2018 was an exciting year in the 5th region. John Hardin represented the 5th Region as expected, by beating Larue County in the region finals in a great game. This year should be a great year in the 5th Region. There are some good teams and a lot of good individual talent this year. Larue got runner up last year, but seems to be the favorite coming into the year. The Region Tournament will be held at Hart County this year.

Preseason 5th Region Rankings

1. Larue County (29-3)- The Hawks had a great year last year, ending in a heartbreaker as they were 20 seconds away from winning Region for the first time since 1988. The good news for Larue County is they return 4 starters off that runner up team. This is a team who has lots of experience and have played in big games already, as this team is full of Juniors and Seniors. They will be led by their leading scorers from last year, Forward Anthony Adkins and Center Mark Goode. Adkins and Goode both averaged 13 a game last year. Adkins is a Louisville football commit who can really bully people inside with his strength. Goode is a traditional Center who is skilled for his size. The other returning starters Dailliss Cox and Noah Davis arenít as known, but they both are big reasons why Larue is so good with Coxís length and athleticism and Davisís ability to space the floor with the 3 ball. LaRue is a team who is so hard to match up with because of their size inside, as they have multiple players 6-3 and taller. Larue is the heavy favorite this year and they would love nothing more than to represent the 5th Region at Rupp.

2. Central Hardin (19-11)- The Bruins had a good year last year, that ended in the first round of the Regional Tournament. They return 4 starters from last yearís team, and they also return the 3 leading scorers from last year. The most notable was the leading scorer last year Jacob Hobbs. Hobbs who is a Lipscomb commit, averaged 12 points and 8.6 rebounds. He will be the go to guy for Central Hardin as they hope to have a memorable year. Hobbs is a big guy at 6-7, but where he is tough, he can shoot outside and heís also a great athlete and an elite rim protector. Gavin George averaged 11.8 points per game and should give the Bruins another go to guy. They are a team who has multiple guys who can shoot the 3 which is why they are a hard team to guard. The Bruins have good size almost everywhere, and they like to play in a half-court game where they can really execute their offense. Central Hardin has never won a region title. With so much experience back, winning Region must be the goal for them.

3. John Hardin (28-8)Ė The Bulldogs are the reigning 5th Region champions, as they ended their fantastic season losing at Rupp Arena last year. They did lose their two best players and leading scorers, in 5th Region player of the year Mickey Pearson and Malik Wright. Donít count out John Hardin yet. They do however return 7 of 9 varsity players, and a lot of them played key minutes on last yearís title team. They also return 3 starters who will be the guys for the Bulldogs this year, in senior guards Jachai Walker and Aaron Scott and junior forward Alex Matthews. Walker the point guard, shot an amazing 55 percent from 3 last year and is a smart guard. Scott is an athletic 2 guard who can be a streaky shooter and when heís on, heís tough to stop. Matthews is an athletic forward who seems to get every 50-50 ball. He was very close to averaging a double double on the year as he averaged 9.8 points and 10.1 rebounds last year. They are a team who likes to play fast and really get after you. They arenít the favorite to win region like last year, but a year later, John Hardin is in the mix once again.

4. Bardstown (17-12)- Last year, the Tigers ended their season in the first round of Region. This wasnít a normal Bardstown year with James Brewer at the helm, as the Tigers were not region contenders. A big part of that, was that the Tigers lost so much the year before, and they didnít have much experience at all. However, this year the Tigers do return a lot of experience from last year, including 5 players who averaged at least 6 points. Trey Riney is the returning leading scorer from last year as he averaged 9.9 points. They need him to even improve on that for this year. For Bardstown to really contend, they will need big man JJ Traynor to have a good year. The 6-8 Senior averaged 6 points and 7.1 rebounds last year, but many are expecting him to have a breakout year, as he possesses a lot of physical talent. Bardstown likes to play fast, but what Bardstown is always known for is their pressure defense, as they really get after you and play hard. Offensively you never know who the guy for Bardstown will be that night, which is hard to game plan for. Unlike last year, it looks as if like normal, Bardstown is going to be a contender in the end.

5. Taylor County (5-23)- The Cardinals season ended last year in the first round of the district tournament. Last year Iím sure seemed like a bad dream, as the Cardinals who had won 3 straight region titles, ended up winning 5 games. Everything just went wrong for them, including being without their starting point guard all year but for one game, due to injury. This year they hope it looks to be different as they return a lot of experience. They return 3 starters off the team who won region 2 years ago. Dejhon Irvin returns from being out last year at point. Even though heís small, he plays so much bigger, as he may be the best athlete in the region. Trevon Smith is the guy for the Cardinals, as he led the team in scoring 19.9 points and 5.7 rebounds. The Lefty is a great slasher and if he can get a consistent 3 point shot, then watch out. The other 3-year starter returning is Grant Mcqueary. He is the player that every team needs, because he does all the little things that doesnít get noticed. Taylor plays very hard and is a very gritty team. The Cardinals hope last year is behind them and they get back to their winning ways this year.

6. Marion County (18-11)- The Knights ended their season last year in the first round of the district tournament. The Knights did a lot better than most expected, as they were a very young team overall. They lost their leading scorer in Lez Means, but things are looking up for Marion. They return a lot of experience and especially a lot of experience that are going to be Juniors. The Junior class for Marion is special, highlighted by the big three of guard Tyshay Epps, forwards Jamison Epps and Mason Sullivan. Tyshay Epps is the leading returning scorer averaging 10.3 points. The two bigs, Epps and Sullivan can kill teams on the glass as both are big physical bigs who can add possessions with offensive rebounds. This will be a very deep Marion team that can throw multiple players at you. Marion will be a team who will try to physically wear you down as they have a lot of big strong players on this yearís team. Even though Marion lost a very good player in Means, donít be surprised if the Knights are even better this year.

7. Washington County (17-13)- The Commanders lost in the first round of district last year. The good news is that Washington only lost one player off last yearís team. They should be as experienced as anyone in the region. They return three players who averaged over 12 points a game. Senior Point Guard Cameron Willis led the team in scoring with 18.5 points. He is a great shooter, as he shot 39 percent from 3 and shot 81 percent from the free throw line. Heís also scored double digits for 3 straight years. Senior Drew Yates scored 13.2 and Senior Devin Hurst averaged 12.7 points last year. This is a class of seniors who have played a lot of basketball for the Commanders. The team really depends on Cameron Willis to get things going for others, as well as he has over 500 assists in his time playing. This team isnít usually considered a top team, but this year that could change.

8. Hart County (15-13)- The Raiders ended their season losing in the first round of the district tournament. The good news for the Raiders is, they only lost one player off that team last year. They also have back the all-region player Senior John Shoulders. Shoulders led the team with 21 points and 8.2 rebounds. He really does it all for Hart, as he led the team with 60 threes last year and shot 83.6 percent from the free throw line. This is a Hart County team who has a lot of experience. Junior Trevor Blair was second on the team in scoring with 10.4 points and junior Braydon Bell led the team shooting 41 percent from 3 last year. They return a lot of scoring from last year so I donít see scoring being a problem. Therefore, the Raiders must feel like they can make region, and this could be another surprise team this year as they would love to play region at their own gym.

9. Campbellsville (16-16)- The Eagles ended their season last year by losing in the regional tournament in the semifinals. They had a great year, as not many people would have predicted a top 4 finish for them. They also return their two leading scorers. Senior Nataj Sanders averaged 12.5 points last year to lead the team. Junior Malachi Corley averaged 11.4 points and had a massive summer. Corley could be one of the breakout players this year in the 5th Region. The Eagles did graduate 5 seniors so they will have to replace a lot of playing time. They also return their leading 3-point shooter in Arren Hash, who shot 36 percent. Eagles will play through their two main guys a lot this year. The Eagles made region last year, and I am sure they feel they can do the same thing again.

10. Elizabethtown (17-10)- The Panthers lost in the first round of the district tournament. The Panthers had a good senior class and didnít make it out of district which was a disappointment. They lost a lot of talent last year as they lost 6 seniors and graduated 4 starters. Etown does have two players who contributed on last yearís team. Senior guard Tait Pritchard scored 9.6 points and shot 40.8 percent from the 3-point line. They also return sophomore Jaquias Franklin who had a good freshman year by scoring 9.5. This Panthers team is going to be very inexperienced, but they do have two good guards to build off of. Expectations have changed for the Panthers, but if they could find a way to make region, it would be a great season for the Panthers.

11. North Hardin (11-18)- The Trojans season ended in the first round of the district tournament. This wasnít a normal North Hardin year as the team struggled all year. They lost a lot of close games, but couldnít ever get it going. They do return 3 starters from last yearís team as well as two transfers from Fort Knox. One, Jonah Butts led Fort Knox in scoring last year at 12 points. Tony Everett is the leading returning scorer, by averaging 8.6 points. This North team will be deep and if they can win close games, they could have a much better year. The Trojans hope they get back on the right path this year and make region again.

12. Adair County (20-12)- The Indians ended their season last year losing in the semifinals of the regional tournament. Adair has lost 4 of the 5 starters from that team, due to 2 transfers and 2 graduating. Most Notable loss was Zion Harmon, the sophomore sensation transferred to Marshall County after leading the state in scoring with 32.7 points. Anthony Payne is the leading returning scorer from last year as he averaged 11.9 points. Heís shown glimpses, but Adair will need him to be the guy. The Indians will have 5 seniors who all play lots of minutes this year. Last couple of years Adair has been a threat to win the region, this year making region should be the end goal.

13. Green County (12-16)- The Dragons ended their season last year with a loss in the first round of the district tournament. Dragons only graduated one player who was the leading scorer ,Isaac Young, but they also lost their coach Keith Young who retired. Peter DiStefano returns to his alma mater to coach. He inherits a team who has 4 starters back and a lot of experience. Senior guard Zyler Bardin is the leading returning scorer at 10.5. With it being a new coach, this should be an interesting year for the Dragons being that they have so much experience back. Green didnít make region last year, but with the experience they have back, making region is a realistic goal for this squad.

14. Nelson County (10-21)- The Cardinals season ended last year in the first round of the district tournament. They were competitive with most teams, but could never get it going. They graduated 6 seniors, but they do return two double digit scorers. Senior Forward Marcus Shewmaker averaged 11.4 points while Senior Center Garret Miles averaged 10.6. The Cardinals inside play is their strength, but for them to improve guard play will be key as their frontcourt will be able to matchup with most teams in the region. If the Cardinals can come together and improve, making region could happen for this squad.

15. Bethlehem (10-18)- The Eagles ended their season with a loss in the first round of the regional tournament. This yearís team is going to look a little different, as they graduated 6 seniors and have a new head coach, Mike Deaton. Junior Guard Lane Peake is the leading returning scorer from last year by averaging 6.8 points. The Eagles will be a team with not much experience at all. This could be a down year for Bethlehem, but the good news is this team has several juniors who will be back next year as well.

16. Caverna (13-17)- The Colonels ended their season last year in the first round of the regional tournament. They lost there do it all player in Jobby Howard who averaged 30 last year. This is a team who graduated 4 starters, so this is going to be a very young squad. Jaxton Dunagon is the leading returning scorer, as he will be relied on a lot more this year. This is a team who likes to get it out and go fast in the past, but with so many new faces, it will be interesting to see if thatís the same style they go with. Expect a down year for Caverna compared to the last couple of years, but they have shown they will play very hard.

17. Thomas Nelson (2-28)- The Generals ended their season last year in the first round of the district tournament. Winning two games the whole year was a disappointment. Good news is, Thomas Nelson didnít lose a player off last yearís squad. Hunter and Jerry Wimsett were the two leading scorers from last years team. This is a team that will have a lot of experience back. Last year was bad for Thomas Nelson, but donít be surprised if the Generals get close to double digit wins this year.

18. Fort Knox (6-19)- The Eagles ended their season last year in the first round of the district tournament. This hasnít been the best offseason, as they graduated 6 players and lost two other players to transfer. The two players that transferred would have been the two leading returning scorers and Jonah Butts led the team in points last year with 12. This is going to be a rebuilding year for Fort Knox with all the departures from last yearís squad.

Top Players in the 5th Region

1. Jacob Hobbs 6-7, Central Hardin (F, Sr): The Lipscomb commit is a versatile player who is a matchup nightmare. He can shoot it for his size but heís a very athletic player and a great rim protector.

2. Trevon Smith 6-3, Taylor County (G, Sr): The lefty does it all for the Cardinals. Heís a good slasher with a really good midrange game, and for a guard his ability to score inside is very rare for someone of his stature.

3. Mark Goode 6-6, Larue County (C, Jr): The big man is a traditional big, as he is good with his back to the basket. He also has great hands and has a good midrange game to go with his great touch around the basket.

4. John Shoulders 6-1, Hart County (G, Sr): The do it all guard can score in about any way you want him to. Everything goes through him and for his size he can really be good inside as well.

5. Anthony Adkins 6-3, Larue County (F, Sr): The Louisville football commit is a physical specimen inside. Heís a great rebounder and offensively he can play bully ball with the best of them as he is a really good finisher around the basket.

6. Alex Matthews 6-4, John Hardin (F, Jr): Matthews is an all energy guy. Heís as good of a rebounder as there is in the region, and can do all the little things that donít show up on the box score.

7. Jaquias Franklin 5-11, Elizabethtown (G, So): Franklin was the best freshmen in the region behind Zion Harmon last year. The kid can really score in a variety of ways and heís got the talent to be a region player of the year candidate.

8. Jachai Walker 5-11, John Hardin (G, Sr): Walker may be the best 3-point shooter in the region. As a point guard he can really set up teammates for easy baskets and you can always rely on him on the defensive end as well.

9. Cameron Willis 5-10, Bethlehem (G, Sr): The point guard does everything you would want a high school point to do. Heís an excellent shooter, has led the team in assists for years, and late in games heís who you want with the ball in his hands.

10. Jayden Traynor 6-7, Bardstown (C, Sr): The big man has all the physical talent that you would want with his length and athleticism. He hasnít been able to translate that onto the court yet but donít be shocked if heís a top player by the end of the year.