BluegrassPreps.com 7th Region Boys Basketball Preview

The Ballard Bruins were the Kings of the Seventh Region last year, finishing 29-7 for the year (16-0 in the Seventh Region) and advancing to the quarterfinals of the state tournament where they fell to Fern Creek 55-52. If recent history repeats itself, Ballard winning the region last year means Trinity will win it this year. And Trinity, with perhaps the three best returning players in the region, appears ready to do just that.

But Ballard might have something to say about that, as it did last year when the Bruins beat Trinity 57-40 in the Seventh Region tournament semifinals. While the Bruins lost its two top scorers, the Bruins return six seniors who played significant minutes last season and will again be a strong contender for the Seventh Region championship.

The real challenge is sorting through the other sixteen teams in the region. Of the other six teams that made it to the Seventh Region tournament last season, Christian Academy won 24 games, the most in its history, but lost its top three scorers. St. X has most of its lineup back from a team that won 19 games last year. Waggener also won 19 games last season but lost its two top scorers. Manual was playing well at the end of the season and has most of its roster back. Central and Male lost most of their significant contributors from last year. And there are ten other teams in the region, each with its own story to tell.

As of today, every team in the Seventh Region is undefeated. Let’s tip it up and let things sort themselves out on the court.

TEAM RANKINGS


1. Trinity Shamrocks


Perhaps the easiest part of this preview is picking Trinity as the top team in the region, because the Shamrocks are loaded. Coach Mike Szabo, entering his seventeenth season as the Shamrocks’ head coach, welcomes back a trio of 6’5” players who arguably are the best three players in the region and are among the best players in the state. Junior David Johnson is a combo guard who can score from anywhere on the floor. A high Division I prospect, Johnson had committed to Louisville but recently reopened his recruitment. Senior Jay Scrubb, who shot 45% on 3’s and led the team in scoring last season at 15.4 ppg, has multiple Division I offers. Sophomore Justin Powell already has received offers from Xavier and Auburn. No other team in the region or elsewhere in the state can match that trio of players.

Trinity will need to replace the offensive production of Lucas Burkman (12.4 ppg) and the point guard play of Jacob King (10.6 ppg). Look for 6’4” junior Stan Turnier, who like Scrubb shot 45% from 3-point range last season, to see increased minutes. 6’3” junior Jamil Hardaway and 6’1” junior Walter Johnson are also expected to provide significant contributions this season.

Trinity will usually be without a true post player on the floor but that should not be an issue in most games. With multiple athletic players in the 6’4” – 6’5” range, the Shamrocks will be able to deal with what most teams throw at them.

Trinity has been to the state tournament 3 out of the last 6 years and won a state championship in 2011-12. Last season produced a 29-4 record, a King of the Bluegrass tournament championship, an Arby’s Classic tournament championship in Bristol, Tennessee, and an overtime loss to Fern Creek in the championship game of the Louisville Invitational Tournament. Coach Szabo has greatly elevated the expectations of the Shamrock faithful, and this year will be no different. Anything less than a serious run at a state championship will be disappointing.

2. Ballard Bruins


Coach Chris Renner enters his 20th season at Ballard in a familiar situation: coming off a very successful season (29-7 overall record, 16-0 record against Seventh Region teams, and a Seventh Region championship) but losing some very talented players. Can Ballard make their way back to the top of the region? It usually does, as evidenced by the fact that the Bruins have won the Seventh Region three of the last five seasons.

The losses are significant. Clivonte Patterson (17.2 ppg, 9.7 rpg) was a strong inside presence and Jamil Wilson (13 ppg) was an outstanding point guard. But losing quality players to graduation is nothing new for Ballard, and the cupboard certainly is not bare. In fact, Ballard will welcome back six veteran players for their senior seasons: 6’2” Dorian Tisby (9.1 ppg, Seventh Region all-tournament team), 6’2” Marshon Ford (8.4 ppg), 5’10” Tyron Duncan (6.9 ppg), 6’3” Delonta Wimberly (6.8 ppg), 6’1” Kereion Douglas (3.7 ppg), and Tyrese Duncan (3.2 ppg) all played significant minutes last season and return. Coach Renner also believes 6’4” junior wing Alexander Holley and 6’0” sophomore point guard Lewis Richards will see plenty of time on the floor.

Ballard once again will have good team speed, quality depth, and will play pressure baseline-to-baseline defense. And while Ballard was not a great outside shooting team last year, Coach Renner expects better team shooting this season. So, as is usually the case with Ballard, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Expect the Bruins to once again be one of the favorites to win the Seventh Region championship when the post-season arrives.

3. St. Xavier Tigers


St. X has won at least 19 games in each of the last 6 seasons and appears poised to repeat that feat this season. Again led by Coach Kevin Klein, now in his tenth season at St. X, the Tigers welcome back four of their top five scorers from last season, led by 6’7” senior Pierce Kiesler (16.6 ppg). Kiesler can score from both outside (33% 3-point shooter last season) and inside. He also grabbed 5.7 rpg last season, tops on the team. Kiesler will definitely present a match-up problem for most teams. 5’11” sophomore James Taylor (8 ppg) started at the point guard position last year as a freshman and was named to the Seventh Region all-tournament team. Junior Sam Boarman (6.6 ppg, 44% shooting from 3-point range) and 6’5” senior Evan Walker (5.4 ppg) also return, giving St. X a strong nucleus of experienced players upon which to build. While the Tigers will miss the inside presence of Tyler Barnes, the return of Kiesler and Walker, plus 6’7” senior Andrew Lechleiter, give the Tigers more size than most teams they will face.

It will be a challenge for St. X to rise to the Trinity/Ballard level. The Tigers were 0-3 against Trinity and Ballard last season, including a 67-38 loss to Trinity in the Seventh Region tournament. Still, based on what they have coming back, the Tigers appear ready to again have a very successful season and will be the most likely challenger to the Rocks and Bruins.

4. Waggener Wildcats


Coach Bryan O’Neill returns for his seventh year at the helm of the Waggener Wildcats without two of last year’s leading scorers in the Seventh Region, De’Von Cooper (21 ppg) and Jacquess Hobbs (15.9 ppg). The key returnee from last year’s team that went 19-12 is junior Jaago “J.J.” Kalakon, who averaged 10.3 ppg last season. Already the recipient of multiple Division I offers, Kalakon is a well-rounded player who not only should increase his offensive production but also be a leader in all phases of the game.

Kalakon will not be alone. 6’5” Senior Ben Simic (4.1 ppg) and juniors Kevion Hudson (6’0”, 4.7 ppg) and Cobie Montgomery (6’5”, 3.7 ppg) all played significant minutes last season and should increase their scoring output this season.

De’Von Cooper’s insertion into Waggener’s lineup upon gaining eligibility mid-season last year seemed to disrupt the Wildcats a bit. Perhaps the lack of such a distraction will benefit the Wildcats this year, who likely will once again be among the region’s top teams.

5. Manual Crimsons


Manual returns most of the key parts from a team that went 10-20 last year. While Manual won only seven games in the regular season last year, two of those victories came against St. X and Central. The Crimsons then won the 25th district tournament, beating Central for a second time in the final, and beat Waggener in the first round of the Seventh Region tournament before losing to Christian Academy 60-51 in the semifinals. That finish gives the Manual faithful reason to believe the Crimsons will improve on last season’s results.

Leading the way for the Crimsons will be senior Noah Hawkins, a 6’6” traditional post player who averaged 12.1 ppg and 5.1 rpg last season. Fellow seniors Jordan McLendon (9.1 ppg), Kenyan Jacob (8.7 ppg) and Jonah Gelhaus (4.4 ppg) also return, as does sophomore Eli Roberts (5.2 ppg). Roberts showed substantial potential last year as a freshman and could become a significant contributor this season.

This will be Coach James Just’s eleventh season with the Crimsons. An experienced coach with experienced players is often a recipe for success. Manual should move forward from last year. The only question is how much.

6. Christian Academy of Louisville Centurions

The 2016-17 season was the most successful season in CAL’s history – a 24-11 record and advancement to the Seventh Region championship game. The loss of Parker Jones (21.5 ppg), K.C. Purvis (15.3 ppg) and Michael Woodward (9.9 ppg) will make achieving the same level of success difficult. But Coach Chad Carr, in his third year at CAL, welcomes back perhaps the best athlete in the Seventh Region in 6’3” junior Milton Wright, who already has football scholarship offers from the likes of Ohio State, Oregon, Louisville and Kentucky. Wright averaged 9 ppg last season and was named to the Seventh Region all-tournament team. Also returning is fellow 6’3” junior, and football teammate, Austin Carr, who shot 47.6% on a limited number of 3-point shots last season (20/42) and averaged 7 rpg. Senior Wyatt Allison shot 38.1% on 3-point shooting last season while averaging 4.7 ppg. While it will be a challenge for CAL to match last season’s level of success, expect the Centurions to once again have a solid season.

7. Male Bulldogs

The Bulldogs certainly have some questions entering the 2017-18 season. Gone from last year’s 15-14 team is Hogan Brownley and his 17 ppg and 9.3 rpg, along with four of Male’s other top six scorers. The lone returnee from last season’s top six scorers is junior Hunter McCutcheon, who shot 42% from 3-point range and averaged 13.5 ppg. Seniors Shane Doughty and Armani Rowan will again see significant minutes on the floor and will be looked to for increased offensive contributions. Also returning is sophomore Howard Fleming, who saw action in 13 games last season and scored 13 points in Male’s Seventh Region tournament loss to CAL. Third year coach Willie Feldhaus will need to find additional contributors to match or improve on last season’s 15 wins. A match-up with Manual during the first week of the season should provide some insight as to where the Bulldogs stand going into the season.

8. Eastern Eagles


Coach David Henley, now in his 30th year of coaching (fifth season at Eastern), and the Eastern Eagles lose all five starters from last season’s team that went 15-15. The top returning scorer is 5’10” junior Jacob Robinson, who averaged 6.7 ppg and shot 43.3% on 3’s. Also returning is fellow 5’10” junior Trent Robinson (Jacob’s cousin), who averaged 3.7 ppg last season. The Eagles will rely on three seniors to step up this season: 5’11” Myles Goodrich, 6’1” Barnabas Ojo, and 6’2” Nate Jackson. While none of the three has much varsity experience, Coach Henley, who has won at least 15 games in each of his four seasons at Eastern, thinks each can be a big contributor.

9. Kentucky Country Day Bearcats

Job no. 1 for Coach James Booker, in his tenth season at KCD, will be to deal with the loss of Anthony Mathis and his 24.4 ppg offensive production from last year’s squad that finished 13-15 and advanced to the All A state tournament for the fourth straight year. Hayden Kraus (9.9 ppg) also was lost to graduation. Senior Solomon Mathis, Anthony’s cousin, averaged 16.9 ppg last season and seems ready to have a breakout season as one of the region’s top guards. KCD returns several other players who played significant minutes last season, including senior Cedric Cosby, who averaged 4.2 ppg last season. Coach Booker reports that the Bearcats will have depth at every position and will look to again push the tempo on both ends of the floor.

10. Atherton Rebels


The Rebels have reached double-digits in victories in two of the three years since Coach Mark Tudor arrived, including last season when Atherton went 13-16. The Rebels won five of their last seven games last season, the only two losses during that stretch being a regular season loss to Trinity and another loss to Trinity in the opening round of the 27th district tournament. The Rebels must deal with the loss of Flynn Calnon and his scoring (15.2 ppg), rebounding (5.2 rpg) and team leadership. Forward Jordan Pulford (8.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg last season), point guard Ty Lauderdale (5.8 ppg), Keion Bentley (5.2 ppg), and Noah Weber (5 ppg) all return for their senior season and are expected to lead what looks to be a senior-heavy team. Weber (31.6% 3-point shooting last season) and Jacob Walsh (48.3%), another senior, will likely be the primary scoring threats from the outside.

11. Seneca Redhawks

Coach Miquel Coleman returns for his second season with the Redhawks hoping to improve on last year’s 7-17 record. Seneca’s ability to do so will be hampered by the loss of the talented Keyontez Leach (15.9 ppg), who graduated and will be missed. Richard Ninamov (8.6 ppg), Carl Parker (8 ppg) and Phillip Armstrong (5 ppg) return for their junior seasons and give Seneca a nucleus of experienced players upon which to build. Senior Myron Malone and junior Robert Walker also played significant minutes and return. Coach Coleman believes the scoring will come from a lot of different players and that the Redhawks will be strong on the defensive end of the court.

12. Central Yellow Jackets

Coach Doug Bibby, who will be coaching the Yellow Jackets for the 14th year this season, faces a lot of uncertainty. Six of Central’s top seven scorers from last year’s team that went 13-16 were seniors. The lone exception is junior Josh Watkins, who averaged 6.5 ppg and was a 40.7% 3-pointer shooter. 6’3” senior Chris Rawlings saw increased playing time as the season progressed last year and should increase his 3.2 ppg average. Coach Bibby also reports that he has a good group of freshmen he believes will contribute as the season unfolds. Of course, the most important returnee is Coach Bibby, who has failed to win at least 10 games in only one of his 13 seasons at Central (9-20 in 2013-14).

13. St. Francis Wyverns

St. Francis certainly will miss James Risley (18 ppg last season), the school’s second all-time leading scorer who last year led the Wyverns to their first winning season (17-12) in school history. But first year coach Patrick Jackson, who previously coached at Jefferson Community and Technical College, will welcome back all other significant contributors from last season, including three double-digit scorers: 6’2” senior Jomar Sullivan (15 ppg), 6’2” junior Ahmad Moore (14.4 ppg) and 6’0” junior Noah Sparks (12.6 ppg). Sullivan and Moore give the Wyverns a nice pair of frontcourt scorers, a luxury for a small school like St. Francis. The Wyverns scored a lot of points last year, and should be able to do so again this season.

14. Louisville Collegiate Titans

Energetic first year coach Zach Settembre inherits a team that won 18 games last season, the most in school history. The challenge facing Coach Settembre is that the Titans lost six of their top seven scorers from last season. The departed players accounted for 93% of the Titans’ scoring last year. The leading returning scorer is Eli Allen, a guard who averaged 3.6 ppg last season. Senior Will Stevens and sophomore Hudson Good also saw playing time last year. The Titans should benefit from three sophomore transfers expected to make significant contributions immediately and a freshman class about which Coach Settembre is excited. Collegiate’s season opener against an experienced Portland Christian squad may be a good gauge as to how quickly the Titans can replace the lost offensive production.

15. Portland Christian Eagles

Jeremy Niestand enters his second year at the helm of the Portland Christian Eagles in an enviable position – his entire team that won the Kentucky Christian Athletic Conference championship last year returns, including four double-figure scorers. Leading the way once again will be 6’2” junior forward Quincy Dye, who averaged 20 ppg last season and scored 48 in the Eagles’ season-opening win over Brown. Dye will team with 6’5” senior Keller Mackey (10.8 ppg last year) to give Portland Christian two solid frontcourt players. Senior point guard Isiah Young and junior shooting guard Michael Meredith, each of whom averaged 10.4 ppg last season, return to the backcourt. With everyone back, plus the addition of new players to give the Eagles more quality depth, expect Portland Christian to have a solid season this year.

16. Shawnee Golden Eagles

Coming off a 1-25 season in 2016-17, second year coach Clayton Reeves will have to deal with the loss of the Golden Eagles’ top two scorers from last year. Sophomore point guard Josiah Bivens and senior shooting guard Ronald Lewis played substantial minutes last season and return. Also returning is junior forward Jermon Boyd (6.8 ppg in 8 games). Coach Reeves also expects good things from Jonathan Heck, who missed almost all of last year due to injury, and Marcus Berry. With only three seniors on the team (Lewis, Heck and Berry), Coach Reeves describes his team as “a young group with a lot of speed. Small but aggressive.”

17. Brown Bears

Second year coach Erin Spalding will miss last year’s leading scorer, Jared Fife, who averaged 15.8 ppg and 5.5 rpg. Whether the Bears can improve on last year’s 8-20 record will largely turn on their success in replacing Fife’s offensive production and team leadership. The most likely returning player to fill that role is senior Collin Bynum, who averaged 12.3 ppg last year. Also back are junior Jai’Rus Bibb (9.2 ppg), who may be the quickest player in the region, and senior Montez Moore (7.9 ppg). Coach Spalding is also excited about the incoming freshman class.

18. Walden Wolverines


The Walden Wolverines return to the hardwood after not fielding a varsity team last year. Two years ago, Walden had one of the top scorers in the state in Michael Harris, who averaged 32.9 points per game. Look for senior Jack Pitchford and junior Adam Rudy to lead the Wolverines this season for Coach Kevin Manning.

TOP TEN PLAYERS

I struggled with naming Trinity’s talented trio the top three players in the region, but that is probably where they deserve to be ranked. Beyond that, valid arguments can be made that the others should be in a different order and that others not ranked here should be in the top ten. Indeed, there are a number of other players who easily could be on this list. It will be fun to watch them all as the season progresses. Plus, please note that four of the top five players in this ranking are underclassmen.

1. David Johnson, Trinity, 6’5” junior

Athletic combo guard who can score from anywhere on the floor. Committed to the University of Louisville earlier in the year but has since reopened his recruitment.

2. Jay Scrubb, Trinity, 6’5” senior

Leading returning scorer for Trinity (15.4 ppg). Solid outside shooter with multiple Division I offers.

3. Justin Powell, Trinity, 6’5” sophomore

Another well-rounded player who can score from anywhere on the court. Outstanding passer. Already holds offers from Xavier and Auburn.

4. Jaago “J.J.” Kalakon, Waggener, 6’4” junior

Solid in all phases of the game, should gain more attention this season with Waggener losing two Division I players to graduation. Holds several Division I offers.

5. Milton Wright, Christian Academy, 6’3” junior

High Division I football prospect (offers from Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Kentucky, etc.). Should increase his offensive production with the graduation of Parker Jones and others.

6. Pierce Kiesler, St. X, 6’7” senior

A scorer (16.6 ppg last year) with good size, Kiesler can get it done from both the outside and inside. Also collected 5.7 rpg last season.

7. Solomon Mathis, KCD, 6’0” senior

Strong offensive player who averaged 16.9 ppg last season. Will have to deal with defenses being able to focus on him more this season with the departure of his cousin Anthony.

8. Dorian Tisby, Ballard, 6’3” senior


Significant contributor for the balanced Bruins last year. Should increase his 9.1 ppg scoring average from last year.

9. Hunter McCutcheon, Male, 5’11” junior

A 42% shooter from 3-point range, averaged 13.5 ppg last season. Will be counted on for more production this year for the Bulldogs.

10. Marshon Ford, Ballard, 6’2” senior

Another key in Ballard’s balanced attack last season expected to contribute significantly this season. Averaged 8.4 ppg last year.

Let the fun begin!