ColonelMike's Avatar
OK, truthfully, I've been dreading this moment. I have to choose. Oldham County or Walton-Verona. The Colonels or the Bearcats. One of the two shiniest up-and-coming stars in the coaching ranks. Two teams with some great individual talents. The region's number one offense - or its number one scoring defense. Ever since Oldham County's 53-51 win over the Cats on Friday, I've gone back and forth in my mind... the clarity between the two still isn't there, even after a head-to-head matchup. And what a matchup it was....the intensity level was post-season caliber, and it lasted all 32 minutes. This was one of December's biggest gems to date in the 8th.

And remember, it's only December.

At this point in time, these two seem to have elevated themselves clearly above the rest of the herd for the moment...

Keep in mind that nobody ever won the region by being top-ranked in December - so let's just jump ahead. Besides, both teams will have ample opportunities through the rest of the month to prove themselves on the hardwood against quality competition.

1. Walton-Verona (4-1) Last week: #1 I've always had a longstanding rule that head-to-head victories on the court meant something in the rankings. So why is Walton-Verona still #1 after losing to #2 Oldham County? I'm leaving the Bearcats at #1 because I think Grant Brannen is a happier coach in the loss than Oldham's Coy Zerhusen is in victory. Walton definitely has to handle the ball better - 24 turnovers versus Oldham County will almost always turn into an "L" - and they have to learn better clock management when they're ahead by 7 with 2:15 left in the game. But Walton went on the road and lost by just 2 to Oldham with Miles out, a key sub out, and after losing Trey Bonne to an injury during the game. They played extraordinary defense - it was the first time anyone had held Oldham County below 64 points all year - and played even-steven with the Colonels on the glass. A loss is a loss, no matter the reason - but I was impressed enough by what I saw to leave the Bearcats at #1.

This Week: King of the Bluegrass at Fairdale HS, beginning 12/19

1.A. - Oldham County (8-0) Last week: #2 OK, I know the "1A" thing is a bit of copout, but hey, did you read the opening paragraph? The Colonels remain one of just two teams in the region that are undefeated after last Friday's gritty 53-51 victory over Walton-Verona, a game in which the Colonels scored the final 9 points of the game after trailing, 51-44 with 2:15 to play. Jackson Gibson showed why he's a POY candidate; after scoring only 4 points in the first half, he erupted for 13 in the second half, including 8 points in the fourth and final period. Travis Henderson had 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Bearcats. If Walton thought they should have won simply by avoiding all the turnovers, Oldham came away from the game thinking that if the usually reliable three-point shooters for the Colonels hit those shots, Oldham doesn't need a late rally. Oldham continues to be one of the region's best defensive clubs, and it mattered against Walton, as they forced 24 turnovers.

This Week: The Colonels will be tested with three games in three days in the Pegasus Sports Network Best in Hoops Classic at Oldham County HS. Oldham potentially could play both the top-ranked teams from the Fourth Region (Warren Central, a possible second round foe), and the Fifth Region (John Hardin, a potential third round foe).

3. Simon Kenton (5-0) Last week: #3 Getting harder to ignore the Pioneers, who seem to have risen from last year's slump. At 5-0, SK is the only other team in the region who is undefeated. Kelly Niece continues to be perhaps the most dynamic freshman in the region, hitting 49% of his shots and leading the team at 19.2 ppg. Big man Zach Kelch is averaging 12.8 ppg and 7.2 rebounds while hitting 57% of his shots inside. Overall, the Pioneers are putting up the points, averaging 69.4 ppg; they've been held under 66 points only once. SK already boasts two quality wins, over Mason County (5-2) and Ryle (5-2). We should get a good feel for the Pioneers before the end of the season; Trent Steiner's squad will play all the top region contenders, including Oldham County, Walton-Verona, Anderson County, Gallatin County, South Oldham, and Collins (maybe twice). They will also face some of the premier northern KY teams: Campbell County (7-1), Covington Catholic (5-0), and Cooper (5-1).

This week: 12/18 - at Ludlow 12/21-23 - SK Inv Tourney. 8th region rival Collins is in the opposite bracket; a possible SK-Collins final would be very interesting.

4. Gallatin County (7-1) Last week: #4 The Wildcats remain at #4 after a pretty easy week. The Cats weren't really tested in two District 31 seeding game blowouts, a 30 point win over Owen County and a 34 point victory over Carroll. Gallatin simply continues to get the job done....they went 1-1 in their two toughest games to date, beating Collins by 11 and losing by 20 to Walton-Verona for their only defeat.

This week: Off to Gatlinburg for the Smoky Mountain Classic, 12/21-23. Gallatin will open at 8:30 pm Thursday against Franklin Classical School (TN).

5. Collins (4-2) Last week: #5 The Titans are pretty much healthy now, and Chris Gaither's crew is starting to stretch its legs. Last week may have been one of those weird weeks, though, where the Titans looked better in defeat (losing by just 6 to powerful Madison Central) than in victory (eking out a narrow 64-63 win over a 3-4 North Bullitt team). Nick Fort (18.6 ppg) and Jacob Feltner (15.8 ppg) continue to lead the team, and Feltner is absolutely devastating beyond the arc at 15 of 30 for 50%. Overall, this is one of the better-scoring Collins teams, averaging 67.2 ppg, far better than its predecessors.

This week: Simon Kenton Inv. Tournament. Collins opens on Thursday 12/21/17 at 3:45 pm against Dixie Heights.

6. Anderson County (3-3) Last week: #6 The Bearcats, as expected, are slowly starting to round into form, and they've won three straight now to even their record at 3-3. The best win of the three was a 69-67 victory over South Oldham in which Player of the Year favorite Cobe Penny put 32 points on the board in a back-and-forth slugfest with the Dragons that wasn't decided until the final horn. Penny is averaging 23.7 ppg, but the Bearcats' improved fortunes are tightly linked to the improving play of Christian Gritton, who is largely recovered from his ankle injury now. Gritton has scored in double figures in all three victories, including two double-doubles. He had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Rockcastle County and 12 points / 10 rebounds against South Oldham. Gritton, who's averaging 12.2 ppg / 9.7 rebounds, is averaging 14.7 ppg and 9 rebounds during this winning streak.

This Week: Does not play The Bearcats won't play again until 12/28, when they face the top-ranked 10th region team, Campbell County, in the Gateway Holiday Classic at Montgomery County HS.

7. South Oldham (5-2) Last week: #7 Devin Young is apparently completely unconscious. The 6'5" South Oldham senior guard hit 12 threes last week in two games - 6 of 10 against Holy Cross and 6 of 9 against Anderson County. For the season, in the five games he's played in, Young has hit 24 threes, and has hit six or more threes in three of the five games. South split two games last week, defeating Covington Holy Cross in a wild, helter-skelter kind of game by 11, then lost on the road at Anderson County by just two points. The Dragons continue to do well when the shots are falling - and they are capable of shooting the ball very, very well. Encouraging news for coach Steve Simpson is that point guard Sam Beard seems to be making strides, but this team will go as the "big three" go: Young (23.2 ppg), senior Peyton Hicks (14.3 ppg) and sophomore Luke Morrison (16.9 ppg).

This week: At Clinton County HS for the Twin Lakes Classic 12/20, 12/21, and 12/22.

8. North Oldham (3-4) Last week: #9 The Mustangs went 2-0 last week, including a seven point victory over district rival Trimble County and a heartstopping buzzer-beating win over Spencer County. North has to find consistent inside play and more productive depth if they want to move up much more in the rankings, but the Mustangs have plenty of seniors who, even if they have limited experience, are physically and mentally more mature and may be able to contribute sooner rather than later.

This week: KSA Events Holiday Tournament in Orlando, FL

9. Spencer County (3-4) Last week: #8 The Bears continue to play without their expected top performer, Sam Conley, who is recovering from a broken hand. When he comes back, the Bears should be more explosive, offensively. The Bears, however, fall one spot this week as they simply haven't been able to put things together without him except for the big win over Taylor County. They pushed South to a one point game, but have lost to some teams that most thought that they'd beat - with or without Conley. This remains a team with a ton of potential, and the upside to get to the region tourney. Three Bears average in double digits, but Spencer is hitting just 44% of their shots from the field.

This week: 12/18 @ Jeffersontown 12/22 - vs. Elizabethtown 12/23 vs. Bardstown A solid schedule this week for Spencer's Bears to start sharpening their claws on.

10. Grant County (2-6) Last week: 10 Sooner or later, the Braves are going to have to start winning the "close but no cigar" games. Last week, Grant played Oldham County to one of the tightest games Oldham has played this year, hanging tight before losing by 14. Grant's also lost to Ryle (5-2) by just 9 and South Oldham (5-2) by just four. Grant got a ten point win in their last outing last week, though, 68-58 over Harrison County. Four players hit for double figures as the Braves continue to show balance, and Grant shot the ball well, too, hitting 48% of their field goals overall, 45% beyond the arc, and 70% at the line, where they went 21 of 30.

This week: 12/19 vs. Carroll County and 12/21-23 Pegasus Sports Best in Hoops Tournament at Oldham County. Grant opens at 2 pm on Thursday against prohibitive tourney favorite John Hardin.

11. Shelby County (2-5) Last week: #11 Shelby County stays just outside the top 10, with a record that may be misleading given the Rockets' brutal schedule to date. The Rockets' seven foes to date have a combined record of 29-15; Shelby has played Mercer County (6-1), South Oldham (5-2), John Hardin (6-0), and Monroe County (6-2), among others. Until the Rockets can start to generate some offense, though (Shelby averages just 47.4 ppg, second-worst in the region), Shelby isn't likely to move up in these rankings anytime soon.

This week: 12/18 Frederick Douglass at Woodford County HS

12. Henry County (4-2) last week: #12 Henry County sports a nice record for December, but the Wildcats really haven't hit the meat of their schedule yet. They lost to the two best teams they played - North Bullitt and Gallatin County - by 29 and 20 points, respectively. Henry has, however, by virtue of going 3-1 in the first round of district 31 seeding games, firmly established themselves as at least the second favorite in the district, meaning they are expected to make the region tournament on their home court in New Castle.

This week: 12/18 @ Washington County 12/20-22: Swauger Holiday Classic at Bellevue HS

13. Carroll County (2-4) Last week: #13 Carroll lost two district games last week to fall to 1-2 in district play. The good news was that the Panthers played Henry County close, losing by just seven points, meaning that perhaps a trip to New Castle in March might be in reach. Wyatt Supplee continues to pace the Panthers at 14.8 ppg; he had 19 against Henry County last week. Keishaun Mumphrey had 12 points and 11 rebounds against Henry. The really bad news last week was that Carroll managed fewer than 20 rebounds in both games.

This week: 12/19 @ Grant County 12/22 Christian Academy of New Albany (at Scottsburg, IN)

14. Trimble County (4-4) Last week: #14 The Raiders continue to show that they will likely get a lot more wins in 2017-18 than they did in 2016-17. The Raiders lost a narrow 7 point game to North Oldham last week before rebounding to win versus St. Patrick. The North Oldham game was encouraging; if Trimble were able to draw North Oldham in the first round of the district tournament - unlikely, but very possible - the Raiders would have to have a big confidence surge heading into the district tournament.

This week: 12/18 vs. South Oldham (district seeding game) 12/22 - Frederick Fraize

15. Eminence (4-6) Last week: 15( The Warriors took care of business last week, winning three straight games after starting off the week with a lopsided loss to Walton-Verona. Maurice Richardson, who leads the team in scoring at 17 ppg, scored in double figures in all three wins, capping it off with a 31 point effort against June Buchanan.

This week: 12/19-20: Beth Haven Holiday Classic. First game is 5 pm Tuesday vs. Model (8-0)

16. Owen County (1-6) Last week #16 The Rebels went 1-2 last week, and were beaten badly by the top two teams in the district, Gallatin County and Henry County. But they sandwiched between those two games a 12 point victory over Williamstown for their first win of the season.

This week: 12/22 vs. Nelson County

17. Williamstown (0-7) Last week: #17 The Demons went 0-3 last week, falling to Boone County by 34, Owen County by 12, and Lloyd Memorial by 12. All three games were on the road; Williamstown will continue to be road warriors as their next 10 games will be "away" or at "neutral" sites. Williamstown has yet to post any stats for the season, but the offense will have to improve to start registering the wins; the Demons are averaging just 46.9 ppg. so far this season.

This week: 12/21 @ Beechwood (4-4) 12/22 @ Fleming County (1-7)