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The 14th District Era is alive and well, completing their 16th straight year of dominance a season ago behind their workhorse Bowling Green. The Purples, tired of losing to the team that wins it all, won the whole thing themselves as part of their 4th straight region title run, winning 29 games in a row en route to a 36-2 record and the first basketball state title in the school’s history. The Purples were rarely challenged as they ran their region streak to 48 in a row, with only their two meetings with Greenwood and a comeback win at Franklin-Simpson pushing them into single digit margins in the 2016/17 campaign. Still, there is much reason for optimism among not only teams chasing Bowling Green but teams chasing the 14th District. Most of the primary faces from Bowling Green are gone, including their head coach. This year there isn’t an 800 pound gorilla in the room, threatening to wipe out any who oppose them. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the 14th District isn’t favored yet again.

Preseason 4th Region Rankings

1. Warren Central – It’s been a minute since a team other than Bowling Green was favored in the region, stretching back to the 2013/14 season when the Dragons entered as the preseason favorite. They backed that up with an undefeated run through the region during the regular season before the Purples kicked off their dynasty with back to back wins over Central in that postseason, and they’ve only lost to them once since. This ranking has as much to do with what Bowling Green lost as what Warren Central returns, but they do return a talented corps. The list begins with senior Skyelar Potter, who is coming off one of the highest scoring campaigns in Warren Central history, averaging 20.2 PPG over 28 games, which included a school record 45 in a single game. The 6’3” guard averaged a double-double, and roams the floor, playing on the perimeter as well as underneath the basket. Contributions from other players are vital, as no one else returning averaged over 4.8 PPG a season ago, but by and large, the Dragons will go as far as Potter takes them. The Dragons will not be a deep team like they were around 3-4 years ago, and are extremely guard heavy. Expect seniors Potter, Mee (4.8 PPG), Esmic (4.0 PPG), and Cousin (4.5 PPG) to start, with the last spot a bit more up for grabs, but most likely to be Tayshaun Bibb (3.4 PPG). Esmic and Mee in particular will be counted on to knock down shots from the perimeter to help open up lanes for Potter to drive the ball. A season ago the Dragons attempted just over 41% of all shots from the three point line, but only converted on 33.2% of those attempts. They’ll have to make more to be able to hold this spot. In all, Central is not likely to go beyond eight deep in their rotation most games, so health is paramount. A season ago the Dragons opened 6-0 which included impressive wins over Bullitt East and University Heights. But after losing guard Ziyan Milliken to a season ending calf injury, the team limped to an 11-14 finish. It’s a sign of just how fragile this group is. Potter is the primary reason for this rank, as he is the top player in the region, the most dynamic scorer, and the Dragons do have slightly more experience returning than most other teams around them. But they’re far from a lock.

2. Bowling Green – It’s been a while since Bowling Green had to figure out life without guys like Terry Taylor, Kyran Jones, and DeAngelo Wilson. Longer still since they were without head coach DG Sherrill. It was the end of an era in several ways when the Purples finished with the state title a season ago. DG Sherrill took an administrative job, finishing his 12 season at Bowling Green with a 307-92 record, good enough for the second highest win total in the program’s history. The senior class were part of four straight region titles – unprecedented at Bowling Green – and an incredible 127-18 record. They would have been a shoo-in for the top spot even with those losses if not for the transfer of Zion Harmon to Adair County, losing the top player in the nation for his age group. All four averaged in double digits a season ago. Players like Taylor and Jones had height and length, but could also play the perimeter, creating nightmare matchups that were made worse by Wilson driving and Harmon’s 44% three point shooting. They were a team for the ages. Their departures leaves Jarius Key as the big man on campus, their leading returning scorer at 5.1 PPG. Key is a 6’6” forward with great athleticism, and will continue the tradition of rebound dominance for the Purples. Key was the 6th man a season ago, and will be counted on to step into a huge role, but will be more of a man in the middle/underneath compared to roamers like Taylor and Jones. Speaking of Jones, the younger brother Trey Jones will ascend to the starting lineup this year. The guard should average in double digits, up from his 3.3 PPG in limited work a season ago. One of the keys to Bowling Green’s game the last several years has been perimeter shooting. In 2013/14 when their run began, they averaged 30.3% from three, attempting three pointers on 21% of all shots. Last year that increased to 43.1% from three with 28% of all attempts coming from behind the arc. An increase in volume from three combined with a higher percentage made helped raise their scoring average by nearly 7 points per game in that span. Senior guard Eli Thurman will be counted on to keep up that pace. He shot right on the average a year ago, firing up the second most attempts for the team on 28/65 (43.1%) shooting. Expect a bit more of defined roles from players this year compared to the multi-faceted players of past seasons, but for the most part, don’t expect anything to change under new coach Derrick Clubb. Other than his stint starting the South Warren boys’ basketball program, he has been embedded with the Purples as an assistant since Sherrill’s run began. He was present for four of Bowling Green’s five region titles. While it’s never easy to lose your head coach, having a familiar face like Clubb who will likely maintain the same style of play will help. The Purples will most likely continue their uptempo, pressing attack, and attempt to kill you with their depth. If they can hit their shots from three to keep the pressure off their preferred mode of attack – drives to the rim – they’ll become the odds-on favorites.

3. Barren County – The Trojans couldn’t reach the heights they had the previous few years last year, but for the fifth straight year they could claim to have been knocked out by the region champions, falling to Bowling Green in the quarters 62-45. It is the third straight year that the closest challenge for Bowling Green came by the Trojans. Only two seniors depart from a year ago, the most significant being Branson London, whose 7.9 PPG were third on the team and led the team in three point shooting. Leading scorer Jared Coomer returns for his senior year at the forward position, one of the tallest and most versatile players in the region. He hauled in 248 rebounds in addition to averaging 15.5 per game, shoot reasonably well from the foul line for a big man (72.4%), and can be a matchup problem for opposing teams with a perimeter game as well, knocking down 31/87 a year ago for 35.6%. The offense flowed through him a year ago after the departure of so many familiar faces, and that will continue. Sophomore Will Bandy will take on a larger role. He appeared in just 21 games last year, but averaged the second most points per game on the team at 8.8 per game. Senior guards Garrett Arterburn and sharpshooter Parker Stephens will provide the perimeter threats. Arterburn is the leading returner with 33 threes made, but will need to improve on a meager 28.2% shooting from the arc. Parker Stephens will be the better option, hitting 44.3% on 27/61 shooting from three a season ago. The Trojans are expected to duke it out with Monroe County for the 15th District, one of the top rivalries in the area a season ago. Barren County won the two regular season meetings by a combined 4 points – including one quadruple overtime game, but fell by five in double overtime in the district finals to the Falcons, sentencing them to the opening game against Bowling Green.

4. Monroe County – Reserve Luke Nixon was the only senior departing from Monroe’s district champion team a season ago, meaning basically the whole gang is back for another season in Tompkinsville. No returning player is more significant than Billy Michael Dyer. Dyer is the leading returning scorer in the region at 22.3 PPG his junior year, nearly six points higher than his already impressive total as a sophomore. The guard fills it up from the three point line, shooting 70/169 (41.4%) a season ago. Sophomore Tucker Kirkpatrick gives them another three point bomber, averaging an even higher percentage from the arc a season ago as a freshman at 46.3% on 56/121 shooting. The Falcons aren’t the highest “live by the three” team in the region, but over 36% of all team attempts and nearly 1/3 of their makes a season ago came from the three point line. They’ll often go as the three goes, as evidenced by their two games against Russellville. In the All “A” classic the Falcons shot 10/23 from three to remain competitive in a 14 point loss. In the region tournament, the Falcons shot 4/26 and were bludgeoned by 32. Expect some similar swings this year, but with the amount of experience returning to the team, if they can improve and be more consistent, they can legitimately claim dark horse status.

5. Glasgow – Below the top 4 teams, it is expected that there will be a bit of a gap, with several teams jockeying for position. While leading scorer Ben Hughes departed with three other seniors, a youth movement is leading the way for the Scotties. Sophomores Nick Sorrell and Kobe Brents averaged in double digits in their appearances a season ago, and Peyton Mills and Dalvin Smith are the only two seniors on the team. Smith in particular is intriguing, as injuries have robbed him of his past two seasons. Assuming he makes it to basketball season this time, the talented athlete will appear for his first time since his freshman season. The significant minutes forced onto the young players a season ago due to injuries were a significant factor in a 4-24 campaign, but there were competitive flashes, such as a near upset of Monroe County in late January. The Scotties will look to get back to the region tournament after a year away, and should give an early indicator of their viability with road trips to Warren Central and Monroe County.

6. Clinton County – The Bulldogs should feature their typically solid team, despite losing five seniors from last year’s region semifinalists. Featuring a roster with only three seniors, it will be junior Jackson Harlan leading the team. Harlan scored 25 points in their two region tournament games, and was a member of the all-region tournament team as well as being selected to the third team all-region for the regular season by the fourth region coaches. Harlan is the only returning starter for the Bulldogs, but the team should have ample time to figure everything out. The rest of the 16th District remains significantly down, making Clinton County an almost lock for a seventh straight region appearance.

7. Greenwood – The Gators experienced almost all the highs and lows there were to experience a year ago. Led by talented seniors Dawson Crump and Chris Agro, the Gators twice nearly pulled upsets against Bowling Green, including losing in overtime at home in early February. That game saw Crump drop 38 points on the Purples – the last points he’d every score at Greenwood as he and Agro found themselves suspended for six games afterwards. That appeared to completely submarine the season, until Greenwood found magic in their district tournament matchup in the form of Jack Roberts, whose 23 points led them to an upset over Warren Central and a region tournament appearance. With the departure of TEN seniors, Roberts is the leading returning scorer at 10.1 PPG, just now entering his junior season. Isiah Mason saw significant minutes as an eighth grader in those last six games, averaging 6.4 PPG for a shot in the arm, and should be a starter in an uncertain rotation. Bob Pels returns as HC off of what I consider the best coaching job in the region last year, raising a team no one expected to be very good beyond one player to a region tournament appearance.

8. Logan County – The Cougars hope some of the magic surrounding their football team can drift over to the hardwood. Logan County was very competitive a year ago, putting a real scare into Russellville in late January, and return leading scorers Austin Rayno (12.6 PPG) and Kelby Epley (10.9 PPG). In all the top six scorers return for a team that is finally out of the shadow of titans like Russellville’s Pedro Bradshaw and Franklin-Simpson’s Tavin Lovan. The Cougars are three years removed from their last region tournament trip, but should be in contention to make it back to Diddle.

9. Warren East – The Brandon Combs era at Warren East enters its fourth year as the Raiders continue to look for a breakthrough to return to the region tournament for the first time since 1997. First and foremost, they will have to correct a trend that has seen them start well in December before fading from January on. Last year the Raiders opened 10-3, but bottomed out with losses in 13 of their last 16 games. Seven seniors are gone off that team including leading scorers Trequon Patterson (21.1 PPG) and Patrick Satterfield (12.6 PPG). Junior Adante Barber will look to pick up the slack, returning with 5.7 PPG a season ago. The Raiders have flashed a great deal of raw athleticism in recent seasons, and are always a threat to put everything together to make a run. This is a good year to do it, though it will remain difficult in the 14th District.

10. Russellville – Pedro Bradshaw is gone to Belmont and head coach Phil Todd is off to retirement, meaning the most familiar faces from last year are gone. The Panthers were able to return to the region title game for the first time in 16 years, and senior Jacob Naylor returns to stabilize the Russellville attack. He averaged 11.1 PPG a season ago, providing a balance inside and outside with 61 makes inside the arc and 63 outside of it. With six seniors departed and only Naylor and Quarles returning with significant time, it will be tough to know on the front end what to expect from the Panthers under new coach Rex Booth. Booth had last coached at Hopkins County Central.

11. Allen County-Scottsville – Stability is a serious issue for the Patriots, as they are now on their fourth coach in four years. That has manifested in a program that hasn’t been to the region tournament since 2013, their only appearance since 2010. Despite the loss of six seniors, leading scorer Brett Rippy returns from a year ago, a 42.1% three point shooter that made more than the rest of his team combined. Marcus Carter will also be counted on for an inside presence.

12. Franklin-Simpson – No player who averaged more than 3.3 PPG returns for Franklin-Simpson, who are about to figure out life without Tavin Lovan. In 2014/15 when Lovan went out with an injury in the fifth game of the year, the Wildcats lost all but two games without him. It will be a rough season. Dee Ragland is the returning leading scorer for the Cats.

13. Todd County Central – The Rebels couldn’t make their way through a tough 13th District a season ago, but grabbed nine wins for the second year in a row and won a district game over Logan County. Only three seniors depart, and the top three scorers return for Todd Central, including Nolan Barrow with a 13.9 PPG average a season ago.

14. Russell County – Another year, another new coach as Will Carson takes over in Russell County, who found out how the other half lived last year in stumbling to just five wins. But the Lakers kept their region streak alive, never having missed the region tournament since joining the 4th Region in the 05/06 season. Keeping that alive again should be their goal, and guard Brayton Scales will likely raise them to that level, looking to improve on a 17 PPG average last year.

15. South Warren – Nelson Cundiff is still around for the Spartans, which is a victory right there for a squad that burned through three coaches in three years before him. The Spartans endured an injury to their best player Dylan Beckham a year ago, which derailed any prayer of climbing out of the 14th District basement. Five seniors departed off that team, leaving Tyler Martin (5.5 PPG) as the leading returning scorer. The Spartan basketball program is still years away.

16. Cumberland County – Kurtis Claywell raised the win total from one win to seven in his first year as head coach, but after a feel-good 5-6 start the team went 2-15 down the stretch. Sophomore Dawson Smith is one of the more prolific sophomores in the region, and finished third on the team a year ago with 8.3 PPG. They’ll try again to run down Russell County for the second spot in the region from the 16th.

17. Metcalfe County – The Hornets have lost 31 in a row and 45 of 46. They will get a win this year, but not much more than that.

Top Players in the 4th Region

1. Skyelar Potter, F, Sr. (Warren Central) – Potter will look to lead the Dragons back to Rupp. They’ll need a ton of scoring from him to do it.

2. Jared Coomer, F, Sr. (Barren County) – The big man is the focal point of the Trojan offense.

3. Jarius Key, F, Sr. (Bowling Green) – The super sub will move into the starting role and his athleticism will be counted on for the Purples.

4. Billy Michael Dyer, G, Sr. (Monroe County) – Up over 22 PPG, the question is how high Dyer’s scoring average can go. Look for him to have the highest per game scoring in the region.

5. Brayton Scales, G, Sr. (Russell County) – Scales was a bright spot on a bad team a year ago.

6. Trey Jones, G, Sr. (Bowling Green) – Another super sub on the state title Purple team, Trey will make a name for himself.

7. Nolan Barrow, G, Sr. (Todd County Central) – One of the top shooters in the region, Barrow shot better than 45% from the perimeter last season.

8. Jacob Naylor, G, Jr. (Russellville) – The top junior in the region, Naylor will have to pick up a lot of slack left with Bradshaw’s absence.

9. Jackson Harlan, G, Jr. (Clinton County) – Harlan is the only returning starter for Clinton County, and should anchor the 2018 edition.

10. Jack Roberts, G, Jr. (Greenwood) – The district tournament hero made some clutch shots down the stretch a year ago.