from the floor in the first two wins, and hit over 40% from beyond the arc in those two games as well.

The pre-season favorite for 8th Region Player of the Year, senior Dayvion McKnight, led the way in Week One, averaging 16.3 ppg / 12.3 rebounds. Running mate Marcellus Vail averaged 14.7 ppg / 6.7 rebounds as the Titans’ 1-2 punch on offense took the lead each night.

Against North Laurel, it was Vail leading the scoring parade, with 25 points. McKnight led the double-double with 15 points / 19 rebounds.

Caleb Hawley may be setting up to be the Titans’ third scoring option; the junior guard is averaging 10 ppg through three contests, with a high of 13.

Next up: 12/10 at 6th region power Bullitt East 12/13 at Shelby County 12/14 Southridge (Huntingburg, IN) at Great Crossing HS (KY-IN Challenge Cup).

2 - South Oldham (3-0) Last week: #2 – The Dragons had to contend with a hectic Week One. Head coach Steve Simpson was hospitalized the Sunday before the first game for emergency back surgery that forced him to miss some practices, as well as the first game against Collegiate. The veteran coach, in his 20th season, was – amazingly – only off the sideline for the one game, returning for Thursday’s game against Central Hardin.
Best wishes to Coach Simpson for a speedy recovery!

Despite the disruption to routine, and all the distractions, the Dragons still opened the season by winning their first three games. Behind blistering shooting from the floor, the Dragons whipped Collegiate, 75-37 (53.1% FG) and Central Hardin, 85-47 (61.5% FG) to start the season, then outlasted 8th Region rival Grant County, 72-68, in one the most competitive games of Week One.

The Grant County game featured tournament-level intensity in a game in which neither team led by more than 9 points. South didn’t shoot as well as they had in the two previous games, but they took advantage of their free throw opportunities, hitting 16 of 18 free throws, and capitalized on 19 Grant County turnovers (South had 9 turnovers, unofficially).

Senior Seth Johnson is leading South in the early going. Johnson is averaging 20 ppg and 10.3 rebounds. 2019 8th Region Player of the Year Luke Morrison is averaging 18 ppg for South and dropped 32 on the Central Hardin Bruins. Jason King (13 ppg) has been in double digits in all three games, and Tim Stragand is hitting 60% from beyond the arc (6 of 10) to start the season.

South is averaging 11 made threes a game, while hitting 39.3% from beyond the arc.
Next games: 12/10 at Spencer County 12/14 vs Waggener in the Oldham County Ronald McDonald House Classic in Buckner

3 - Oldham County (3-0) Last week: #4 The Colonels put together a solid week to open the season. Coy Zerhusen’s 2019-20 Colonels come into the year with a few question marks. Gone is the bulk of the scoring from last year’s team, but in its place is a young, but extremely talented group of youth. Oldham expected to struggle a bit in December, but so far, this youth movement is off to a really good start.

The Colonels took advantage of a North Hardin squad that was still missing its football talent in game one, blasting the 5th region team, 71-45 to start the season. Deaton Oak, the son for former Colonel star Doug Oak, led the way with 18 points, followed by last year’s Region 8 tournament hero, Sam Campbell, with 15. Xander Wagner-Rose posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Oldham followed that game up with 98-71 shellacking of Covington Holy Cross and a 71-56 victory over a pretty solid Danville team, pre-season picked as one of the better 12th region teams.

The Colonels move up one this week, moving into the spot vacated by North Oldham. This week, Oldham moves into 8th Region play, as they host a 29th district seeding game against Trimble County, then face one of the region’s top contenders in Spencer County on Saturday, 12/14/19, in the Ronald McDonald House Classic at Oldham County HS.

4 - Simon Kenton (2-0) Last week: #5 Simon Kenton is off to tremendous start; the Pioneers already own one of the region’s three victories over a ranked team, knocking off Beechwood, ranked #17 in the Bluegrasspreps pre-season top 20, 67-52, in their second game of the season.

Especially encouraging for SK head coach Trent Steiner has to be the scoring distribution. Last year’s leading scorer – Kelly Niece – is averaging 11 points per game, but he may still be working his way back to 100% after last year’s injury. It hasn’t mattered. Logan Schwartz led the Pioneers to the win in game one with a 15 point effort and Jeremy Davis bombed away from the outside, hitting 4 of 4 threes on his way to 12. In game two, it was Davis’ turn to lead the scoring effort, with 18 points, including four more threes. Schwartz had 12.
Davis is one of the region’s pace-setters beyond the arc, having hit 8 of 15 in the first two contests.

It was just one game, but SK certainly put on a solid defensive effort against Beechwood, holding the 17th-ranked Tigers to 29% shooting from the field, including just 14.8% from beyond the arc.

Upcoming games: 12/10 at Ryle 12/14 at Walton-Verona (against former SK star guard and former SK assistant coach Mike Hester) 12/14 vs Christian County

5 – North Oldham (0-1) Last week: #3 The Mustangs only played one game last week and they didn’t have their star player, Justin Powell, who becomes eligible to play this week. So how far should North drop? They drop two spots as the Mustangs really had a truly bad day at the office in a 73-52 loss to Iroquois. The Mustangs’ big men got into quick foul trouble, North shot poorly, and with Powell out, North Oldham was never really in this one.

North shot just 43.2% against the Raider-Wolves, and managed just 3 of 16 threes (18.8%). The shooting malaise even extended to the charity stripe, where North hit just 11 of 20 shots for 55%. Luke Berry led North in the loss with 12 points.

Powell becomes eligible this Wednesday and will play against Trimble County that night. He will make a huge difference – his size, athleticism, shooting touch, and passing make him a truly unique talent. North fans are eagerly awaiting his arrival – but also waiting to see how the team jells around him. Certainly there are concerns raised by the first game…even with Powell in the game, the Mustangs’ success this year will require better play by their big men and better shooting.

This week: 12/11 at Trimble County 12/12 Spencer County 12/14 Moore (at Oldham Co HS – Ronald McDonald House Classic)

6 - Spencer County (2-0) Last week: #6 The Bears are, as expected, off to a fast start. Spencer’s top four players might be as good, if not better, than any foursome in the 8th Region. And the good news for Bears fans is that the members of the “Fabulous Four” are all underclassmen. Sam Conley, Jake Whitlock, and Lucas Hornback are all juniors; Gage Mabry is a sophomore. In the Bears’ first two games of the season, those four have been the Spencer County Iron Men.

Spencer is not a deep team. At the end of the season, that could cost them. But it hasn’t bothered them so far. Conley, Whitlock, Hornback, and Mabry have scored 140 of Spencer’s 154 points this season, including all 71 points scored by Spencer County in their most recent game.

Spencer has two quality wins already in what is a pretty challenging December schedule. They handed Franklin County (2-1) its only week 1 loss, winning easily, 83-48, to open the season. Gage (20 points/7 rebounds) and Conley (18 points/7 rebounds) led the way, but Whitlock (16 points) and Hornbuckle (15 points) gave strong support.

The Bears then traveled to Pike County to face the second-ranked team in the 15th Region, the Shelby Valley Wildcats. Despite the long drive and the quality opponent, the Bears came out on top, 71-69. Conley had a monster game with 26 points, with Mabry tossing in 18. Hornbuckle (14) and Whitlock (13) accounted for all the rest of Spencer’s points.

This week: Spencer takes the “Oldham tour”. It’s a great opportunity for Jason Burns’ squad to make a clear statement to the Region; all three Oldham schools figure to be in the mix by the end of the year. 12/10 South Oldham 12/12 at North Oldham 12/14 at Oldham County (Ronald McDonald House Classic)

7 – Grant County (2-1) Last week: #9 Grant County is a big mover this week, moving up two spots after a strong week of play. The Braves went 2-1 over their first week, starting it off with a convincing 87-36 win over Trimble County in which five players reached double figures, led by Ben Vickers’ 19. But the Braves really opened some eyes in the region in game 2, when they travelled to Versailles to play 8th region newcomer Woodford County, who was fresh off a 16 point win over #16-ranked Paul Dunbar. The Braves took the measure of the Yellowjackets, winning, 83-70, shooting 56.2% from the floor and nailing 10 of 20 threes. Again, four Braves reached double digits, led by Vickers’ 25.

In the first two games, the Braves shot better than 55% andhit a combined 21 of 43 threes, while hitting over 80% of their free throws.

Grant wrapped up the week with a third straight 8th region opponents, travelling to Crestwood for a matchup against South Oldham. Though this game ended in a loss, the Braves wound up dropping a postseason-intensity game to the region’s #2-ranked team by just 4 points on the road. Again, Grant shot the ball well, hitting 49.1% from the floor and 40% (8 of 20) from beyond the arc. In the end, however, the Braves were undone by 19 (unofficial) turnovers, while only forcing 9. The additional 10 turnovers allowed South to take 15 more shots in the game.

The Braves’ known weapons included Vickers, Jack Epperson, and Luke Dawalt, coming into the season. In Week One, we discovered three additional players who will have to accounted for by opposing defenses: Blake Robinson, Mason Guffey, and Colton Scalf. Each has reached double figures in the scorebook at least once in the first three games.

Robinson may be the most intriguing. After scoring 15 in the season opener, he scored just 5 points against Woodford. But against South Oldham, he erupted, hitting 9 of 10 shots, including 5 of 6 threes, for a game-high 23 points. If, as the season progresses, he can show consistency as a scorer, he adds a whole new dimension to the Braves’ attack, a role that Jonas Algers gave them last year.

Grant looked very good in Week One. The Braves have already demonstrated that they have six players who can score in double figures on any given night. Their defense – even though they surrendered 70 to Woodford and 72 to South – seems improved. Joe Utter may still need to find a few more able bodies who can provide his core group some breathers, but he has a full season to develop those players, and he has enough scorers now to hold the fort till then.

This week: 12/9 at Harrison County 12/12 at Anderson County

8 - Woodford County – (1-2) Last week: #8 The region’s newest member caused the first sensation of the season when they walloped #16-ranked Paul Dunbar on the road, 62-46, to start the season. However, back-to-back losses to Grant County and Clay County – the #2-ranked team in the 13th region – leave the Yellowjackets sitting at 1-2 after one week, though.

It’s way too early to know what to take away from Week One. The Jackets played three very good teams to start their season, and their December doesn’t get much easier with the likes of Frederick Douglass, Madison Southern, Scott County, and Oldham County looming in the next couple of weeks. One thing, however, seems evident – this is a Woodford team that can play with anyone. The easy win over the state’s 16th-ranked team….a 13 point loss to a surging Grant County team….a narrow, one point loss to Clay County. Woodford clearly belongs in the conversation when discussing teams that could win the 8th Region.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, the Jackets have not yet posted any stats.

I’ll repeat something I said in the pre-season rankings. This spot may be too low – perhaps far too low – for Woodford. We’ll just have to wait and see.

This week: Two road games and a neutral site game. 12/10 at Frederick Douglass 12/13 at Madison Southern 12/14 Bryan Station at the Kentucky Bank Shootout at Bourbon County

9 – Anderson County (3-0) Last week: #10 Anderson County expects a lot out of its basketball teams, and last year’s 14-13 record and district tournament flame-out was pretty unsatisfying to the Lawrenceburg faithful. The 2019-20 Bearcats, however, took a strong step forward towards erasing those memories in just the first week of the season, sweeping all three games.

For those who might have felt the 30th district would be a three-horse race between Collins / Spencer County / Woodford County, Anderson begs to differ.

It may not have been the strongest opening week schedule played by an 8th Region team, but the Bearcats took care of business, beating Thomas Nelson, 52-37, to open the season. They then topped Henry County, 63-40, before edging Harrison County, 52-45.
Particularly notable was the defensive effort, eliciting memories of some of the formidable Anderson defenses of the past. It’s hard to lose when you hold all of your opponents below 50 points.

Even more impressive, the Bearcats won all three games handily despite the absence of star guard Tyler Rice.

This has given Carson Wooldridge the opportunity to shine, and he’s taken advantage. Wooldridge led the Bearcats with 10 points against Thomas Nelson and 18 against Henry County. (No stats were available for the Harrison game).

Anderson’s shooting will have to improve; the Cats shot less than 44% from the field in their first two games and less than 64% at the line in those contests. But if the defense keeps playing like this, it will buy time for Coach Hyatt to fine-tune the offense, which should also show improvement when Rice returns.

This week: 12/10 – vs. Rockcastle County 12/12 vs. Grant County 12/14 at Perry
County Central (defending 14th Region champs)

10 – Gallatin County (0-2) Last week: #7 Gallatin falls three spots this week after an 0-2 start to the season, falling from #7. Gallatin lost a heartbreaker to open the season against Holmes, battling back from a double-digit deficit to tie the game, only to watch the Bulldogs nail a three as time expired to get the win.

Region 8 favorite Collins then beat Gallatin, 66-44, in their second game of the year.
Gallatin is going to be fine, but it’s going to take a little time for coach Jon Jones to tinker with the chemistry to make this a typical Wildcat squad. With two key transfers, that’s not going to happen overnight. Indicative of the process needed, the normally sharp-shooting Wildcats made just 45.2% of their shots against Holmes and just 29.6% of their shots against the Titans.

Unfortunately, the Gallatin Cats haven’t been able to pick themselves up at the line, either, as they hit just 54.5% of their free throws against Holmes and a mere 40% (6 of 15) against Collins.

Gallatin will especially need Jarin Rassman to hit the freebies; Rassman is being counted on to lead the team in scoring, and he almost certainly will – he had 26 points against Holmes – but Rassman will also get fouled a lot and will likely spend more time at the line than any other Wildcat. However, after two games, he’s made just 15 of 30 free throws.

Gage Ashcraft may, as Jones suggested in the preseason, be the heir apparent to Troy Coomer’s role from last year. Ashcraft had 19 against Holmes, including 4 threes. But Ashcraft disappeared against Collins, failing to score.

Owen County transfer Noah St. Claire seems to be fitting in well early on; St. Claire had ten points in each of Gallatin’s first two games.

One week doesn’t make a season, and Jon Jones – the longest-tenured coach in the region – has a long history of developing teams into tough outs come region tournament time. The Wildcats should be favored in all of their games this week as they face some NCKC foes, all at home, including two District 31 seeding games against Eminence and Henry County.

12/9 vs Walton-Verona 12/11 vs. Eminence 12/13 vs Henry County

11 – Henry County (1-1) Last week: #12 Henry County moves up one spot this week, filling the spot vacated by Carroll County. We didn’t really get to learn a lot about Henry in Week One, but the Wildcats rebounded from an opening 63-40 trouncing at the hands of Anderson County to win a squeaker over Western Hills, 68-67.

No stats were available as of yet for Henry County.

We’ll get a chance to learn a lot of Henry’s spot in the 31st district pecking order when they go on the road this week to face Gallatin County.

This week: 12/13 at Gallatin County 12/14 Collegiate at Oldham County HS (Ronald McDonald House Classic)

12 – Shelby County (2-1) Last week: #13 Shelby has struggled for the last four seasons, but the first week of the season saw the Rockets go out to their best start since the 2014-15 team opened 3-0.

After taking it on the chin in the opener to North Bullitt, 61-38, Shelby bounced back with a 56-45 victory over Eminence and a 68-62 win over Nicholas County.

The first two games’ stats were not pretty, but it’s early, and Shelby should be able to improve on its shooting through two contests (34.0% FG, 17.6% threes, 48.5% FT). There is, however, a lot of room for improvement. Shelby County must elevate those numbers significantly if they have any hopes of competing in the loaded 30th district.

Austin Griffin (10.5 ppg) and Trenton Burchfield (10 ppg) lead Shelby in scoring early; Kaden Dugle has been a beast on the glass, averaging 13.5 boards a game.

This week: 12/9 – at Christian Academy of Louisville 12/13 vs. Collins

13 – Trimble County (1-2) Last week: #14 The Raiders hold pat at #14 this week after going 1-2 to start the season. The Raiders had the undesirable task of taking on a red-hot Grant County team in their first game under new coach Marcus Mumphrey – without star guard Reece Webster. The result was a somewhat predictable 87-36 loss. Trimble had only 27 field goal attempts in the entire game.

Trimble has bounced back nicely since, knocking off longtime rival Carroll County, 72-66, in a minor upset, and then playing close before losing, 60-51, to Switzerland County (IN). Dylan Jennings led the way against Carroll, scoring 24 points, and Webster 16 in his first game back.

Besides Jennings and Webster, Beau Turner has played solid, with 13 against Carroll and 14 against Switzerland County.

Like so many teams in the first week or so of the season, Trimble’s shooting fortunes need to improve; the Raiders are hitting just 41% from the floor and have hit just 8 of 33 threes (24.2%).

Trimble needs a big week this week as they play two of their three 29th district seeding games this week against North Oldham and Oldham County.

12/10 vs Owen County 12/11 vs North Oldham 12/13 at Oldham County

14 – Carroll County (0-3) Last week: #11 Last year’s demons came back to haunt the Panthers last week as the team simply couldn’t shoot straight, hitting just 37% of their shots from the floor – and a mere 52.5% from the line – in the first two games of the season. By the time the week was over, Carroll had lost three straight, including winnable games against Trimble County and Frankfort.

The number two scorer in the 8th Region last year, Wyatt Supplee, was back up to his usual tricks last week, averaging an amazing 28 ppg, including two 30+ games. He got plenty of support from Keishaun Mumphrey, who averaged over 14 ppg and registered a double-double (23 points / 17 rebounds) against Trimble County.

Supplee kept getting better as the week went along. He scored 15 against Lloyd Memorial in the opener, then scored 31 against Trimble. But he saved his best for last – a 38 point outburst against Frankfort on 12 of 21 shooting, including 3 of 5 beyond the arc.
His improved shooting seemed to be catching; Carroll hit 50% from the floor against Frankfort, and 16 of 18 (88.9%) from the line. They didn’t shoot many threes (8), but hit half (4). If this turns out to be a trend, Carroll could be moving back up these rankings in the weeks to come.

First year coach Jonathan Moore would like to see a viable third scorer emerge; so far that player has yet to step forward. Trevor Sandusky is providing extra punch on the backboard, averaging 5.5 boards a game, but right now, the #3 scorer is senior Justin Williams, who’s averaging 7.0 ppg.

This week: The Panthers have the opportunity to even their record as they will be favored in at least two games, if not three. 12/10 vs. Eminence 12/12 vs. Owen County 12/14 at Western

15 - Walton-Verona (1-1) Last week: #15 First year coach Mike Hester had to find a lot of things during the off-season. Gone was the core of a great Bearcat team that had won the 2019 Region 8 title. Where were the points going to come from?

The first game was pretty much expected; Walton fell, 67-47, to Newport Central Catholic. The Bearcats, however, found the missing points in game two, knocking off Dixie Heights, 84-70. Four different players reached double figures, led by Cameron Christy, who tallied 22 and leads the Bearcats in scoring through two games with a 17 ppg average.
Bradt Smithers had 18 (averaging 15.5), Jack Watson had 16, and Carter Krohman, a freshman transfer from Simon Kenton, had 15.

Hester had hoped to call upon Krohman more later in the year, after he had improved his defensive skills. But Krohman is extremely talented on the offensive end, and Coach Hester may have felt – after a 47 point outing against Newport Central Catholic – that he needed the points.

Walton faces a challenging second week, with two road games and then a home contest against district rival SK, Hester’s alma mater.

12/9 at Gallatin County 12/12 at Bellevue 12/13 vs. Simon Kenton

16 - Williamstown (2-1) Last week: #16 New coach Jacob Cheesman is pushing all the right buttons early. The Demons are off to their best start since the 2011-12 team started 2-1. Led by Cole Kighlinger (21.7 ppg) and Caleb Tritschler (16.0 ppg / 9.0 rebounds), Williamstown has rebounded from an opening loss to Pendleton County to take back-to-back double-digit victories, a 67-52 decision over Dayton and a 61-48 win over St. Patrick.

It all goes as Kighlinger goes, it seems. Against Pendleton, Kighlinger was a quiet 2 for 12 from the field for 12 points – half of which he got at the line. Against Dayton, however, Kighlinger exploded for 33 points, and he followed it up with a 20 point outing against St. Patrick.

Kighlinger – who has been playing varsity ball for some time, making him one of the more experienced juniors in the region – has teamed with fellow junior Caleb Tritschler to create a potent 1-2 punch for the Demons. Tritschler – who had a double-double (24 points / 11 rebounds) against Pendleton – is averaging 16.0 ppg and 9 rebounds through three games.
Senior Bryant Henson is also capable of putting up the numbers; he has scored in double figures in both of the Williamstown wins and is now averaging 9.7 ppg.

Playing in the 32nd district with Simon Kenton and Grant County, the Demons are a long shot to make the regional tournament. But clearly, this is not the Williamstown team we’ve seen from the last 2 or 3 years.

This week: 12/10 vs. Villa Madonna 12/12 vs. Ryle

17 - Owen County (0-2) Last week: #17 Owen coach Devin Duvall knows he’s probably in for at least one more “rebuilding” year. That’s one of the realities. An additional reality is that he knows he has some of the most talented youth coming up – and they’re all getting varsity experience early.

Owen County is one of the four teams in the region to still be searching for their first win after Week One. Only Eminence struggled more to find the basket in Week One as Owen County shot a meager 28.1% from the floor and 62.5% from the line.

Western Hills (66-41) and Lloyd Memorial (82-45) both bested the Rebels last week, but the folks in Owenton are already salivating over the future; freshman guard Teagan Moore put on quite a display last week, tallying 26 points / 9 rebounds against Western Hills and 18 points against Lloyd.

Sophomores Isaac Wash and Lincoln Cobb have shown flashes; if they can become consistent contributors, it will ease some of the pressure on Moore. And by the New Year, Duvall expects to have 6’7” 8th-grader Brax Ward in the rotation to assist with the rebounding effort; Owen is currently struggling on the glass, averaging just 24.5 rebounds a contest.

The Rebels have a busy week this week, with three road games, two of which are seeding games against 31st district opponents.

12/10 at Trimble County 12/12 at Carroll County 12/14 at Eminence

18 - Eminence (2-3) Last week: #18 Week One was Marathon Week for the Warriors and new coach Gary Tuell. The Warriors played a whopping FIVE games last week, and ended the week on a winning note, winning their last two.

After dropping games to Western (89-38), Shelby County (56-45), and Berea (80-38), Eminence rebounded to win big twice, blasting Cumberland Homeschool Athletic Teams, 95-19, and Lee County, 96-69.

Gary Tuell brings a whole new attitude to Eminence; he isn’t willing to accept the small enrollment at Eminence as an excuse and he unapologetically aims to return Eminence to the glory days of the 70s and 80s, when players like Mont Sleets and Keith Blackburn roamed the court for the Warriors and Eminence basketball was a force in the 8th Region.

Whether he can do that – or how long it may take – remains to be seen. But the Warriors are on an uptick heading into week 2.

This week: Another busy, busy week. 12/10 at Carroll County 12/11 at Gallatin County 12/12 Lloyd Memorial 12/14 Owen County