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District Tournament Recap:
We were able to correctly predict 7 of the 8 regional tournament teams with 2 of the 4 districts being perfect predictions on winners and runner-up’s (57th and 60th). Competitive Balance has been the name of the game this season and didn’t seem to slow down during the first week of the tournament. Let’s see how the district tournaments played out in the 15th Region and look ahead to the 15th Region Tournament.

57th District Recap

The 57th District Tournament was hosted by Johnson Central and opened with Paintsville (#1 seed) defeating Magoffin County (#4 seed) by a final of 62-55. The game was competitive throughout as Magoffin County cut the lead to one possession a couple times in the fourth quarter but were never able to get over the hump and take the lead. The Tigers were led in scoring by Mason Moore and Seth Williams (17 points each) and Nick Keeton in rebounds with nine. It was the first time Paintsville made it out of districts since the 2008 season when current Head Coach Landon Slone was still playing. Junior standout Brady Whitaker led the Hornets with 29 points.

The second game of the 57th featured Johnson Central (#2 seed) versus Sheldon Clark (#3 seed). The Golden Eagles entered the game having defeated the Cardinals by 30 points and 42 points during the two regular season meetings, but this game was much different. Trey James was a force in the paint early for Sheldon Clark as he scored ten of the first twelve points. Sheldon Clark would lead 17-16 after the first period of play, but found themselves down 33-31 at the half. Johnson Central continued to grind down the Cardinals into the fourth quarter and would finally pull away near the four-minute mark. This game was no blow out, but JC did finally win going away 71-62. Sheldon Clark was led by Trey James with 19 points, 14 rebounds and 9 blocks. Ethan Colegrove (17 points) and Brady Dingess (15 points) were also in double figures. Johnson Central was led by Jacob Rice (25 points) Cory VanHoose (15 points) and Isaiah May (12 points – go ahead 3FG early in 4th – had box and one played against him from opening tip). For Sheldon Clark, the loss marked the second time in the last three seasons they have dropped 20 games.

The 57th District Championship featured Johnson Central and Paintsville for the first time since 2008 and the first time at Johnson Central since 2002. The game was highly competitive and would end up going down to the wire. Freshman Isaiah May and Junior Jacob Rice got hot early for the Golden Eagles, scoring 12 and 15 points in the first half respectively as JC built a 35-27 halftime lead. The third quarter was all Tigers as they outscored JC 19-6 to take a five-point lead into the final frame. Isaiah May quickly erased that lead with a pull up jumper, defensive rebound and pull up 3FG midway through the fourth. With 2:45 left to play, Paintsville tied the game at 57 on two Mason Moore FT’s. JC would hold the ball and Jacob Rice would hit the game winner with 2s left, giving JC the 59-57 victory despite being outshot from the FT line 24-6 on their home floor. Isaiah May and Jacob Rice led the Golden Eagles with 17 points each (May 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal: Rice 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal). JC also got double figures from Gabe Ferrell (11 points) and Cory VanHoose (10 points) as both made big plays down the stretch. Paintsville was led by Mason Moore (20 points, 6 rebounds), Nick Keeton (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Seth Williams (12 points, 3 rebounds). For Johnson Central it was their third straight 57th District Title (20th overall – most all-time) and the 6th for Head Coach Tommy McKenzie.

58th District Recap

The 58th District was hosted by Floyd Central and opened with Floyd Central (1 seed) playing Lawrence County (4 seed). The game was never in doubt after a minutes into the first quarter as Floyd Central would put away Lawrence County by a final of 71-49. J.R. Tackett led the Jaguars with 29 points followed by Jacob Collins and Brady Conn who each had 10 points (Conn had 14 rebounds). The loss marked the third time on the season that Lawrence had fell to Floyd Central although the previous contest was played within five points at Lawrence County.

The second game in the 58th was the most competitive on paper in the entire region as Betsy Layne (2 seed) took on Prestonsburg (3 seed). Betsy Layne was 2-1 versus Prestonsburg on the year with their only loss coming in the All-A at the Pikeville EXPO Center in January. The game was low scoring and back and forth until midway through the fourth when Prestonsburg took the lead for good. Betsy Layne just couldn’t get the ball to drop on wide open shots and the Blackcats capitalized. Prestonsburg came away with a 46-39 win and date with host Floyd Central in the championship.

The 58th District championship was over by halftime. After a somewhat competitive first quarter, Floyd Central outscored Prestonsburg 30-6 in the second to take a 25-point lead into half. Prestonsburg had no answer for the size and physical play Floyd Central brings. The final score would be 77-52 as the Jaguars cruised to their first district title in the school’s first year of existence. This championship was familiar to the kids from South Floyd as they won the previous two, but new for the kids from Allen Central who had yet to experience a net cutting ceremony. Regardless, both Floyd Central and Prestonsburg advanced to the regional tournament.

59th District Recap

Shelby Valley hosted and opened play in the 59th District Tournament with an easy win over Jenkins 72-28. Valley obtained the top overall seed after winning a coin flip with Pikeville (the two tied in regular season head-to-head and point spread matchup’s, both winning by 12 points against the other). Jenkins (winless on the entire season) was no match for Valley’s up-tempo style and the JV for both teams played most of the second half.

Like Shelby Valley, Pikeville cruised to victory in their opening game as they took on the three seed in East Ridge. The final score was 78-60 in favor of the Panthers and it was the third blow-out win of the season over East Ridge. The Warriors tried to slow the game, but dominate guard play from Pikeville would not allow and the lead quickly ballooned and stayed steady for most of the contest. The first two games were very predictable.

The 59th District Championship saw Pikeville knock off Shelby Valley for the third time this season in stunning fashion. Shelby Valley handled Pikeville by 12 at home just a few weeks earlier (Pikeville defeated Shelby Valley at Pikeville by 12 and in the All-A Championship by 20+) and were looking to cut the nets down in front of their rival. Pikeville’s only loss to Shelby Valley came without Cade Byers and he was out yet again with a broken hand. This was a close game throughout as both teams had 4-5 point leads at one time or another, but were never able to put the other away. Wyatt Battaile hit a step-back jumper to force OT and Pikeville made their FT’s down the stretch to win the game 70-65, maintain their 59th District dominance.

60th District Recap

The 60th District tournament was hosted by Pike County Central and opened with Belfry (1 seed) facing off against Piarist (4 seed). This was not much of a game as Belfry did everything possible to keep the score from getting out of hand. The final would end up being 100-46 in favor of the Pirates as Piarist at least showed up for districts this season.

The second game of the tournament featured the host school (2 seed) versus Phelps (3 seed). This final score would be Pike County Central 64-46 over Phelps but the game was much much closer. Phelps held an eight-point lead at half time after taking the air out of the ball and controlling tempo (Pike County Central also shot 11% in the first half) and could have been up much more had they hit some easy shots. Pike Central came out in the third quarter red hot, hitting 7 of 8 3FG in the frame and turning an eight-point deficit into a double digit lead. From there the Hawks would cruise to victory, but Christian Mounts and company had the attention of the entire region at halftime.

The 60th District Championship would see Belfry knock off Pike Central for the third time this season by a final of 73-67. This was a game Belfry had to play from behind as Pike Central continued the hot shooting from the second half of the Phelps game and built an early 15-point first quarter lead. Belfry would chip away and go into half down single digits on an Isiah Roblee 3FG at the buzzer. The Pirates would finally take the lead early in the fourth and not give it back, forcing Pike Central to watch their rivals cut the nets down on their home floor.

15th Region Tournament Preview

Tournament Location: East Kentucky EXPO Center (Pikeville, KY)
Defending Champion: Pikeville

Session 1 Wednesday 28 February 2018:
Belfry (60th Winner) vs. Shelby Valley (59th Runner-up) – 6:30 PM
Johnson Central (57th Winner) vs. Prestonsburg (58th Runner-up) – 8:15 PM

Session 2 Thursday 1 March 2018:
Pikeville (59th Winner) vs. Pike County Central (60th Runner-up) – 6:30 PM
Floyd Central (58th Winner) vs. Paintsville (57th Runner-up) – 8:00 PM

Session 3 Monday 5 March 2018:
Semi Final 1 – 6:30 PM
Semi Final 2 – 8:15 PM

Session 4 Tuesday 6 March 2018:
Championship – 7:00 PM (Winner will play Region 5 Champion)

Overall Team Rankings Entering the Tournament (Record):
1 – Pikeville (21-9)
2 – Shelby Valley (22-8)
3 – Floyd Central (19-11)
4 – Johnson Central (17-14)
5 – Pike Central (24-8)
6 – Paintsville (19-9)
7 – Belfry (19-12)
8 – Prestonsburg (14-18)

Match-Up #1: Belfry [19-12: 17-4 in Region] vs. Shelby Valley [22-8: 20-3 in Region]
Belfry and Shelby Valley open the 2018 15th Region Tournament in what should be the first of many extremely good games. Both teams play extremely hard on both ends of the ball but Belfry is slightly more physical and slightly bigger. This game should be a war and come down to who makes the plays late in the game as both teams are difficult to beat when they have a late lead.

Previous Match-Up’s:
Belfry and Shelby Valley met February 10th at Belfry. Shelby Valley came away with a 73-70 win led by Cody Potter’s 27 points and 12 rebounds (monster in game dunk: 5 made 3FG). Belfry was led by Isiah Roblee (28 points) and Devin Varney (22 points). The Pirates did a good job on Valley standout Blake Burke, holding him to only 10 FG attempts and 13 total points, but it was not enough as Potter was the man on this night. The game was close throughout, but Valley did not give up the lead late when pressured and knocked down their FT’s to ice the game away.

The Game:
This game will be a lot of fun to watch as two of the best 3FG shot makers in the state will be going at each other in Cody Potter (Shelby Valley) and Isiah Roblee (Belfry). Both could make 10 3FG’s each. On the other wing you will have super athletic guards going at each other in Devin Varney (Belfry) and Blake Burke (Shelby Valley) with both capable of going for 30+ on a given night. In games with so much parody, it usually comes down to role player contributions. Look for Honaker and both Worrix brothers (Shelby Valley) and Blankenship, May and Jessie (Belfry) to truly decide this game as the four big players previously mentioned will likely cancel each other out. Will Belfry make the plays down the stretch or will Shelby Valley ice it late with ball handling and clutch FT’s?

Regional Titles:
Belfry – (3) 1990, 1991, 1992
Shelby Valley – (7) 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 (State Title), 2011

Players to Watch:
Belfry – Isiah Roblee (22.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg ) Devin Varney (14.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
Shelby Valley – Cody Potter (16.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg) Blake Burke (15.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg)

Shelby Valley 65 Belfry 64

Match-Up #2: Johnson Central [17-14: 11-6 in Region] vs. Prestonsburg [14-18: 11-13 in Region]
The young Golden Eagles won the 57th District for the third consecutive season and got without a doubt the best first round match-up in the tournament. Prestonsburg enters as the only team in the field with a losing record despite getting hot late in the season and winning six of their last nine contest. The last time Prestonsburg was in the regional tournament they faced Johnson Central were defeated 92-40 in a game that saw them commit four intentional fouls and two technical fouls (Regional Semifinals in 2014). Johnson Central was led by Shane Hall and advanced to the state tournament elite eight that season despite the physical game. The two schools have not played each other since that game.

Previous Match-Up:
Johnson Central and Prestonsburg have not met since the 2014 regional semifinals where JC won 92-40 (2014).

The Game:
Look for the pressure and guard play of Johnson Central led by Isaiah May and Jacob Rice to be too much for the young Blackcats. The Golden Eagles will likely pressure from start to finish, looking to push the ball at every opportunity. Prestonsburg will likely play a zone and shoot a lot of 3FG’s from the wings and corners. If they can hit enough they will be competitive, but even if shots are falling early for them, Johnson Central will likely be too much over a four quarter game. Johnson Central has advanced to six consecutive 15th Region Championship games (winning four) and are looking to get back for a record 7th straight time.

Regional Titles:
Johnson Central – (9) 1972, 1975, 1984, 2000, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Prestonsburg – (1) 1989

Players to watch:
Johnson Central – Isaiah May (14.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg) Jacob Rice (17.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg) Cory VanHoose (12.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg) Gabe Ferrell (11.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Prestonsburg – Phil Cornett (11.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg) Austin Endicott (11.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg)

Johnson Central 80 Prestonsburg 65

Match-Up #3: Pikeville [21-9: 14-4 in Region] vs. Pike County Central [24-8: 17-6 in Region]
The Pikeville Panthers are the defending 15th Region Champions and returned every player from last season’s roster. They have won their last three in a row despite dropping six of ten prior to that (when Cade Byers injury occurred). Byers could return by the regional first round, but is expected back by the semifinals if Pikeville advances that far. Pike County Central is led by Phelps transfer Christian Mounts. He is joined by Levard Missick and Seth Conn. Pike Central achieved the most wins in school history this season, but were unable to capture a district title and enter as the 60th runner-up

Previous Match-Up’s:
Pikeville knocked off Pike Central December 22nd in Hi Tech Holiday Classic at Prestonsburg in overtime by a final of 74-70. Wyatt Battaile (25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 blocks) led four Panthers in double figures. Kyle Watkins (13 points), Zach Hamilton (10 points), and Evan Rhodes (10 points) were the others. Pike Central was led by Christian Mounts (35 points – 11 rebounds) and Levard Missick (14 points – 12 rebounds). Cade Byers did play in this game and Wyatt Battaile hit a 15 foot fade away to force overtime between the two.

Pike County Central defeated Pikeville at home this season for the first time in over a decade by a final of 54-52 on February 8th. After Wyatt Battaile hit a fade away 3FG to tie the game with 1.7s left, Pike Central’s Seth Conn (also starting QB) ran the baseline and threw a full court pass that hit Levard Missick in stride where he only had to catch and lay the ball in the basket with his left hand (Missick is left handed). The game was back and forth the entire time with Pike Central making one more play that Pikeville in front of a tremendous home crowd.

The Game:
Expect yet another great tournament game out of these two. Pikeville has the experience and championship pedigree needed for this stage. Pike Central has the athletes and guard play needed to knock them off as proven earlier in the year. Don’t look for either team to press much or try to force tempo, but rather play a half-court controlled game. This was come down to whoever executes the best and should be a close game either way. Both teams have a closer and big scorer (Battailie – Pikeville: Mounts – Pike Central) who can elevate above the rim and get a shot off any time they want. Expect the ball to go through these two in crunch time.

Regional Titles:
Pikeville – (10) 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1974, 1999, 2017
Pike County Central - None

Players to watch:
Pikeville – Wyatt Battaile (24.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg) Connor Roberts (14.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
Pike Count Central – Christian Mounts (19.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg) Levard Missick (14.2 ppg, 10.9 rpg)

Pikeville 60 Pike County Central 58

Match-Up #4: Floyd Central [19-11: 12-2 in Region] vs. Paintsville [19-9: 11-7 in Region]
Floyd Central has the fewest losses to regional opponents of any team in the field (2). Pikeville beat them in the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic (Floyd Central avenged the loss) and Paintsville beat them at Paintsville by 17 (this is game two). Paintsville is in the regional tournament for the first time since 2008 when their current coach, Landon Slone, was still playing for the Tigers. After losing a heart breaker to Johnson Central in the District Championship (last second shot by Jacob Rice), Paintsville got a tough draw in the bottom bracket of the regional tournament, but have the athletes and system to make a run at Rupp Arena.

Previous Match-Up:
Paintsville knocked off Floyd Central at Paintsville 73-57 on January 27th. In that game Paintsville played a 2-3 zone most of the time with the block guys shading the corner 3FG’s. Floyd Central took the bait and did not drive or penetrate the gaps, but rather settled for lots of 3FG attempts. Shooting extremely poor from behind the arc allowed Paintsville to build and maintain a large second half lead. The Tigers were led in scoring by Seth Williams (28 points), Mason Moore (14 points) and Nick Keeton (10 points – 11 rebounds). Floyd Central was led by Brady Conn (20 points – 9/13 from field) and J.R. Tackett 11 points as the team shot 7 of 36 from 3FG on the game (23/62 overall – 37%)

The Game:
Don’t expect another poor shooting night from Floyd Central again and don’t expect the Jaguars to take 37 3FG’s again either. Look for both teams to be content in playing a slow, controlled game, trying to out execute the other although Paintsville will mix in a press from time to time. This game will come down to whether Floyd Central can control Seth Williams and Mason Moore on the perimeter and whether Paintsville can stop Brady Conn inside and J.R. Tackett from penetrating. Look for zone from both teams as possession’s will become very valuable. The game will likely be in the 50’s and if either team has the ball and lead late will be very difficult to beat with their styles. Should be yet another instant classic.

Regional Titles:
Floyd Central – None
Paintsville – (9) 1933, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1995, 1996 (State Title), 1997, 1998, 2008

Players to Watch:
Floyd Central – J.R. Tackett (18.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg) Brady Conn (14.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg)
Paintsville – Mason Moore (17.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg) Seth Williams (16.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg)

Floyd Central 58 Paintsville 56

Semi Final 1 Prediction: Johnson Central 72 Shelby Valley 69
Semi Final 2 Prediction: Pikeville 65 Floyd Central 64

Championship Prediction: Johnson Central 77 Pikeville 76 (Double Overtime Thriller)

Agree or Disagree? Feel free to respond and discuss!