Overview: The top teams in the 15th Region opened the season with wins against a few of the best regions 14 and 16 had to offer. No major surprises at the top of the rankings as our #1 through #6 are all still without a loss. With Holiday tournaments quickly approaching, we should find out more about each team as many will face tough competition this week to include a few important early district match-up’s.
Team Rankings After Week 1:
1. Pikeville (0-0) – The Panthers remain the top overall team in the region despite not opening the season yet. They will do just that this coming Saturday in a game they will be heavily favored in as they travel to Ambassador Christian Academy in nearby Williamson, WV. Look for Wyatt Battaile and company to make quick work of their first opponent.
2. Floyd Central (3-0) – The Jaguars opened the season strong, going 3-0 with all games being played at home. Floyd Central blew out Magoffin County 76-40, defeated BGP 14th Region preseason #4 Perry Central 58-50, and then blew out Fleming County 79-50 all in a five-day span. The Jaguars have got balanced scoring in each of their first three games, putting at least four players into double figures in each contest (J.R. Tackett has been the leading scorer in each game, averaging just under 20 ppg). Week two will see Floyd Central compete in the WYMT Mountain Classic as they open with Leslie County on Wednesday night. In that tournament you could see a rematch with Perry Central in the semi-finals.
3. Johnson Central (1-0) – In their only contest of the week, the young Golden Eagles knocked off the top 16th Region team on the road (Per BGP preseason rankings) as they defeated Boyd County by a final of 84-76. Despite not having three major contributors (football players preparing for state championship), JC was able to put four players into double figures. Freshman Cory VanHoose led the way with 25 points, Jacob Rice added 23 points, Gabe Ferrell dropped in 18 points, and Freshman Isaiah May scored 14 points despite picking up two fouls in the first 30s of the game and thus seeing limited game time. Boyd County played well in the game, hitting 16 3FG’s on nearly 50% shooting, but coach McKenzie’s squad was able to answer every run with a flurry of their own. Johnson Central is very young, very talented and will only get better as the football kids get acclimated. Week 2 will see JC play three games in three nights as they host East Ridge Thursday night then travel to Jackson County to face North Laurel and Jackson County on back-to-back nights in the PRTC Classic. This will be a good test for a team with only one senior.
4. Pike Central (3-0) – The Hawks are long, athletic, and talented at every position. This was personified in the form of three wins in week one of the season. Pike Central defeated Betsy Layne 87-60, Ambassador Christian 104-68, and Magoffin County 83-60 all at home. The blow out wins were against less than stellar competition, but good teams are supposed to blow out inferior competition. The difficulty will pick up in week two as Pike Central travels to Knott Central for the WYMT Mountain Classic where they open with Knott Central on Tuesday. If big man Cameron Jones is available for the Patriots, this will be a great test of the Hawks.
5. Paintsville (1-0) – The Tigers have been young and upcoming for what seems like years, but this version is something different. They play with energy, can go ten deep, and create a hectic style of play for a full 32 minutes. This was seen in week one as Paintsville knocked off BGP 16th Region preseason #3 Elliott County by a final of 77-54 at home. After trailing by eleven in the first quarter, Paintsville dominated the rest of the game, putting three players into double figures (Seth Williams 22 points, Mason Moore 16 points, and Jaxson Watts 11 points). This team is better than expected, earlier than expected and could be a force by seasons end. Week two will see them play three games on the road vs. Powell County, Shelby Valley, and Harlan County. They will be favored in all three.
6. Shelby Valley (2-0) – The Wildcats picked up two wins to start the season defeating Jenkins 74-34 and Harlan 76-54 both at home. In fact, Shelby Valley plays their first seven games of the season at home. In week two they have Betsy Layne, Paintsville, and Prestonsburg. They should not be tested until the Paintsville game.
7. Belfry (0-0) – The Pirates have yet to open the season and don’t use their scrimmage results as indicators of how good this team can be (they did not have key players available due to football). Belfry has size, physicality, shooting and can go seven to nine deep on a given night. The Pirates open with Tates Creek (at Bourbon County) in the Kentucky Bank Shootout in week two.
8. Sheldon Clark (1-1) – The Cardinals opened the season with a home loss to Powell County 60-70 (led by ten at halftime) followed by a win against Buckhorn 53-45 (at Breathitt County in the Peggy Moore Memorial Classic). Big man Trey James continues to get at least one on a poster every night with a highlight dunk, playing well fifteen feet and in while patrolling the middle on defense and blocking shots. If Sheldon Clark can develop enough help to compliment James, you could see them climb the ranks. The Cardinals will host Lawrence County (defeated them easily two weeks ago in a scrimmage) and then take on Magoffin County on the road and East Carter at a neutral site. Sheldon Clark will be favorites in all three games.
9. Magoffin County (1-2) – The Hornets lost two generational players in Trenton Russell and Jaren Lovely (graduation) and one of the best overall players in the region this season in Ryan Mullins (ACL during football). It is very difficult to replace that kind of talent, not to mention introducing a new Head Coach in Scott Castle. Magoffin is playing fast and much different, but like others in the region, they are in rebuild mode. Blow out losses to Pike Central and Floyd Central on the road, with a close win against East Ridge sandwiched in between tell us Magoffin is good enough to play with the middle of the pack to bottom of the pack teams in the region, but not close to the same level of the top teams. A huge district game looms with Sheldon Clark in week two with district implications on the line.
10. Lawrence County (1-2) – It’s impossible to replace the nation’s leading scorer (Timmy Dalton – now averaging over 30 ppg for Alice Lloyd) as Lawrence County is finding out early. The Bulldogs defeated East Carter on the road, but blowout losses to Morgan County and Franklin County have fans worried in Louisa. This team has a good mix of upper and under classmen, but still need to learn how to play together. Week two will see them on the road at Sheldon Clark and Tolsia, WV (Sheldon Clark easily defeated them in a scrimmage just two weeks ago).
11. Prestonsburg (0-0) – The Blackcats have yet to open the season, but will this week as they host Jenkins, then travel to Shelby Valley and Raceland. This guard oriented team was very streaky in the summer, playing lights out for stretches and very poor for stretches. We will see how they have improved since then in week two under the direction of new Head Coach Brandon Gearheart.
12. Betsy Layne (1-1) – The Bobcats have length and size are a bit better than expected early in the season. They are not ready to take on the top five in the region as evident by their blow-out loss to Pike Central, but could move up to the middle of the pack by seasons end. Shelby Valley, Letcher Central, and Magoffin County in week two will let us know if they are true contenders in the 58th.
13. East Ridge (1-1) – Randy McCoy and the defending All-A Regional Champions are in full rebuild mode this season. A young and upcoming roster still needs to learn how to play and will only get better as the season progresses. Week one saw the Warriors blow out Piarist before losing a close one on the road to Magoffin County. Week two will see McCoy travel to Ambassador Christian in Williamson, WV and 15th Region power Johnson Central. Odds are it will be another 1-1 week for East Ridge.
14. Phelps (0-1) – Phelps lost scoring machine Christian Mounts to Pike Central (transferred) in what was expected to be a good year for them. Without Mounts services, the Hornets still played Betsy Layne close, losing 50-55. Despite losing several very good players to local schools over the past few years (to include Mounts), Phelps will still be competitive with the bottom half of the region. One can only ponder what could have been in that community this season had everyone stayed for their whole careers.
15. Jenkins (0-3) – New to the 15th Region, Jenkins went 0-3 in week one, only being competitive with Owsley County on the road. They are young and will take some lumps this season (no seniors), but look for Jenkins to make some noise next year and the year after that.
16. Piarist (0-2) - The Knights are better this year than last, but will still struggle to pick up wins. They were competitive with June Buchanan in week one but don’t expect them to pick up their first ever 15th Region win anytime soon.