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While the 3rd region is the home of the reigning state champions, the 2015/16 season is going to look much different. The region lost some heavy hitters over the summer. Some to graduation, others to prep school. Gone are reigning Sweet 16 MVP Justin Miller(22FT Academy), Aric Holman(Miss St), Mr Basketball candidate Eli Wright(22FT Academy) & top 2017 recruit Trace Young(Huntington Prep). While all of the departures will hurt the overall talent of the region, it should increase the competition level. The region may have lost talent on the floor, but it gained some on the sidelines. Three different coaches from the 3rd region have won state titles(Drake, Riley & Stovall). On paper, the 3rd is WIDE open. There are as many as 9-10-11 teams that could make a run at Rupp, so take these preseason rankings with a grain of salt….

15. Clover port Aces (8-15) – The Aces are coming off one of their better seasons in recent history, but they graduated an all-region player in Nick Smith(22ppg). New head coach Jeff LaGrange will have to find a way to replace 7 seniors.

14. Butler County Bears (8-19) – The Bears are coming off a tough 14/15 campaign and will need to find a way to replace the scoring of Zach Burden(22ppg), who they lost to graduation. Butler returns football star Rex Henderson who put up 12ppg a year ago.

13. Grayson County Cougars (18-11) – Head coach Kelly Carwile did a great job in his 1st year, leading the Cougars to the 12th district championship. In his 2nd year, he will have to replace top scorers Talon Gary and Alex Shellhart. Tanner Tyra(6ppg) & Cole Ackridge(9ppg) bring some game experience back for the Cougars.

12. Edmonson County Wildcats (17-13) – The Wildcats return 2 of their top 3 scorers in Hunter Buttram(13ppg) & Austin Sowders (12ppg). Edmonson is a scrappy bunch that could surprise some people this season.

11. Ohio County Eagles (6-22) – The Hartford Eagles are looking to take things in a different direction after a rocky 14/15 season. The Eagles saw superstars Trace Young and Conner Wilson leave the program last year. Former coach Matt Briggance stepped away, allowing the Eagles to bring 3rd region legend, Steve Sparks into the fold. Wilson has returned to the team under Sparks. The veteran coach will be looking to whip these Eagles into shape using athletes from other sports, Blane Gillim(baseball) & Heath Simmons(football).

10. Hancock County Hornets (16-12) – Coach Darren Lynam had a very successful first year in Hawesville, considering the players the Hornets had to replace. Lynam now looks to build on that success as he returns top scoring point guard Ty Ogle(13ppg). Hancock has some very solid role players in Garrett Pate(10ppg) and Brendan Lewis. The Hornets will have to fight for a regional tournament birth among a very talented 11th district field.

9. Whitesville Trinity Raiders (10-19) – Excitement is running high in Whitesville ahead of this basketball season. In talking to some people around the program, they this has the potential to be the best Raider team in quite some time. Trinity returns nearly everyone from a team that got much better under coach Kirpatrick as last season went along. The Raiders have one of the best three point shooters in western Kentucky in Daniel Morris(15ppg). Dakota Wathen(10ppg) & Allen Howe will provide the inside out game for Trinity. Whitesville also has one of the best home court advantages in all of the 3rd region…the Barn, where they will get to host Apollo, Butler Co, Ohio Co and Owensboro Catholic this season.

8. Apollo Eagles (18-13) – There aren’t many teams in the state of Kentucky who lost more this offseason than the Apollo Eagles. 3 months ago the Eagles looked to be a preseason #1 in the state. Since that time the Eagles lost Mr Basketball candidates in 2016 & 2017 in Eli Wright and Trace Young to prep school. Returning point guard Ben Moss followed suit and left as well. 2nd year coach Steve Barker is now left picking up the pieces to what looked to be one of the most talented teams in school history. The Eagles return wingman Zach Hopewell & sophomore sharpshooter Hayden Shelton. Also returning to the Eagles this season is shooting guard Lex Smith. While Apollo will still field a capable team, they will have to find their way through a very difficult schedule.

7.Muhlenberg County Mustangs (16-14) – The Mustangs replaced coach Tony Hopper with former state championship coach Kerry Stovall this offseason, after Hopper left the school to head to South Warren High. That’s like going from the penthouse to another penthouse. The Mustangs graduated all region star Hunter Noffsinger but will return a solid cast of players. Noah McElwain(13ppg) is one of the best pure shooters in the region and Kobe Drake is a very good athlete that can hurt you inside and out. The Stangs will have to meddle through a very solid 10th district if they want to earn a birth in the regional tournament.

6. Owensboro Catholic Aces (12-15) – After 1st year coach Neil Hayden left the program for cross town rival Daviess County, the Aces went out, swung for the fences and landed former state championship coach Tim Riley. The Aces are hopeful to get a full and healthy season out of point guard Cameron Obryan. He missed most of the season a year ago. When healthy, he is one of the best players in the region. Pair him with sharp shooting, do it all athlete, Ray Zuberer III(RZ3) and big man Luke Payne and the Aces have some very solid talent returning. The Aces fielded one of the best freshmen teams in the region a year ago, so look for Riley to develop that talent into solid depth as the season goes along.

5. Daviess County Panthers (18-8) – While the Panthers will have to find a way to replace Marshall Griffith's 21ppg, they do return 3rd region player of the year candidate, Stewart Currie. Currie is a big 6’7 athletic forward who can get to the hole or pull up and shoot over anyone. New coach Neil Hayden comes on to replace Pat Hume who left DC at the end of the season. Hayden will need to put capable players around Currie to have success. Guys like Sam Wilkerson and Tyler Boling will fill bigger roles for the Panthers this season. Hayden has also got out and recruited the help of star baseball player Andrew Hayden to give the Panthers some size in the paint.

4. Mclean County Cougars (10-16) – Some may think this is to high for the defending 10th district champion Cougars, but Greg Stevens returns a solid core of players to an improving program. Leading scorer Will Hudson(16ppg) can fill up the basket, while big man Jake Logsdon(12ppg) will be the regions best post player. With most of the regions capable big men lost to graduation, Logsdon becomes a mismatch vs almost any team in the region. Combine that inside out ability with a dynamic point guard in Sam Miller(10ppg) and the Cougars return what looks to be their best team in school history.

3. Owensboro Red Devils (31-4) – The Red Devils are coming off a phenomenal state championship run. OHS graduated almost everyone who contributed to bring that title back to Owensboro. Gone are Sweet 16 MVP Justin Miller, Mississippi State signee Aric Holman & sharpshooting Darrion Morrow. Most programs would be going back to the drawing board, but Devils will just re-load. Point guard Jacoby Harris(8 ppg) had a monster sweet 16 performance. He will go from role player to leader as the only returning starter. Underclassmen Ishawn Murphy and Deonte Douglas will be stepping into starting roles. Rashai Wimsatt and Darius Brown will be the lone seniors returning for the state champs. Coach Rod Drake knows how to mold a winner. Look for the Devils to improve as the season goes along.

2. Breckenridge County Tigers (18-10) – Patrick Critchelow will look to try to repeat the feat Rod Drake pulled off last season….winning a state title as a coach and a player. Minus leading scorer Ben Miller, the Tigers return nearly all major contributors to the 11th district championship team from a year ago. Breck will be led by guard, Cody Mingus(14 ppg). Mingus can score from anywhere on the floor. Crichelow’s Tigers will also have the services of versatile big man Tyler Haycraft(8 ppg), who can beat you inside and out. The Tigers have all of the goods to make a run to Rupp arena in 2016.

1. Meade County Greenware (17-11) - The Wave return all 3 of their top scorers from last season’s regional runner up squad. The Waves upset a very talented Apollo team in the semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Owensboro. Meade are led by gritty senior forwards Kase Mattingly & Josh Durbin(12ppg each). Junior guard Calvin Hackert(11 ppg) is a deadly three point shooter, as Apollo found out last season. The core of players the Waves return are as tough as anyone in the region. Not only can the Waves score points in bundles but they may be the best defensive team in the region. Between Breck and Meade, the 11th district should feature a lot of fun matchups.

10. Kase Mattingly – Meade Co – Mattingly is as gritty as they come. He plays the game so physical he wears a mouthpiece. He can knock down threes with the best of them.

9. Ty Ogle – Hancock – Leader of the Hornets, Ogle is as tough as a point guard as you will find in the region. He can score the basketball or distribute to teammates.

8. Daniel Morris – Whitesville Trinity – Morris, a 3 point marksman, set a school record a year ago with ten three balls in a single game. Give him any daylight beyond the arc and he will make you pay.

7. Zach Hopewell – Apollo – Zach was overshadowed by big names at Apollo last year, but if you were watching closely, he stood out in big moments. Now the leader of the Eagles, look for him to have a breakout season.

6. Cody Mingus – Breck – When you think Cody Mingus, you think scorer. He can create off the dribble and is one of the top shooters in the region.

5. Cam Obryan – Catholic – Before getting injured a year ago, many thought of Obryan as the best point guard in the district. I look for him to thrive under Riley.

4. Jacoby Harris – Owensboro – No one grew as much last season as Harris. He went from being a fringe role player early in the season to a leader on the floor at Rupp Arena. This is his team now.

3. Will Hudson – Mclean – Look for Hudson to be near or at the top of the region in scoring. With a great supporting cast, Hudson should get a ton of good looks.

2. Conner Wilson – Ohio Co – Probably the most heavily recruited player in the region, Wilson returns to Ohio County after leaving the program a year ago. Wilson will be the leader for new coach Sparks.

1. Stewart Currie – Daviess County – Stewart went from a baseball player who played basketball to one of the best basketball players in western KY. The Louisville commit for baseball can get a shot vs almost anyone at 6’7.