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When giving a pre-view of the 8th region, keep in mind it is a pre-season glimpse of teams now, all can change from week to week, trying to be informative as I can for fans across the Bluegrass state. Last season saw the Collins Titans capture their first ever regional title in the history of their school. The Grant Count Braves captured their 2nd straight district title, and the Oldham County Colonels made it 5 district championships in a row. Stacy May was hired as the new head coach of the Trimble County Raiders, and was the only new coach at an 8th region school. The 8th region has a lot of tradition and a long history of great coaches. The regional tourney is held at Henry County’s Roy Winchester Gymnasium and it has an awesome tournament atmosphere. The last 2 seasons, the regional favorite has not won the regional tournament. Could we be in for a sleeper to make it to Rupp Arena?

8th REGION TEAM RANKINGS

1. OWEN COUNTY REBELS 26-6
Coach Devin Duvall played at Owen County, he loves the community and school that he grew up in and nothing would make him happier than cutting the nets down in Roy Winchester Gymnasium. Owen County has a chance to not only represent the 8th region in Rupp but a heavy favorite in the All A as well. They are led by a Mr. Basketball candidate in Carson Williams. Carson can do it all, but his most impressive attribute in my opinion is blue collar work ethic. The kid plays with such passion that it rubs off on his teammates, and not to mention a great student. NKU is happy he is staying close to home. He will have some help in Michael Dunaway who transferred into Owen this season, an all region player last year for the Raiders give the Rebels a formidable 1-2 punch down low. The key is going to be Owen’s guard play, and trust me it has improved, Toftness and McDonald could sneak into my all region team by seasons end. They are playing in the KOB which will help them tremendously by end of the year. Owen has all the tools to make it happen, we shall see come March.

2. OLDHAM COUNTY COLONELS 27-5
Coy Zerhusen is entering his 3rd year at the helm and has done an outstanding job carrying on the winning ways. Coming up short last year in the regional final has fired up the Colonels entering this season. The Colonels are led by (4) seniors, Jacob Bates, Griffin McLarty, Clayton Wirth, and Brandon Johnson, they look for junior Ishmael Jones to step up and a trio of sophomores to play a lot of minutes. It will not be easy replacing the POY in Hayden Hawes but the Colonels are up to the challenge. Look for them to play fast, pressure people into mistakes, and grow as the year goes on. A tough and challenging schedule will do nothing but improve the Colonels and push them toward a 6th straight District Championship.

3. SIMON KENTON PIONEERS 15-14
This Pioneer team is led by Head Coach Trent Steiner, who does a tremendous job of preparing his kids, they will be physical and play great court defense which means they will be dangerous for a deep regional run. If I am not mistaken the Pioneers have been in the regional tourney ever since they were moved to the 8th region but have yet to cut the nets down, this team in my opinion could do just that and represent the 8th at Rupp. They are one of the teams big enough and tough enough to match up with Owen, the question remains if they can make shots in the Henry County gym in March. They have been so close in the past could this be the year for the Pioneers. They will have some talent leading them in newcomer Hawkins, who did not play last year so be ready coaches the kid can play. Fries is a double-double machine, and in my top 10 list of players. Also they have sharp shooting Sammons back along with a lot of size in Cottrell, Racke, Williams and Kelch. With the court defense of Coach Steiner and their size Simon will be a hard out by season’s end. Can they get enough guard play to put them over the top? Last season was uncharacteristic in the fact they committed lots of silly turnovers, teams can not win the region if they don’t have quality possessions.

4. SHELBY COUNTY ROCKETS 21-9
Led by Coach Jason Couch the Rockets have the best PG in the region in Malik Manica, with a lot players back from a regional team last season. Coach Couch has rebuilt the program and is moving it forward with a lot of younger and talented kids. He has done one of the better jobs in the region at that. If the Rockets are to win it, they need production from Jordan Armstrong, who has a chance to sneak into my all region team come end of the year. John Hatter a senior sharp shooter and Michael Ewing are seniors that will have an impact. The junior class has some younger kids that will get a lot of time and could make the difference at the end of the season, Josh Edward, Tyler Drane, Jordan Hunter, Walker McDonald coming off an injury and a sophomore in Stone gives them a lot of depth. Yes they lost Gordon to a prep school in Chicago but that doesn’t change my opinion of their team, this a deep team with good guard play and will be dangerous. Football looks to make a deep run so that will impact them early on but they’ll have them in February.

5. SOUTH OLDHAM DRAGONS 11-17
One of the ambassadors of the region in coach Steve Simpson looks to bounce the Dragon’s back to regional contention this season. The Dragons won back to back regional titles the previous 2 seasons, and had a lot of talented young players last year that grew as the year progressed. After a good spring and summer look for the Dragon’s to be improved and in contention by seasons end. They return a lot players that got a lot of time last year, seniors Grant Williams, Dylan Snook, Isaac Fields, Jacob Bray, Trenton Bouvet all played a lot last year, but it could be the (2) juniors Cooper Cantrill, and Jo Griffin that make the difference. The Dragons have some sophomores that can sneak into the mix as the season goes on, so depth is on their side. The fast paced, three point shooting Dragons should be back in the mix.

6. ANDERSON COUNTY BEARCATS 16-10
Another year where the people in Lawrenceburg are treated to one of the best coaches to walk the sideline in Coach Glen Drury. When a court has your name on in it, you’ve done basketball the right way. The Bearcats host the district, and that is a big advantage come tourney time, they don’t lose a lot at home, so you better avoid them first game of the district. They lost a stud player for sure, almost 700 points, but return some players that will be very good and got a lot of experience last season. Not making the region last season has fueled the Bearcats to get back to the Roy Winchester Gymnasium. If it happens they will be led by a lot of different players, Penny and Russell, yes you heard right last names of guys who got it done before, Gillis, Harper, Mitchell, lots of young players that grew last year and will this year making them dangerous by the end of the year as always.

7. GRANT COUNTY BRAVES 16-15
Coach Brandon Grammer is entering his 3rd year at Grant County and all he has done is won the 32nd district the previous 2 seasons, so it would not shock me to see them do it again, even though they lost a lot of seniors they impressed me over the summer. The Braves made it to the semi-finals of the region last season, and hope to take another step and reach the final. They will be led by Rose, Adkins, Johnson and Saylor, all played significant minutes last season the Braves get after you on defense and their team will be fast at every position. They shoot the ball well and push the tempo, most teams do not like that style in the 8th. They are used to winning the district and being at the tournament so don’t be shocked if they find a way again.

8. MARTHA LANE COLLINS TITANS 26-9
The Titans are led by Head Coach Chris Gaither who had the breakthrough season he had always wanted for his Titans, as they represented the 8th region at Rupp Arena, played state champion Owensboro first round and got a lot of great experience for their younger players and coaches. Winning the region still puts a bull’s eye on your back, and I would not count the Titans out come end of the season. Losing a lot of seniors and the team leader in Kidwell is a lot to overcome, if this team can handle the ball and run Gaither’s offense they will be competing for back to back titles at the end. They will be led by a talented, athletic senior in Grant Clarkson, was a role player that made big plays for them last year. He will be called on to be more of a scorer this year and leader for the Titans. Jackson Test averaged right at double figures. Test can create off the dribble and can be more of a scorer for the Titans. They have a lot of younger kids that people in the region will know by the end of the year.

9. NORTH OLDHAM MUSTANGS 16-16
Coach Rob Burton is entering his second year as the head man in Goshen, but has been involved with the program for the last 5-6 years, the Mustangs graduated a lot of seniors but have some talented younger players that are making headway, which could make them one of the surprises during the season. They will be led by junior Jalen Henry, and have lots of younger players to be in the mix, the junior class was really good as middle schoolers and have played together for quite some time.

10. HENRY COUNTY WILDCATS 12-18
Coach Welch and company want the right to play in their gym come March, and with the team he has coming back I think he and the Wildcats will be there. They are led by Gavin Jameson, who is on my player to watch list. Gavin does a lot of things well for the Wildcats and one of the region’s best all around players. Losing PG Anesko will hurt but they will look to Gray to lead them at the guard position. The Wildcats return a lot of pieces, in Wills, Heightchew, Johnson, and Tuggle. The Wildcats may boast the second biggest line up in the region behind Owen County, that should make some great match ups this season.

11. WALTON VERONA BEARCATS 14-14
Coach Brannan has worked hard in turning the Bearcats around, they lost several key players a couple years ago via transfer/injury and they are my sleeper team this season at making the regional tournament for the first time under his leadership. I look for them to have a breakout season but for that to happen a host of juniors must lead the way. They lost Evans their leading scorer, but return everyone else, Kinmon, that name should sound familiar, Ron Kinmon’s son who was an outstanding player in the 8th region, Sullivan another Verona name that should be familiar, Townsend, Clinkenbeard, and Brook. 3 of these juniors have dad’s that are coaches or ex-coaches so they have been around basketball their whole life. They had a good summer and look to make the next step in making the regional tourney.

12. GALLATIN COUNTY WILDCATS 9-19
As long as Jon Jones is on the sideline then the Wildcats have a fighting chance. The last couple seasons the injury bug has been unkind to Gallatin County, if they are healthy they will be dangerous to teams come tourney time. Coach Jones gets the most out of his kids than anyone else in the region, having him back for another year makes the 8th region that much better. Losing Beckham to graduation will be a tough blow, but Coach Jones will turn to Koby Carlton, the PG has been hurt the last 2 seasons and I am hoping he stays healthy this season, kid deserves it and can be a player to watch all year. The Wildcats return two of their top scorers in McCubbin, and Shrader, along with Wilson and Steurer. They lack height in a district loaded with it so, be ready for the Wildcats to battle and play their usual fundamental basketball. It would not surprise me to see them at Henry County in March.

13. SPENCER COUNTY BEARS 11-16
This will be Coach Jason Burns third year at the helm, and what a job he is doing with the Bear’s. Coach Burns has breathed life into their program, making this district a very balanced group of teams. They lost a lot to graduation but that will not stop Coach Burns from working to get them into the regional tournament. Lamdin and Mitchell will be back for their senior season and will have some help in Wheeler, Newman, Currie, Derralder, and Hagman. All of these guys got into games last year that will benefit them this year. Their football team is having a memorable season and Coach Burns and the Basketball Bears are hoping to do the same.

14. CARROLL COUNTY PANTHERS 10-16
This year the Panthers will have a new head coach but a familiar face in Coach Brian Crank. Coach Crank inherits almost the entire team back losing just one senior from last season. The Panthers will look to build on last year’s team and will be led by a dual threat back court in Donahue and Hogan, they combined for a (100) made 3’s last year and will have to carry the load again this season. They also return McMahan, and Stewart both familiar names to the Panther program. As I said earlier this district is well balanced, and even though I put them at 4th they can be at Henry County just as easy as the 2-3 in this district. How the Panthers adjust to their new coach will be the key to success as the season moves on.

15. EMINENCE WARRIORS 11-14
Coach Nethery keeps doing a good job with the Warriors, after all he was Coach Jones assistant at Gallatin County. Coach Nethery gets a lot from his kids and will have them competing for a trip to the region. The Warriors made the regional tourney 2 years ago for the first time since the district re-alignments and there is not much distance between them and being in my pre-season #2 in their district. They return Bailey who can score in bunches for the Warriors, he is on my player to watch list. Bailey will not be alone as the Warriors return 2 more of their top leading scorers in Jenkins, McKinley and Wright. The lack of size will hurt this team especially in a district with 2 of the biggest teams, but Coach Nethery will have them up to the challenge.

16. WILLIAMSTOWN DEMONS 6-19
Coach Roger Harden has made this team better each year, and as the season goes on do not expect nothing any different, maybe the youngest team in the region last year, they will do nothing but get better. They will beat some people this year and maybe make this district seeding and tournament a little tricky come end of the year. The lost David Jump who could score at ease against anyone last season, getting used to playing without him will be hard, especially early on. They have a lot returning in Stanly, Jon Jump, Varner and a host of sophomores and freshmen most of which played minutes last season. The band will have the Williamstown faithful hopping and Coach Harden will have them competitive be the end of the season.

17. TRIMBLE COUNTY RAIDERS 16-10
A new coach at the helm for the Raiders but a familiar face in Stacy May. Coach May did a lot of good things for Williamstown when he was there, and understands how to win at a smaller school. The departure of Dunaway to Owen is a big blow, but Coach May is in it for the long haul and building a program that Coach Leep had going in the right direction. Their win over South Oldham last season was a move in the right direction. The Raiders will be led by seniors Rexroat and Blanton, both played significant minutes last season.


8th REGION: PLAYER RANKINGS

1. Carson Williams 6’6 –Owen County- Mr. Basketball if not for Gooden at Taylor Co, he is that good of a player, does everything except drive the bus. POY last season and will be this year.

2. Malik Manica 5’10-Shelby County- Best Point Guard in the region, hampered by injury’s he has turned the corner, needs to score more for the Rockets this season, don’t think anyone can guard him in the region.

3. Jacob Bates 6’4-Oldham County-Very versatile player, can score and rebound against anyone, handles the ball well for a post player,

4. Michael Dunaway 6’5-Owen County- all region player last year, averaged a double-double for the Raiders, learning new role for Rebels will be the key.

5. Austin Fries 6’3-Simon Kenton-averaged 11ppg game last season, can step out and shoot 3, and can put it on the floor.

6. JC Hawkins 6’4-Simon Kenton- a player no one knows about, about 6’3-6’4, can shoot the 3 and drive the ball to the basket, an instant scorer for the Pioneers.

7. Cobe Penny 6’4-Anderson County- a brother to CJ Penny, Cobe has all the tools to follow in his footsteps and make his own. Cobe being more aggressive will push him up my list.

8. Grant Clarkson 6’1-Collins-showed athleticism and then some last season for the Collins, was a huge part in the regional title. Needs to be more assertive to move up my list.

9. Gavin Jameson 6’4-Henry County- A kid that everyone should see play, very under the radar, averages a double-double, could play at the next level.

10. Isaac Fields 6’1-South Oldham- Following the path of a lot of alumni, Isaac can shoot the 3, beat you off the dribble, and makes teammates better.

Honorable Mention List: These guys could be on the top 10 list by season’s end, I am probably leaving off some players,

29th District-Clayton Wirth OC, Brandon Johnson OC, Grant Williams South, Jo Griffin South, Jalen Henry North Oldham
30th District- Jordan Armstrong Shelby, Jackson Test Collins
31st District- Toftness Owen Co, McDonald Owen Co, Bailey Eminence, Wills Henry Co, Carlton Gallatin Co, Donnahue Carroll Co.
32nd District- Saylor Grant Co, Sammons Simon Kenton, Kinmon Walton Verona,


8th REGION CIRCLE THESE DATES

Dec 3rd South Oldham @ Shelby, both could have kids at football late, but still a battle of our pre-season top 5’s
Dec 3rd Carroll @ Trimble always a great game between to ALL A foes and an older district foe
Dec 11th Collins @ Shelby district seeding game in a crosstown rivalry
Dec 11th Simon @ Walton, big game for seeding and a lot of bad blood between them
Dec 15th Owen @ Gallatin, a rivalry that has produced some of the best games in the region the last couple years
Dec 19th Owen @ the KOB, a test to see if Owen belongs
Dec 19-22 BEST IN HOOPS TOURNEY AT OLDHAM loaded with good teams
Jan 5th Oldham @ Scott County, Coach Zerhusen vs. his high school coach in Billy Hicks
Jan 8th Oldham @ South Oldham heated rivalry could be for the #1 seed
Jan 8th Owen @ Henry, a battle of the 2 top teams in their district pres-season, match up Jameson vs. Williams
Jan 8th Anderson @ Shelby, #1 seed on the line possibly
Jan 14th-17th ALL A TOURNEY @ Carroll, can anyone stop the Rebels
Jan 19th Henry @ Eminence, always interesting game and could be big on seeding
Jan 29th Shelby @ Oldham, an old rivalry with what could be a regional final pre-view
Feb 2nd South Oldham @ North Oldham, two teams that do not like each other a lot, big seeding implications
Feb 2nd Simon @ Owen, could be a regional title pre-view, and a big man war
Feb 5th Simon Kenton @ Oldham, two of the top 3 teams in the region in action
Feb 5th Walton @ Grant, possible match up in district tournament later on
Feb 18th Oldham @ Owen on Senior night in Owenton, do either team show their hands for the regional tourney.


8th REGION: 10 PRESSING QUESTIONS

1. Will the favorite Owen County claim it’s first regional title?
2. Can Carson Williams win Mr. Basketball? Something that has not happened in the 8th region in a long time.
3. Can the Oldham County Colonels get back to Rupp Arena after a 2 year lay-off, after being so close.
4. Are the South Oldham Dragons poised at making another regional run?
5. Can Simon Kenton finally get over the hump and make it to Rupp, since joining the 8th region?
6. Are we seeing Jon Jones last season at Gallatin, we sure hope not…
7. Can Glen Drury get the Bearcats of Anderson back into the regional tourney, in a tough district?
8. Is this the year that we see Walton Verona back in the regional tourney?
9. Can Stacy May re-jump start the Trimble County Raiders program?
10. Will the Henry County Wildcats not just host the regional tourney but be an upset minded team.