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As my rookie year comes to a close, I hope everyone has enjoyed my weekly articles. It’s funny when I look back and read my regional preview, then compared it to how the season played out. I am looking forward to seeing some games this week and will make a point of watching Ludlow and Villa Madonna play Monday. The Panthers and Vikings are the only teams that I have not seen play this year (I don’t count Covington Latin) and look forward to catching this one. If any other members will be in attendance, please come shake my hand.
There are too many amazing games going on Tuesday night. I predict seeing several fans watching the game, listening to another game, and checking for updates all at the same time.

1. Covington Catholic (23-6) Pre-season rank #1: Covington Catholic ends the season in the same spot they began it. They did spend some time at the #2 and #3 spot this year, but when it was all said and done, the Colonels return to the top. Perhaps it is where they really were the entire time.

2. Cooper (22-5) Pre-season rank #2: Cooper has not fared too well against the 37th district. Sullivan’s boys have played an unselfish style of offense and an overwhelming defense. TJ Deere ends the year as the Jaguars leading scorer with 13ppg and 337 points for the season. Houston and Walters averaged 7 rebounds apiece for the year

3. Newport (22-8) Pre-season rank #4: The Wildcats are the #1 seed in the 36th District this year. The All A Regional Champs will look to improve on their already impressive resume. Taj Harding brought home the honor of being a finalist for Mr. Basketball.

4. Highlands (19-10) Pre-season rank #10: The Bluebirds have earned their way to the top 4 with a victory over Beechwood. Highlands will have to defeat New Cath for a chance to perform in the regional tournament. Ben Sisson has proven himself as a top player in the region and averaged 10 rebounds a game.

5. Beechwood (25-5) Pre-season rank #5: The Tigers are the #1 seed in their district and set a record for the most wins in a season in school history. I have never believed that a loss could ever be a good thing, but it is possible that the loss to Highlands will put a fire in the “eye of the tigers” that will push them to a post-season run.

6. Conner (15-11) Pre-season rank #6: Despite all the highs and a few lows, the Cougars end up in the same spot they were in, in the regional preview. Conner does have an impressive victory over Scott recently and defeated Beechwood a few weeks ago. I still recall sitting in the stands and watching them lose to Newport when they were winning by 4 points with 5 seconds left. This Conner team could make some noise over the next 14 days. Jalen Scott and Brenden Ginn both averaged 14.6 points per game on the year.

7. St. Henry (13-12) Pre-season rank #8: The Crusaders beat Newport last week and also avenged an earlier loss to Holy Cross. St. Henry is the #1 seed in the 34th District and are favored to win the district championship. Their season looked very average early on when they were 3-8 but Coach Faust has them playing well at the right time.

8. Lloyd Memorial (16-9) Pre-season rank #14: Lloyd beat Trimble County to end their 5-game skid. They played pretty well against Beechwood on Wednesday and needed to have some good vibes before their district tournament match-up against Dixie Heights. The Juggs’ leading scorers this year were Treshawn Cody and Tyler Szabo.

9. Holy Cross (9-18) Pre-season rank #9: The Indians ride a 4-game losing streak into the district tournament. This team has shown the ability to play with some of the better teams in the region. They are scheduled to play Beechwood 1st round of the 35th district tournament and the Tigers need to take the game seriously or the Indians could make it a close one. I said in the regional preview that Pete Knochelman would have to average double digit rebounds in order for Holy Cross to have a good year, he came quite close with 9.1

10. Dixie Heights (10-18) Pre-season rank #3: Talk about a letdown!! The Colonels were ranked 3rd in the region and heavily favored for at least a #2 seed in the 34th district tournament. Dixie was only able to win back-to-back games on two occasions this year and all ten of their wins come against teams with losing records. They could still beat Lloyd in the district tournament and make a trip to NKU though.

11. Newport Central Catholic (9-16) Pre-season rank #11 Newport Catholic at one time cracked the top 8 in the rankings but since January 16th they have lost 10 games in a row. They should be able to put up a fight against Highlands and with the game being at NCC, who knows what could happen. I really like Evan Mullikin this year as he sported 19.9 ppg.

12. Holmes (8-20) Pre-season rank #12: Holmes started the year with a 1-point loss to Gallatin County, a team that would later defeat Simon Kenton, then won three games in a row. Coach Carr’s team seemed to be clicking but could not sustain any success. The Dawgs played a little better in late January but some injuries have held them back.

13. Ryle (6-20) Pre-season rank #7: Ryle plays Conner in the 33rd district this week. The Raiders can make this a game if they can defend well.
14. Boone County (6-22) Pre-season rank #13: The Rebels play Heritage in the opening round of the 33rd district tournament.

15. Ludlow (14-15) Pre-season rank #17: The Panthers are on a losing streak as they head to the opening round in the district tournament against Villa Madonna. Ian Vallandingham did win Division III honors this year.

16. Villa Madonna (11-18) Pre-season rank #15: I thought the Vikings were going to be a bit more competitive this year. Villa was only able to beat other small schools and really did not put up much of a fight against any big schools this year.

17. Dayton (8-20) Pre-season rank #18: The Devils will play Bellevue in the 36th district opener. Dayton had a rough stretch for a longtime, but they have shown some life in the last two weeks.

18. Bellevue (9-19) Pre-season rank 16: The Tigers play Dayton in the district tournament this week. Tommy Ratterman has had a good year.

19. Heritage Academy (2-21): Heritage will participate in the district tournament this year. I am proud to see them fight.

20. Covington Latin (1-18) Latin’s season is done. I wish they would at least show up to the district tournament.

District Preview

The two weeks of district and regional tournament play are the two best weeks of the school year. I am predicting two upsets in the district tournament semi-finals but will take the coward’s way out and say that 1 of the 2 will take actually take place.

33rd District: The 33rd District is being played at Cooper this year and the action kicks off on Monday when Heritage plays Boone County. On Tuesday Conner will play Ryle at 7:45. This battle on Tuesday night represents my first prognostication, I think Ryle can beat Conner for their first significant win of the year. Remember, I said that 1 of the 2 will happen so if Conner wins and my other upset takes place, then I am still considered a basketball prophet.

Predicted District Champion: Cooper

34th District: The 34th District is being played at the home of #1 Seed St. Henry. Ludlow and Villa play Monday night for the honor of playing St. Henry on Wednesday. I will be in attendance tonight and if no one else is sending updates, then I will assume the responsibility. Dixie Heights and Lloyd Memorial play each other Wednesday Night at 7:45. Dixie Heights is the subject of my 2nd upset prediction. I predict they will knock off the Juggernauts; however, only one of my upset bids needs to come to fruition in order for me to be considered the Grand Duke of the 9th Region.

Predicted District Champion: St. Henry

35th District: The 35th District is being played at Holmes High School and I have heard that this is going to be the new norm. My beloved Beechwood Tigers should beat Holy Cross, but I am a little concerned because Coach Grammar’s team has come close to beating superior competition a few times this year. The Tigers need to be ready to roll. Covington Catholic should beat Holmes setting up a championship game against Beechwood. The Colonels will be angry and want to prove a point in this match-up. I am going to give Beechwood the edge in the championship, but if Cov-Cath wins I would not consider it an upset.

Predicted District Champion: Beechwood

36th District: The 36th District will be held at Newport Central Catholic with Newport High School holding the #1 seed. The Birds meet the Breds (alliteration) in the semi-finals on Tuesday. I am torn on this district. Do I go with the red-hot Bluebirds or the Thoroughbreds that haven’t won a game in a month yet have been in a plethora (3 Amigos) of close games? I’ll give the edge to the Bluebirds, but I predict that whoever wins this game will beat Newport in the finals.

Predicted District Champion: Highlands (unless they lose to Newport Catholic then it would be Newport Catholic).

Ten Players to watch this Post-Season in no particular order:

Ty Houston of Cooper: I predict a double-double for this young man in both of his district tournament games. The only caveat to that is if he is pulled early from the semi-final game in the spirit of sportsmanship.

TJ Deere of Cooper: Deere is the leading scorer for the Jags this year and went unmentioned in my regional preview. I owe him an apology.

Grant Disken of Covington Catholic: Grant is averaging 14 points a game along with 40% 3-point from the line. He also appears to be their best free throw shooter.

Michael Mayer of Covington Catholic: Remember this is not a “top ten” players in the 9th region. This is just a list of players that can make an impact in the post-season. Based on reports of others and posted stats, Mayer has helped Covington Catholic kick it up to a new level. In his four games he is averaging more rebounds than any other Colonel and his muscle should be a factor on the defensive side of the floor.

Scotty Draud of Beechwood: People have questioned his ability to put up big numbers against quality competition but Draud did score 16 points against Covington Catholic, 27 points against Lloyd, and 17 against Highlands. Scotty Draud should be able to lead the Tigers to a regional birth.

Aidan Bieger of Beechwood: There have been times this year when Aidan Bieger has come to the rescue. When the Tigers’ other offensive options have been shut down Bieger, on multiple occasions, has hit a 3-pointer or a running floater in order to calm the offense down. If Beechwood wins the 35th District Championship, Aidan will need to have a solid game. He will need to stay out of foul trouble though.

Taj Harding of Newport: Taj is strong and has some surprisingly quick feet. I have been a little rough on this young man this year, but he is a solid player. I would say that he would be a starting post player on any team in the 9th Region.

Ben Sisson of Highlands: Ben has turned some heads this year. In the beginning he had potential and now he is a top player in the region. If the Birds can get by the Breds, then Sisson will have some fun at NKU this year.

Wyatt Vieth of St. Henry: Wyatt Averaged 21 points a game and shoot free throws at a clip of 78%. He seems to be a player that other members of the Cru look up to and feed off of.

Jude Bessler of St. Henry: I haven’t spoken much about Jude this year, but he does have a 50%-FG% and an 86%-FT%. Bessler also averaged 7 rebounds a game. During tournament time, Free Throws and rebounds determine who wins and who goes home.

Honorable Mentions for the 18/19 season: Players I haven’t mentioned in this article.

Jabari Karim of Dixie Heights

Arien Gentry of Dixie Heights

Zaire Monroe of Lloyd Memorial

Treshawn Cody of Lloyd Memorial

Parker Kyle of Boone County

Parker Fields of Boone County

Vince Rankin of Ryle

Mitchell Shilling of Beechwood

Ryan Leigh of Highlands

Donnie Miller of Newport