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Entering last season, it seemed like the time was as good as ever for a team outside the 14th District to compete for a title, and the region felt a little more wide open than usual. Sure, we ended with an all-14th final yet again, but Barren County pushed Bowling Green to the brink and Monroe County took down Warren Central in the regular season before faltering in the region. This year, however, entertains none of those notions. And instead of it being 14th District dominance, dominance wears a single color this time around – Purple.

Preseason 4th Region Rankings

1. Bowling Green – It can be no other team at the top as the region sees its most clear cut favorite in roughly a decade. Bowling Green has been in the midst of a historic run for the program, and they appear to be on the verge of the greatest of heights entering this season. Last season saw Bowling Green win 22 of their last 26 games en route to a state runner-up finish, with three of their losses coming to eventual state champion Owensboro. It was the first time the Purples had ever played for a state title, and considering their progression in the last two years has been state semifinalist, then runner-up, you can guess as to what the logical next step is. And boy, do D.G. Sherrill’s winners of 3 of the last 4 region titles have the squad to do it. Only four seniors depart from last year’s youth-driven team, and while the leadership of Malik Carothers and last year’s leading scorer Tucker Sine are sure to be missed, a lot of key pieces return. At the top of that list are juniors Terry Taylor and Kyran Jones. As sophomores last season, they were #2 and #3 on the team in scoring at 12.0 PPG and 9.7 PPG respectively. Both wreaked havoc on the inside with their height, while each could also score away from the basket. Complimenting them is fellow junior Deangelo Wilson, who got to the rim at will from his guard position, and whose fast hands make him a nightmare on the defensive end as well. Rounding out the most notable returnees is senior Perry Ayers, who will be hoping to complete a healthy season finally. Ayers has often been noted for his sky high potential on showcase on the AAU circuit, but has dealt with injuries that cost him time in each season. On top of all that is senior Thomas Booker, a transfer from East Nashville, bringing a pedigree of back to back state titles in Tennessee while averaging 20 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. With this group, a region title seems a virtual certainty. At this point, they appear to be co-favorites with Taylor County for the state title.

2. Barren County – It’s pretty unlikely that anyone will be able to knock off the Purples inside the region – regular season or postseason – but then again, it seemed pretty unlikely that Barren County would ultimately push Bowling Green to the limit in the region tournament. Entering the fourth quarter, that game was 52-40 in favor of the Purples, before the Trojans roared back to take a lead at the end of regulation and late in OT before falling 68-67 on a pair of free throws with 6.9 seconds left. That game helped establish Barren County as the clear stalking horse in the region, primarily because of the likes of senior Wade Coomer and Nick Mabe. Coomer averaged 18.5 PPG and averaged 37% from behind the three point line. He can play both inside and out, but it’s the outside that is most needed as outside shooters are an easier area to attack Bowling Green. Mabe is the inside guy, averaging just over 48% from inside the arc for 13.2 PPG. In all, six seniors dot the roster for Barren County, making them one of the more experienced teams in the region. They have been known to be a little streaky, but when they get hot, they are capable of bringing down most teams. They’ll play in the Meijer Holiday Classic at Bowling Green where perhaps we’ll get an early preview of January 5th’s anticipated matchup between the two favorites.

3. Russell County – Last season’s 16-10 record was a bit deceptive when sizing up the Lakers, but when you looked closely, you’d see strong results against some top teams, albeit in losses. They fell just 92-90 to powerful Taylor County and stuck with Bowling Green in a 68-62 result. They had the potential to do some damage in the region tournament, but suffered through an atrocious shooting night against Warren Central, throwing up a meager 31.4% from the field and 4/20 from behind the arc in a game they lost by only two. The Lakers did lose the big man in the middle Nick Coffey, but return one of the best players in the region in junior Kel Stotts, who averaged just shy of 19 points per game last season. Additionally, more than half the roster are seniors, including dynamic guard Eddie Murphy (no relation) and Warren Central transfer Keenan Jordan. 16th District rival Clinton County appears to have taken a step back, giving Russell County an even clearer path than usual to the region tournament, which they have yet to miss since moving into the region a decade ago. But by and large, the great postseason success has eluded them. They’ll hope this experienced crop around Stotts can finally take them to the promised land.

4. South Warren – There was no greater picture of dysfunction last season than the South Warren Spartans. Expectations were high entering the season, but Sparty stumbled early and often, dropping games to teams like Warren East and Franklin-Simpson before throwing up wins over Owensboro Apollo and Russell County. They’d struggle with Todd County Central before giving Bowling Green a heck of a game. That roller coaster ride carried right into the postseason on their home floor. A somewhat trendy upset pick over Bowling Green in that game, the Purples ran them right into the ground with a 91-56 result. Seven seniors departed the program along with head coach Deron Breeze, but a big name in Kentucky basketball – Tony Hopper – has been brought on to helm a program that returns their top two scorers in Dayton Gumm and Brandon Stacker, both of which rank among the best in the region. Gumm shoots a scorching 53.7% from three point range but is just as happy to go to the rim. Stacker gives them an inside presence while still having range. Michael Hicks is another sharpshooter, throwing in 38.6% of his attempts from behind the arc. Bringing in a proven winner like Tony Hopper may be what was needed to finally get the Spartans over the hump and into the region tournament for the first time, but there will be pressure to get it done now. With so much returning production, the hit from graduation will be much harder the next time around. South Warren opens with a big name right off the bat – defending state champions Owensboro Senior.

5. Warren Central – It has been quite some time since so much uncertainty has surrounded the Dragons, which is why they find themselves down this low. Central has made six straight region finals, winning three of them, but have lost a whole lot of production in the last two seasons. Seven seniors departed last year in addition to losing junior Keenan Jordan to transfer, and eight seniors left the season before. Losing sixteen players in two seasons is a blow very few programs are capable of absorbing, and it leaves the Dragons with very few – if any – proven players. Most significant from last season are the losses of Jared Savage (Austin Peay), Kolbe Caldwell, Tracy Hampton, and Chris Amos, all starters that handled the bulk of the scoring for the Dragons. Only Tristen Murray returns from that starting lineup. The Dragons are not without talent, but they need players like Josh Moss and Ziyan Milliken to flourish to complement their five seniors. They’ll also start the year without the services of senior guard Rajee Anderson who suffered a football injury. The primary focus for the Dragons has to be on fixing their shooting woes from a season ago. The team shot 519 three point attempts, hitting only 30% of them, and did not shoot better than 29% in any of their four games against Bowling Green. They’ll be at a height disadvantage against the Purples, and must improve their play way from the rim, to say nothing of South Warren who they are fighting for that second spot in the region tournament.

6. Franklin-Simpson – No team is more reliant on one player than Franklin-Simpson is on Tavin Lovan. Lovan averaged 26 points per game last season for the Wildcats, but missed a huge chunk of the season after breaking his wrist early in the year against Logan County. The Wildcats won twice without him, but closed the year 4-2 once he returned, and had knocked off Clinton County and South Warren before the injury. The perpetually young Wildcats still only have one upperclassman on the team in De’shun Martin, but as Lovan continues to grow in experience, the more unstoppable he becomes. As long as he is on the floor, they are a load for any team to handle, and he will beat a good portion by himself.

7. Russellville – The Panthers were alongside most of the 13th District last season in some extremely poor showings, but showed off the future in a narrow 61-56 loss to Monroe County. Monroe County entered as one of the favorites for the region, but the Panthers held an 11 point lead early in the second half before faltering late. Returning Jason Mitchell had 12 points in that game, right on his season average. Also returning for the Panthers is leading scorer Pedro Bradshaw, another of the bright stars from the Class of 2017 in the region. The 6’5” forward chipped in over 13 PPG last year, and is a much better ball handler than his height might suggest.

8. Monroe County – Three straight trips to the region tournament have seen the Falcons advance out of the opening round, only to fall to Warren Central in the semis. Monroe County has never been to the region finals, and unfortunately this doesn’t appear to be the year for them to make that breakthrough as they look to replace five seniors, including 4th Region POY Dillon Geralds and his 17 PPG. The cupboard isn’t bare, as the team will be led by returning seniors Lincoln Arnett and John Geralds, but this appears to be one of what may be two transitional years for a very, very youth-oriented Falcon team.

9. Clinton County – Speaking of youth oriented….. Clinton County must find a way to adjust to life without Keifer Dalton. Long heralded as one of the best players in the region, Dalton finished his career as the all-time leading scorer for the Bulldogs. His departure leaves a vacuum, but Clinton County has proven time and again to be one of the most consistent presences in the region tournament and in the last decade have been quite competitive, though snakebitten in their draws. Much like Warren Central, there are not many familiar faces, so this is somewhat of a faith pick based on history. With six juniors, this may be a bit of a gap year in Albany.

10. Greenwood – Dawson Crump is the leading returning scorer for the Gators, scoring 12.3 per game a season ago, and Greenwood will be counting on the continued development of big man Alex Fee to give them an edge alongside their six seniors. A terrible start to the season (2-12) and a terrible finish (1-6) was softened by a strong middle (6-1) in Jordan Carter’s first year at the helm. They’ll be hard pressed to compete with the top of the district, but should at least improve on last season’s 9 wins.

11. Warren East – The departure of Dylan Gaines to the Taylor County all-star team dropped the Raiders down a few notches, but they do return Kaleb Britt’s 15 PPG for Brandon Combs’ second East team. They’ll try to improve on a rough 2-9 close to last season.

12. Allen County-Scottsville – New head man Hilton Isable will be without the services of six graduates that made up the bulk of their scoring from a year ago, but does return Lucas Wood’s 7.4 PPG.

13. Logan County – Noah Whittinghill is the leading returning scorer for the Cougars, but they’ll likely not manage to defend their district title after losing the likes of Tahmir Graham and Taylor Blakemore’s double digit product each game.

14. Glasgow – Glasgow will have six seniors as they look to improve on last season’s four win result. James Willett moves over from Allen County-Scottsville to helm the Scotties.

15. Todd County Central – The Rebels failed to win a single game in the 2015 calendar year last season, and only defeated Glasgow in-region. The still young team remains in rebuild mode.

16. Metcalfe County – Zach Fancher returns as the leading scorer from last season with 11.1 PPG as the Hornets continue to struggle. They’ve only won 11 total games in the last four seasons.

17. Cumberland County – Only two seniors departed from a Panther team that hasn’t won since January 28th, 2014, returning leading scorers Noah Young (8.2 PPG) and Levi Owens (7.1 PPG).

Top Players in the 4th Region

1. Tavin Lovan, G, Jr. (Franklin-Simpson) – Lovan is simply the most unstoppable player in the region. The sky is the limit.

2. Terry Taylor, F, Jr. (Bowling Green) – An unknown to those outside the Purple program entering last season, he announced himself loudly last season, and is arguably the best at BG since Behanan.

3. Thomas Booker, G, Sr. (Bowling Green) – A huge addition for the Purples, he brings the experience of a Tennessee state champion along with a 20 PPG average a year ago.

4. Kel Stotts, G, Jr. (Russell County) – Another junior, Stotts can simply fill it up, a pure scorer.

5. Dayton Gumm, G, Sr. (South Warren) – Gumm is a bit of a combo guard, almost too good of a scorer to run point. Don’t leave him open from behind the arc.

6. Kyran Jones, F, Jr. (Bowling Green) – Jones was the story of the early part of BG’s run last year prior to an injury, but finished strong with 13 PPG in the Sweet 16.

7. Wade Coomer, G, Sr. (Barren County) – If the Trojans are to make a run, it’ll be on Coomer’s back. He averaged 18.5 PPG a year ago.

8. DeAngelo Wilson, G, Jr. (Bowling Green) – Wilson proved almost unguardable at times last season, and gets to the rim almost before you can blink.

9. Pedro Bradshaw, F, Jr. (Russellville) – Yet another from the talented junior crop, Bradshaw has a lot of potential and athleticism.

10. Brandon Stacker, F, Sr. (South Warren) – The other half of the Spartan scoring duo had 15.3 PPG a season ago.