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Western Kentucky teams surprised many people in the sweet sixteen last year. One of those surprise teams came from Region 1 as Calloway County pulled a huge upset against Knott County Central that many had pegged as a final four team. It was a “welcome to Region 1” basketball. This year there are a couple teams that truly believe they can go even further in the sweet sixteen and there will be some great competition within region 1 this year. This year is shaping up to be one of the more competitive years in Region 1 with two teams as clear front runners, 2 more are legitimate contenders, and a handful that could pull some upsets and change everything. Teams 5-9 could all be ranked in any one of the spots because there are a lot of question marks for each team.
While the discussion here will change and morph over the year, here are our Region 1 rankings for the both the teams and the top players.

1. Paducah Tilghman (21-7)
The Blue Tornado’s ended last season in a close game to Murray in the first game of the region 1 tournament. They were young but had some nice wins against Christian County, Carlisle, and Graves. They couldn’t quite get past Murray. That will change this year. The team has had a year to mature and has vastly improved over summer. Seniors Devon Hart, Sayveon McEwen, and Brannon Warfield will lead the team and much improved sophomore Jerome Reed will be a huge contributor. The Tornado’s biggest weakness will be down low. They do not have much height other than Reed. Tilghman has everyone who contributed returning and with the improvements they have made this summer, they will be an extremely tough out in Region 1.

2. Murray (23-10)
Murray made it to the Region 1 finals where they lost to Calloway County for the 3rd time. This year they should find themselves in the Region 1 finals again. This team has been playing together for quite some time, and this will be the best chance they have of making it to the Sweet Sixteen. They are led by 6’5” senior James Boone who has committed to play at Samford. Coach Flener has expressed how important his leadership both on and off the court will have this year. Two other seniors will contribute, Duane Curtis and Ethan Clark. They will look to Tre Hornbuckle to crash the boards and Preston English to spread the defense from 3 point range. The Tigers play Tilghman the 5th game of the season. This will tell us a lot about both teams. They also play Taylor County on Feb 6, this will allow them to measure themselves against one of the states top teams.

3. Carlisle (20-9)
The Comets are put in this position because they are returning their top 4 contributors from last year. They were an up and down team last year, but they really struggled against top competition. They have worked hard to change that this year and believe they can be a region 1 contender. Carlisle will be the tallest team in the region with 5 contributing players over 6’4”. Senior Ethan Weatherspoon (16 ppg) will lead the comets along with Paxton Crider (Sr,14 ppg). Noah Norsworthy, Jordan Kellett, and Austin Bailey will also have significant minutes. The season may come down to how much improved is 6’7” Codie Bailey. He came on strong at the end of last year. He could be the game changer defensively, and if he can contribute offensively, Carlisle is going to be a tough out.

4. Graves (19-12)
The Eagles boast the biggest player in West Kentucky in 6’11” Chris Vogt (Jr, 11.8 ppg). He blocked a school record 139 shots last year and has worked hard to improve his game. Coach Frick looks for Vogt to be a dominating force down low on both ends of the court. Graves lost their two top scorers last year so they will be looking to Christian Gough (6’5” Sr, 7.1 ppg) to help pick up that loss. Coach Frick expressed how great an offseason Gough had and expects great things from him this year. Graves will rely on Hunter Grant (Sr, 4.7 ppg) to run the point, and if he can keep the ball under control, then Graves will be a formidable foe. Graves also has their toughest schedule in years, and probably the toughest in Region 1. They will play Bowling Green, Hopkinsville, Bullit East, and 2 Holiday Tournaments. This may be the preparation they need to contend in the Region 1 tourny.

5. Marshall County (13-16)
The Marshals lost their top two scorers but return two major contributors in DJ Pigg (Sr, 10.4 ppg) and Dawson Jolley (Jr, 8.2 ppg). Both of these young men will need to step up in a big way and I think they will. They have made some great improvements over the summer and have some decent role players around them that should have them over .500 this year and maybe an upset or two throughout the year. They should reach the region tournament given how much Calloway lost this past year.

6. Ballard Memorial (17-13)

This Bomber team will be lead by senior Keagan Cooper (13.6 ppg) who has shown he can score from anywhere on the floor. While the Bombers did lose 3 of their top 4 contributors from last year, coach Cooper looks to Zach Parsons (Sr, 6.7 ppg) and Tyler Wray (Sr, 4.8 ppg) to step up and fill those gaps. The lack of experience is the biggest concern for coach Cooper.

7. McCracken County (15-14)
The Mustangs lost their entire starting 5 from last year and really only return one contributor Tyce Daniels (Jr. 4.2 ppg). There is a lot of unknown about this team because of the lack of experience. Guys who played limited minutes last year will have to step up. Coach Brower expressed they will be strong defensively and they have quite a few shooters. Their weakness will be down low where 6’4” Daniels will be their big man. In a region where there are some good big men, McCracken will find themselves struggling in the paint.

8. Fulton County (12-17)

The Pilots are expected to be better this year because they are returning all but one starter. However that one starter, Roberson, was their leading scorer. They will be looking for Davis Major (Jr, 10.9 ppg) to fill his place and step up to lead this team. Andreous Smith (So, 8.0 ppg) will also be expected to step up and perform at a higher level. Put those two along with 3 contributing seniors from last year, and Fulton County should put together a .500+ season and maybe even pull an upset somewhere along the way.

9. Calloway County (30-4)
Calloway had a memorable season last year exceeding the expectations of many and shocking KCC at Rupp Arena before falling in a close game to eventual finalist Bowling Green. The Lakers however were hurt more than any other team in the region because of graduation. They lost every single contributing member to the offense. Coach Birdsong admits that this year will be a rebuilding year and expects his players to gain some great experience and be ready to challenge for the region again the next few years.

10. St. Mary (14-16)
The Vikings are in the opposite situation as Fulton County. They lost all of their starting lineup except one of their best players. Austin Hubert (Sr, 12.4 ppg) will have a whole new lineup to support him while he leads St. Mary’s this year. He is a very good player who can shoot well and play inside when needed. There are way too many questions about the supporting cast here to know what their ceiling will be this year. Expectations will be about the same as last year and the hope is they can rebuild and quickly gain some much needed experience.

11. Hickman County (7-21)

Lost their top two scores, but have some talent in Alec Spillman (Sr, 9.6 ppg), Ethan Carter (Sr, 8.9 ppg), and Zeke Prince (Sr, 8.8 ppg). Hickman has a chance to move up in the rankings if these guys can improve and get some quality minutes from other support players.

12. Mayfield (10-14)
Another team that lost their top two scorers and will rely on underclassmen starters from last year to step up and lead. Cardinals will need Trajon Bright (Jr, 7.4 ppg) and Anton Lumson (Jr, 6.3) to take the role of leaders in order for Mayfield to make any noise in the region this year.

13. Fulton City (8-19)
Fulton lost basically all their scoring from last season so the outlook for this team will have to be to try and develop some talent with what they have. Coach Dreher is hoping to install an up tempo offense, but with only 8 guys currently on their roster for the upcoming season, they may struggle to win as many games as they did a year ago.

14. Community Christian (1-27)
Hard to compete when you have a very limited amount of athletes in the school to choose from. Expect much of the same from CCA

Top Players

1. James Boone, Murray (6’5” Guard)
A playmaking guard who has already committed to Samford University. He is quick enough and has enough size to match up defensively with most other players. He makes other teams have to prepare for him and he still will fill up the stat sheet. He possesses great leadership skills both on and off the court and will be a big reason Murray may reach the Sweet 16 this year. Front runner for the region POY.

2. Chris Vogt, Graves County (6’11” Center)

Vogt will look to break his own shot blocking record this year (139) while increasing his offensive prowness down low. With his height and talent, Vogt could average close to 20 points a game and a double/double for the year. He is a talent the region 1 does not see very often, and its exciting to watch him improve and develop. Typical big man who doesn’t need to handle the ball. Just get him the ball in the post and let him do his thing. He has worked hard at improving his play in the post this year. He already has a number of offers from D1 schools and as a junior will get even more if he continues to improve.

3. Devon Hart, PT (6’2” Guard)
Hart led the Blue Tornado’s last year in scoring as a junior. He will try to follow that up and improve upon those numbers this year. He scores a lot off the drive and handles the ball well especially close to the basket. Doesn’t shoot well from the outside, but he has good ball handling ability and sees the floor well. Tilghman will look to him for leadership this year as they have some great young talent who will need someone to look up to.

4. Ethan Weatherspoon, Carlisle (6’0” guard)
Scored his 1,000 point as a junior last year during district tournament. He is an underrated player who is extremely quick and drives well to the basket. He isn’t a great outside shooter so he uses his athletic ability to get to the basket and does a great job of finishing once there. If he doesn’t finish he usually ends up at the line (shot 204 FT last year). Needs to improve at the line (76%) and it would help to develop more of an outside threat. Rebounds the ball nicely for his size (5.6 rpg). Maybe asked to run point some this year, which he has not in previous seasons.

5. Sayv McEwen, PT (5’10” Guard)
McEwen is a decent shooter, likes to shoot from beyond the arc. Almost 1/3 of his shots come from there but he only hits about 33% of his shots. Has worked on improving his outside shooting and may move up this list if he can get that number up to 40% or more. Good free throw shooter, needs to drive to the basket to dish or get to the free throw line more. He is quick and scores a lot off the break because he fills the lanes well.

6. Jerome Reed, PT (6’6” Forward/Center)
Maybe the most talented player on Paducah Tilghman’s team, but he hasn’t developed much of that talent yet. Reed had a tremendous summer and looks to back that up in Region 1 play this year. When he is on, he seems unstoppable, but he still makes a lot of mistakes that will improve as he matures and gets experience. He will dominate smaller teams and will probably struggle against bigger ones. Exciting to watch and probably a future D1 player.

7. Preston English, Murray (6’3” Guard)

English is a great outside threat for the Tigers. He can spot up the 3 three or drive to the basket to score. He is an above average rebounder, especially for his size. He handles the ball well, sees the floor, and makes smart, crisp passes. The Tigers will rely on English to make big shots especially with teams focusing on Boone.

8. Keagen Cooper, Ballard Memorial (6’3” Guard)

Cooper may be the best overall shooting in region 1. He shot 44% from 3 point range last year on his way to averaging 13.6 ppg. He handles the ball well and has good versatility in scoring. He can get to the basket well, but needs to work on finishing once he is there. He shoots the ball quickly and effectively from both midrange and beyond the arc. If he continues to improve he could really open some eyes this season.

9. Paxton Crider, Carlisle (6’4” Guard)

Crider has a nice outside shot which opens the floor for him to drive to the basket. He shot almost 40% from 3 point range last year and hopes to improve on the percentage some this year. He averaged 14 ppg last year and has the size to go inside, especially against smaller opponents. He has really worked on his inside game this summer and hopes to continue to improve that aspect of his game.

10. Duane Curtis, Murray (6’0” Guard)

Curtis is the engine for the Murray Tigers. He is the unspoken leader of the team and he will be counted on to run the show. He is an excellent ball handler with a good ability to see the floor and make decisions based on what he sees. He doesn’t turn the ball over often and he can score when he is needed. He is a great defender, tough to drive on and very good at keeping his feet under him.

Honorable Mention:
Austin Hubert, St. Mary
Rodriquez Thomas, Paducah Tilghman
Christian Gough, Graves County
Noah Norsworthy, Carlisle County
DJ Pigg, Marshall County