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My apologies for the tardiness of this ranking....but we head into the final week of the regular season with the top 3 still firmly in the top 3 spots that they've held for a while....

1 Walton-Verona (22-5) Last week: #1 The preseason number one remains in that spot this week after a pretty easy week last week. The Bearcats blasted Lloyd Memorial 72-33, and slammed St. Henry, 80-51 last week. Walton hit 50% or more in both games, and got - as usual - two sterling efforts from senior guard Brennan Stanley (15 and 16 points, respectively). Encouraging for the Cats was the fact that the supporting cast was completely different in the two contests...against Lloyd, Zach Clinkenbeard tallied 12 and Austin Lay added 10....against St. Henry, Kameron Pardee scored 14, Garrett Jones had 11, and Curry Shazier added 10. The bottom-line is that W-V is heading into the post-season boasting a wealth of scoring options to supplement the talented Stanley.

Walton has now scored over 71 points in five consecutive games, and not surprisingly, the team - boasting one of the best half-court defenses in the region - has won all five.

Walton, at 10-1, sports the best record in region 8 against region teams.

This week: 2/13 vs South Oldham 2/15 @ Carroll County 2/20 vs. Williamstown

2 Oldham County (23-4) Last week: #2 The Colonels have really showed something over the past four games. Playing without Player of the Year candidate Jackson Gibson, Oldham has won four straight contests, including wins over three good programs - Waggener, Simon Kenton, and Collins.

The Colonels defeated Christian Academy of Louisville, 72-54, last week, and also won on the road at Collins, rallying from a 14 point deficit to win, 49-46. The Colonels, not surprisingly, got big games in both contests from center Travis Henderson (21 and 12 points) and forward Zach Larimore (11 points and 14 points), but also got some solid contributions from some players who have come on of late.

Christian Harper, who moved into the starting lineup a few games back, had a double-double against CAL (11 points / 10 boards) and continues to evolve into one of the most electric players in Oldham blue. And Cole Mesker came off the bench to score 13 against CAL.

Oldham, #7 in the state in shooting at 51.9% from the floor, has now hit over 50% in three of their last four games, including 63% against Waggener...

Oldham's 9-1 mark against region opponents is second only to Walton-Verona.

This week: 2/13 vs. Bardstown 2/15 @ Boyle County

3 Collins (19-8) last week: #3 The Titans are struggling, and not at a time when Chris Gaither likes to see it....Collins dropped two of three last week, and has now lost 4 of their last 5 games. If you're a Titans fan, however, you shouldn't worry too much - Collins dropped their final four games of the season last year, and wound up winning the region title, getting four district and region tournament in an amazingly "clutch" fashion - winning those four games by a total of just 11 points.

Last week, Collins fell at home to Oldham County by 3, defeated a good DeSales team by 13, and then lost to perhaps the best team in the 6th region, Doss, 71-67 in overtime.

Collins continues to be one of the premier perimeter teams in the region, and they are #7 in the state beyond the arc at 39.4%. Jacob Feltner is #4 in the state, making 3.4 threes / game.

Collins is 7-2 against regional opponents, but 3-2 against other contenders, with solid wins over Simon Kenton, Spencer County, and South Oldham and narrow losses to Gallatin County and Oldham County.

This week: 2/13 North Oldham 2/16 @ CAL

4 South Oldham (16-8) Last week: 4 This Dragon team is suddenly sprouting doubts; they dropped their only game last week, falling by two to a solid Central Hardin team at home on senior night, playing without two of their top seven players (flu).

In fact, the Dragon lineup has been kind of a crazy revolving door as the team has been slammed by the flu, with both Johnson brothers, Devin Young, Luke Morrison, Jason King, and others stricken. At one time in the past two weeks, South had just 2 starters healthy.

Devin Young and Peyton Hicks have both been hot of late for South, with each scoring in double figures for the past four games. Young had 20 points against Central, while Hicks added 16 points / 9 rebounds.

But the bottom line is that the Dragons are trying to find some consistency now. In the last five games, the Dragons have 1) beaten Simon Kenton on the road with only two starters healthy, 2) turned around and hit just 11% from beyond the arc and 33% at the line in a district loss to arch-rival North Oldham by 5 points that cost the Dragons the #1 seed in the 29th, 3) bounced back to defeat Gallatin on the road, only to 4) lose on senior night to Central Hardin.

Will the real South team please stand up?

After much debate, I'm leaving South at 4th this week, after spending a lot of time comparing South with Spencer, Simon Kenton, and Gallatin. The deciding factor was simple; South has beaten each of the other three. Although all three games were narrow contests, the fact that South beat SK minus three starters on the road, and then beat Gallatin on the road was impressive. Also, South was one of only two of these four (Gallatin being the other) who owns a victory over one of the top 3 teams (South beat Oldham County by 10 for their only region loss).

This week: 2/12 North Bullitt 2/13 @ Walton-Verona

5 Simon Kenton (17-7) Last week: #7 Last week, against my better judgement, I moved the Pioneers down to 7th. After a solid week in which SK won three games, including a win over 21-win Campbell County and a dangerous - if under-performing - Anderson County team, I really feel I erred last week.

SK beat Campbell, 81-80 last week, then wrapped up the week with a 76-31 win at Williamstown and a 67-53 victory at Anderson County. The Pioneers shot well all week, including a phenomenal 68.8% against Campbell County, a game in which Simon Kenton hit 33 of 58 from the floor and 8 of 15 beyond the arc.

Encouraging was the fact that three different players led the Pioneers in scoring in the three games; freshman Kelly Niece had 18 points against Campbell County - a game in which 6 Pioneers reached double digits in scoring - and Zach Kelch (15 points) and Chaz Kitchens (18 points) led SK in scoring against Williamstown and Anderson, respectively.

Senior Andrew Robinson seems to be blooming late; Robinson has been in double figures in five straight games now, averaging 11.6 ppg during the stretch. He had 10 points / 15 rebounds in the loss to Oldham County.

This week: 2/13 @ Covington Catholic 2/15 vs Holmes

6 Gallatin County (22-6) Last week: #5 The Wildcats went 2-0 last week, beating Grant County by 16 and Trimble County by a surprisingly close 10 point margin, 65-55.

Twenty of the Cats' 28 games have been against Region 8 opponents, and Gallatin is 16-4 in those contests, having lost only to Walton-Verona (twice), Simon Kenton, and South Oldham.
Overall, Gallatin is on a roll, having won 7 of their last 9 games.

The Wildcats are all over the state statistical leaders: Jaymee Hale is #6 in the state in shooting, hitting 67.8% from the floor. Troy Coomer is #11 in free throw percentage (84.9%) and #3 in made threes, averaging 3.5 per game. The team is #8 in the state in defensive scoring average, giving up just 51.1 ppg.

With that kind of scoring defense, it's no wonder Gallatin is winning so much; in 12 of the last 15 games, Gallatin's offense has put between 60 and 80 points on the board.

This week: 2/13 @ Beechwood 2/16 @ Shelby County

7 Spencer County (18-7) Last week: #6 Spencer rode a strong defensive performance against Shelby last week (a 50-40 win) and a solid offensive performance against Rock Creek Academy (IN) in a 77-68 win. It was something of a lackluster week for the Bears; Shelby, who is playing much better of late, still probably kept that game closer than most expected, and Rock Creek certainly found a way to stay closer than anyone would have thought.

Still, the Bears have put together the region's longest winning streak, having won 9 in a row here, and threatening to head to the district 30 tournament on an 11 game winning streak as they will be favored in their last two contests.

Freshman Sam Conley continues to lead the team in scoring at 14.1 ppg, but he's getting good support from Jackson Cole (11 ppg), who is #4 in the state, averaging 3.4 made threes a game, and Jacob Seawright, who averages 10.4 per contest.

This is definitely a team to watch come tournament time; the Bears have lost 7 games, but by an average of only 8 points per game. Five of their seven losses have been by 7 points or less. And the Bears sport a top-20 scoring defense, giving up just 53.2 ppg.

The bottom-line is that this team can keep games close, and they have had enough success against good teams (see: wins over Elizabethtown, Iroquois, and Pleasure Ridge Park) to have enough confidence to take the next step at just the right time.

Spencer vs. Anderson in round one of the 30th district should be an absolute blast.

This week: 2/13 vs. Bethlehem 2/16 @ Bullitt Central

8 North Oldham (16-10) Last week: #8 North raised some eyebrows last week, and perhaps in the wrong way. First, the Mustangs struggled to get past Owen County, 49-45, and then North fell on senior night at home, 65-63, to Meade County. North has still won 6 of their last 7 games, but the question marks raised last week come at an inconvenient time.

Good news: North continues to find other offensive threats, which will help Justin Rose (19.7 ppg) and Dylan Yates (10.3 ppg), the only two Mustangs averaging in double figures, immensely. Grant Adelson, Cole Fischer, and Justin Burton have each had solid scoring games of late, and the Mustangs, who had reached 60 points in only 5 of their first 20 games, have now eclipsed 60 points in three of their last six.

Bad news: North has struggled to beat Carroll County (9-17) by 5 and Owen County (4-20) by just four. The Mustangs yielded 65 points to a Panther squad averaging only 56 ppg and scored just 49 points against a Rebel squad giving up 62 ppg.

This week: 2/13 @ Collins 2/16 vs DeSales (The Pegasus Sports Network - PSN)

9 Anderson County (9-13) Last week: #9 The Bearcats have quite possibly played the most rugged schedule in the 8th region this year, making it difficult to get a good handle on this team. Last week, Anderson blasted Owen County, 67-39, behind a 21 point game from Dylan Pittman and two double-double performances from Christian Gritton (17 points / 12 rebounds) and Cobe Penny (12/10). But the Bearcats failed to get a signature win in their next outing, falling by fourteen to Simon Kenton, 67-53, and shooting just 39.1% from the field, despite 24 points and 12 rebounds from Penny.

Penny is now #19 in the state in scoring, averaging 22.7 ppg, and is now the all-time leading scorer in Anderson County history (eclipsing his older brother, C.J. Penny).

The schedule has, indeed, been brutal. Eleven of the Cats' thirteen losses to Kentucky squads have been to Trinity (24 wins), Oldham County (23), Mercer County (21), Walton-Verona (22), Gallatin County (22), Campbell County (21), Simon Kenton (17), Bowling Green (18), Collins (19), Lafayette (18), and Spencer County (18).

Six of those eleven teams have been, or are, ranked.

This week: 2/14 @ Powell County 2/16 @ Franklin County

10 Grant County (8-18) Last week: #10 The Braves hold at #10 this week, where they have been mired for several weeks. Grant, however, is trending downward, as the Braves have dropped four games in a row and 8 of their last 10.

Last week yielded two decisive losses, as Grant fell to Boone County by 25 (74-49) and Pendleton County by 23 (97-74). The Braves shot just 31.9% against Boone and 39.6% against Pendleton, continuing a bit of a trend. In 7 of the last 8 games, Grant County has shot less than 40% from the field. In the 8th game, the Braves managed 43% shooting (against Henry County). In two of those eight games, Grant County failed to even reach 30% from the field (21% against Simon Kenton and 26.5% against Dixie Heights).

Chase Good has had the hot hand of late, leading Grant in scoring against Boone County, scoring 22 points, and adding 19 points against Pendleton County.

The Braves are hitting their free throws. The region's top free throw shooting team is #14 in the state at the stripe, hitting 72.9%.

This week: 2/12 vs. Owen County 2/14 @ Scott High

11 Shelby County (6-19) Last week: #14 The Rockets, who have struggled all year, are playing their best ball of late. Sure, Shelby has benefitted on the scoreboard by playing some teams that have been without their better players, but the bottom-line is that the Rockets are putting up points far better than they have all year, and that, in turn, is making their defense - which hasn't been bad all year - better.

Lst week, Shelby was respectable in a 10 point loss to Spencer County before bouncing Henry County, 71-65.

After scoring 60 points or more in only 2 of their first 20 games, the Rockets have now eclipsed the 60 point mark in four of their last five games. Not surprisingly, the Rockets won all four.

Shelby County has now won 4 of their last 5 games heading into the final week of the season.
The Rockets have two formidable opponents this week, but splitting these final two games could give Shelby a little momentum heading into the District 30 tournament, to be held at Shelby County HS.

This week: 2/15 @ DeSales 2/16 vs. Gallatin County

12 Henry County (13-14) Last week: #11 The Wildcats' 70-67 win over Eminence to begin last week gave Henry County their first back-to-back victories since early December. But Henry promptly fell to Shelby in their next outing by six, ending their opportunity to match that early-December three-game winning streak.

The Cats have now lost 5 of their last 8 games. They can get a bounceback win this Tuesday against Trimble County, a team they have already beaten twice.

Unfortunately, Henry has not posted stats in their last six games.

This week: 2/13 @ Trimble County 2/15 @ Iroquois

13 Carroll County (9-17) Last week: #12 The Panthers had a relatively uneventful week, defeating Williamstown, 79-37 in their only game.

The Panthers, however, have lost 6 of their last 9 as they head into the final week of the season. They will play in one of the three best (read: most competitive) first round district games in the first round of the District 31 tournament as the Panthers will face a Henry County team that they have split two games against.

This week: 2/13 @ Collegiate 2/15 vs. Walton-Verona

14 Trimble County (12-15) Last week: 13 Trimble won two of three last week, defeating Eminence, 62-54 and Owen County, 48-39, and sandwiching those two wins around a 10 point loss to Gallatin County, 65-55.

The Raiders have now won five of their last seven games. Although none of the wins came over a team with a winning record, Trimble has developed a little momentum now heading into the post-season tournament. In addition, the relatively narrow loss to Gallatin County was encouraging.

This week: 2/13 vs. Henry County 2/16 vs. Lloyd Memorial

15 Eminence (14-14) Last week: #15 The Warriors fell to arch-rival Henry County for the second time this season, 62-54, to begin last week, then bounced back with a victory over Frederick Fraize, 71-62.

The Warriors continue to struggle from beyond the arc, hitting just 3 of 19 from three-point land against the Wildcats (15.8%).

The Warriors have now dropped four of their last five.

This week: 2/13 vs. Walden

16 Owen County (4-20) Last week: #16 Owen County dropped all three of their games last week, but managed to contend in two of those games. Against North Oldham, the heavily-favored Mustangs struggled to put away the Rebels, ultimately winning by four, 49-45. After falling to Anderson County, 67-39, the Rebels made a game of it against Trimble County, before losing by 9, 48-39.

The most frustrating issue for Owen continues to be free throw shooting. Over the last nine games, the Rebels have hit just 67 of 135 free throws for a lowly 45.9%. In the North Oldham game, missed free throws may have cost the Rebels the game, as Owen hit just 5 of 12 free throws in a game they ultimately lost by just four points.

This week: 2/12 @ Grant County 2/13 @ Wiliamstown

17 Williamstown (0-27) Last week: #17 A long season continued last week as the Demons of Williamstown fell, 72-56, to Harrison County, 76-31 to Simon Kenton, 79-37 to Carroll County, and 79-42 to Powell County.

Williamstown continues to battle the region's longest losing streak, which is now up to 29 straight games over 2 seasons.

This week: 2/12 vs. Bracken County 2/13 vs. Owen County 2/16 @ Menifee County

NEXT WEEK: Final regular season rankings plus district tournament previews.

CM