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Things are going to be interesting in the 13th Region this season with both South Laurel and Clay County leading the way while the deep and talented North Laurel Jaguars not far behind.
The Cardinals haven’t reached the 13th Region Tournament the past two seasons, but return the best starting five in the region. The twin tower combo of Caleb Taylor and Andrew Griffith is going to make South Laurel hard to defend while the Tigers possess two of the best seniors in the region in Blake Smith and Trey Farmer.
The Jaguars are the wildcard in the region. North Laurel will be led by talented junior guard Peyton Broughton, who is being heavily recruited by many Division I schools.You’ve also got to keep an eye on teams such as Corbin, Whitley County, Barbourville, Knox Central and Harlan County, too. Each of those teams are capable of making a run in March.

1. South Laurel Cardinals (15-11) — The Cardinals’ size and strength are going to be tough to match-up with. Could the duo of 6-7 Caleb Taylor sand 6-5 Andrew Griffith be the best in the 13th Region. Taylor was only one of two players in the region to average a double-double last season while Griffith added 13 points and six rebounds for Williamsburg during the Yellow Jackets region title run. With so much size in the paint, and focus on both Taylor and Griffith, look for Jared Grubb to improve on his 19.5 scoring average from last season. Both Ryan Anders and Braden Miller are capable of having big games, too, but the big questions are — can the Cardinals finally get out of the 50th District and advance to region tourney play? And who is going to step up off the bench when needed. Depth is a concern this season.

2. Clay County Tigers (24-7) — The Tigers’ quest for a three-peat fell short in the regional finals this season, but with that said, they’re ready to make one final run with Blake Smith and Trey Farmer. Smith is a match-up problem for any team going against Clay County. He’s silky smooth on offense, averaging 19.6 points per game last season, and he can be a force on defense. Farmer might just be the best outside shooter in the region, as he averaged 18 points and six rebounds last season while Will Sexton and Wes Wolfe returns as well. The big question is who will step up and play the point guard position? Losing Ryan House from graduation is huge, especially because of his defensive play. And just like South Laurel, the Tigers have concerns on their bench play.

3. North Laurel (10-15) — The Jaguars are the most interesting team in the season. Many believe North Laurel has underachieved the past couple of seasons with the talent it has possessed, and don’t be surprised to Brad Sizemore’s team reach 20 to 25 wins this season. Who is the top player in the region? Many feel like it’s South Laurel’s Caleb Taylor, and many believe it’s Clay County’s Blake Smith, but then again, it could very well be North Laurel’s Peyton Broughton. The 6-5 junior guard is being heavily recruited by many major Division I schools, as he averaged 25.7 points and 4.4 rebounds last season. Also returning is one of the state’s best juniors in Bryson Asher, who averaged 11 points and five rebounds last season while turning in a solid sophomore campaign from behind the arc. 6-6 Kyle Jeffers is also another match-up problem for opposing teams. look for players such as Brian Gray, Aaron Rader, Weston Griebel and Trae Henson to contribute heavily this season. But the big question is can North Laurel finally get over the hump and reach the 13th Region Tournament after a three-year absence?

4. Harlan County Black Bears (18-11) — Many believe the No. 4 spot could be a bit too high for the Black Bears, but they won 18 games last season, and return a solid nucleus of players. Why No. 4? It’s easy, junior guards Cameron Carmical and Treyce Spurlock return to the mix. Carmical averaged 11.8 points last season while Spurlock tossed 12.8 points per game. Harlan County will also lean on David Turner, Cody Brewer, Drew Nolan, Tyrese Simmons, Andrew Creech and Lamar Burkhart.

5. Corbin Redhounds (16-11) — It really doesn't matter where the Redhounds are ranked during the preseason, they’re always making noise come march, and this season doesn’t seem to be any different. Sophomore guard Andrew Taylor returns to the mix along with his 20.8 scoring average and his 6.4 rebound average. Taylor is also being recruited by some Division I schools, and has the talent to be considered as one of the best players in the region. Joining Taylor are Zach Maguet, Sam Taylor, A.J. Moore, Chase Sanders, Tanner Barnes and Cameron Maguet. 6-4 center Connor Hopkins suffered an injury, and his status is unknown at the time. Losing the 6-4 Hopkins would hurt against district foes South Laurel and Whitley County. Both schools possess a lot of size.

6. Whitley County Colonels (19-8) — Keep an eye on the Colonels. Former North Laurel Jaguar 6-8 center Bailey Rice transferred to play for Whitley County during the summer, and the Colonels possess solid players in Luke Woods, Adam Petrey and Casey Crisologo.

7. Barbourville Tigers (21-9) — Gone is coach Dinky Phipps, who resigned to coach at Lynn Camp, but with that said, the Tigers are loaded with talent. Brutally Perry (15.4 points per game), Markelle Turner (8.3) and Tate Carter (10.8) return. The loss of Wade Liford to Knox Central hurts.

8. Knox Central Panthers (18-13) — The Panthers might get off to a slow start, but look for them to contend in the 51st District and the 13th Region Tournament by season’s end. Knox Central will be led by 6-5 Chad Marsee (13.8, 9.6) and 6-2 Wade Liford (14.4, 8.5). Knox Central possesses a lot of young talent. The big question is who is going to step up at the guard position?

9. Bell County Bobcats (14-16) — The Bobcats could be a surprise team this season with four starters returning along with 6-3 senior Eric Partin, who averaged 13.8 points and 10.5 rebounds this past season. Also returning are 6-1 senior forward Peyton Collett (5.7, 3.7), 6-1 junior guard Vic Morris (7.5, 2.6) and junior point guard Ethan Gambrel (5.2).

10. Lynn Camp Wildcats (10-18) — Dinky Phipps is the new coach at Lynn Camp, and now we’re going to see if he can work his magic with the Wildcats. The cupboard isn’t bare, as 6-3 Austyn Weddle, 6-4 Austin Maer and 6-3 Antonio Tepasano give the Wildcats a solid front line. Bruce Hopkins returns at guard along with Jayden Elliott.

11. Oneida Baptist Mountaineers (13-16) — The Mountaineers possess the region’s most exciting player in Dejour Frazier, who averaged 21 points lasts eason.

12. Harlan Green Dragons (10-15) — It’s been 10 years since Harlan has reached the 13th Region Tournament. Can Drew Parks lead them to The Arena?

13. Jackson County (16-15) — The Generals lost four to graduation from last season. Will Tanner Harris be able to lead Jackson County to a fourth straight 13th Region Tournament appearance?

14. Pineville Mountain Lions (17-10) — It could be a rebuilding season for Pineville, who will be one of the region’s youngest teams with only two seniors on the roster.

15. Middlesboro Yellow Jackets (3-22) — Former Corbin Redound star Isaac Wilson will make Middlesboro a fun team to watch. The Yellow Jackets will be one of the youngest teams around with three players graduating off lasts season’s three-win team.

16. Williamsburg Yellow Jackets (25-5) — The defending 13th Region champions will take a mighty fall after losing all five starters from last season.

17. Red Bird Cardinals (3-23) — Four starters are returning from last season’s team, including 6-3 senior Thomas Wilder.

13th Region’s Top 10 Players

1. Caleb Taylor, South Laurel —
Taylor dominated teams last season with his 6-7 frame, and was only one of two players in the region to average a double-double.

2. Blake Smith, Clay County — Smith is one of the most versatile players in the region, along with being one of the most-athletic.

3. Peyton Broughton, North Laurel — Broughton can burn you anywhere on the floor. There is a reason he is the most sought after player in the region by Division I schools.

4. Andrew Taylor, Corbin — Taylor can score with the best of them. The sophomore guard is poised to have an even better season in the upcoming months.

5. Trey Farmer, Clay County — Hands down the best three-point shooter in the region. He can pound with the best of them in the paint, too.

6. Andrew Griffith, South Laurel — He played a key role on Williamsburg’s run to a region crown last season. Look for him to have a breakout season for the Cardinals.

7. Jared Grubb, South Laurel — Grubb is one of the best scorers in the region. The addition of Griffith to the Cardinal roster could make Grubb even better.

8. Dejour Frazier, Oneida Baptist — Frazier made a name for himself last season by averaging more than 21 points per game.

9. Chad Marsee, Knox Central — Look for Marsee to have a solid season for the Panthers during his senior campaign. He’s one of the top post players around.

10. Brently Perry, Barbourville — When he gets on a roll, watch out! Very good outside shooter.