BluegrassPreps.com Seventh Region recap and district tournament preview
Success means different things to different teams in the Seventh Region. For example, a successful season for the Trinity Shamrocks is measured differently than for the Walden Wolverines, even though the two schools are within walking distance of each other. Most teams in the Seventh Region achieved some level of success during the regular season, and they should celebrate those successes.
There weren’t many major surprises in the regular season, although there were a few. The Collegiate Titans’ 23-win season, easily the best in school history, was not expected by many. Teams like the Waggener Wildcats and Male Bulldogs may have been a little better than some expected. St. Francis beating much larger schools such as Hancock County and Fleming County probably surprised some people. But Trinity’s and Ballard’s successes were expected, and they did not disappoint. And no one will be surprised if those successes continue into the post-season.
Before moving on from the regular season, I want to mention how impressed I was with the coaching in the Seventh Region this year. I saw every team in the Seventh Region on multiple occasions, including at least one home game for each team. I was consistently impressed with how hard each coach was working every game. High school basketball coaches are overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated. Thank you, coaches, for making it a fun year in the Seventh Region. And congratulations to first-year coach Zach Settembre of the Collegiate Titans, the KABC Seventh Region Coach of the Year.
The final rankings:
1. Trinity Shamrocks (25-3)
Trinity showed itself in the regular season to be what everyone thought it would be, the team most likely to win the Seventh Region and advance to the State Tournament. Its three losses were all to quality teams, and two of them came with at least partial explanations; it lost to Fern Creek in the championship game of the King of the Bluegrass when Jay Scrubb’s minutes were limited due to foul trouble, and it lost to Madison Central when Justin Powell did not play because of illness. Perhaps the lesson to be learned from those games is to somehow make Trinity use its bench, because the back-ups are not as strong as the starters. Of course, how could they be, since the starters include three outstanding players in senior Jay Scrubb, junior David Johnson, and sophomore Justin Powell. Trinity also has gotten crucial shooting from junior Stan Turnier in several wins this season. Strong inside, the Rocks also shoot 42% from 3-point range as a team. As the no. 1 seed in the 27th district, Trinity opens play against the Atherton Rebels. Those teams played on January 30, with Trinity winning 70-43.
2. Ballard Bruins (23-6)
Ballard won 20 games for the 20th straight season and showed it is the most (and perhaps only) serious challenger to Trinity from within the Seventh Region. In this last week of the regular season, the Bruins beat Manual 86-62 and Central 70-60 but lost to Jeffersonville (IN) 64-62. Ballard plays extremely tough defense, is very balanced offensively, and can beat anyone when it is playing well. But it also is the case that Ballard has on occasion gone through stretches when it does not shoot the ball very well. While Trinity rightfully is ranked ahead of Ballard, the Bruins have heard before about how Trinity is the best team in the region; similar things were being said last year. And what happened last year? Ballard went out and beat Trinity 57-41 in the regional semi-finals. As the no. 1 seed, Ballard starts play in the 28th district tournament against Kentucky Country Day, who the Bruins beat 76-59 on January 30.
3. Waggener Wildcats (18-9)
The Waggener Wildcats have been a fun team to watch this year – they play a lot of players and always bring a lot of energy. With wins this week over Shawnee (70-30) and Manual (68-58), Waggener finished with 18 wins in the regular season, including two wins over the St. X Tigers. The Wildcats still have a shot at a 20-win season, a feat Waggener has not achieved since the 2007-08 season. While many Wildcats contribute to the team’s success, junior J. J. Kalakon is particularly fun to watch. Averaging 13.3 ppg and 5.2 rpg, Kalakon holds several Division I offers. Waggener is the no. 2 seed in the 27th district and plays Seneca in a semi-final game. Waggener beat Seneca 71-62 on February 2.
4. St. Xavier Tigers (17-10)
St. Xavier had won six games in a row until it lost its last regular season game 45-43 to a very good Floyd Central team from Southern Indiana (Floyd Central had beaten Ballard 65-60 earlier in the season). Even with that loss, St. X won eight of its last ten games. One of the wins during that streak was an impressive 67-65 win over Fern Creek, and its only loss during that stretch before the loss to Floyd Central was to Ballard (although it was by a rather large margin, 75-49). As expected, senior Pierce Kiesler has led the Tigers this season in both scoring (18.6 ppg) and rebounding (7.8 rpg). Sophomore point guard James Taylor, one of the top sophomores in the region, contributes 11.9 ppg, and junior Sam Boarman is a 40% 3-point shooter. St. X is the top seed in the 26th district and plays the Brown Bears in a semi-final match-up. The Tigers beat the Bears 84-46 on December 19.
5. Male Bulldogs (16-12)
Male perhaps faced the most uncertainty in the Seventh Region heading into this season. The Bulldogs lost five of last year’s top six scorers to graduation, and the leading returning scorer ended up not playing this season. Male resolved that uncertainty quite well, winning 16 games in the regular season to eclipse last year’s 15-win total. Twice during the regular season the Bulldogs put together 5-game win streaks. Bulldog fans like to talk about Male’s sophomore class, and that class includes the Bulldogs’ top two scorers, Tyren Moore (11.5 ppg) and Howard Fleming (11.3 ppg), and the leading rebounder, Noah Coutrney (6.4 rpg). As the no. 2 seed in the 26th district, Male plays Louisville Collegiate in a semi-final game. Male beat Collegiate 83-45 on January 5.
6. Manual Crimsons (13-15)
Manual’s 13 regular season wins almost doubled its regular season wins from last year (7). And one of the losses suffered by the Crimsons this season was a tough double overtime loss to the Butler Bears from the Sixth Region. Of course, last year Manual went on to win the 25th district tournament and advance to the semi-finals of the Seventh Region tournament. Whether the Crimsons can do so again will depend largely on their four players who all average in double figures according to the latest statistics filed with the KHSAA: senior Kenyan Jacob (12.7 ppg), senior Noah Hawkins (12 ppg), sophomore Eli Roberts (10.7 ppg), and senior Jordan McClendon (10.2 ppg). The Crimsons are also a strong rebounding team, with three players (Jacob, McClendon and Hawkins) averaging at least 5 rebounds a game. The no. 2 seed in the 25th district, the Crimsons face the St. Francis Wyverns in their semi-final game. Manual beat St. Francis 87-49 on February 6.
7. Seneca Redhawks (10-17)
Seneca had an interesting regular season. Its early season schedule was brutal and the Redhawks lost nine of their first ten games. But then Seneca won six games in a row. In their next game against Manual, leading scorer Carl Parker was injured and Seneca started a six-game losing streak. Parker has not returned from the injury and Seneca went 3-2 in its last five games. Its most impressive victories this season came against St. X and Adair County. Parker was averaging 16.8 ppg and 11 rpg when he was injured. Even prior to Parker getting hurt, junior Richard Ninamou was putting up good numbers, and is now averaging 17.5 ppg according to the most recent statistics filed with the KHSAA. Seneca is the no. 3 seed in the 27th district tournament and plays Waggener in a semi-final game. Waggener beat Seneca 71-62 on February 2.
8. Central Yellow Jackets (7-15)
Central took a step back in number of wins this season (7, as opposed to last year’s 13), but one of those wins was an impressive 77-74 double overtime win against the Manual Crimsons on December 15. Central also had competitive games against some of the other highly regarded teams in the Seventh Region, such as a 69-65 overtime loss to Male on December 8, a 60-49 loss to Trinity this week, and a 70-60 loss to Ballard this week. Central’s win over Manual and the other members of the 25th district (St. Francis, Portland Christian, and Shawnee) allowed Central to claim the no. 1 seed in this week’s 25th district tournament. It will play the winner of the Portland Christian-Shawnee first-round game.
9. Louisville Collegiate Titans (23-7)
Coached by recently-named Seventh Region Coach of the Year Zach Settembre, Collegiate’s 2017-18 season has been its best ever by any measure. The 23 wins this season easily eclipsed the Titans’ prior record of 18 wins set last year. Collegiate won the Seventh Region All A tournament and won a game at the All A state tournament before falling in the quarter-finals. Sophomore Chez Moore (19.2 ppg, 10 rpg) has been a force inside, while senior Eli Allen (11.6 ppg) has been the most prolific of several Titans who can shoot from outside. The challenge facing the Titans is that they must face the Male Bulldogs in their first game in the 26th district tournament. Those teams played each other on January 5, with the Bulldogs prevailing 83-45. It would be a tall task for Collegiate to reverse that result this week, but I have little doubt Coach Zettembre will have the Titans ready to play and believing they can win.
10. Eastern Eagles (10-18)
Eastern had a nice 71-63 win over Seneca and a one-sided 63-23 win over Shawnee this week. Eastern’s 10-win total for the season is not what you typically see from the Eagles. Yet one of those wins was a solid 69-66 win over Newport Central Catholic from the Ninth Region and another was a most impressive 73-71 win against the Owensboro Red Devils from the Third Region. Eastern went 2-1 in the 28th district, beating Christian Academy and Kentucky Country Day while losing to Ballard. As the no. 2 seed, the Eagles play no. 3 seed Christian Academy in a 28th district tournament semi-final. Eastern beat CAL 70-51 on January 30.
11. Kentucky Country Day Bearcats (11-11)
Kentucky Country Day won two of its three games this week, beating Brown (67-62) and Fort Knox (61-54) while losing to Christian Academy of New Albany (64-41). KCD’s offense is centered around senior Solomon Mathis, who is averaging 21.2 ppg according to the most recent statistics filed with the KHSAA. At times, KCD has had trouble finding others to contribute offensively in a significant way; sophomore Michael Collis is second on the team in scoring with a 7.3 ppg average. The Bearcats also are not a great rebounding team, with senior Wilder Brice, a tough competitor, leading the Bearcats at 4.3 rpg. The realities of being one of the smaller schools in the Seventh Region is that you usually face a really good team in the first round of the district tournament, and KCD faces the Ballard Bruins in the opening game of the 28th district tournament. KCD lost to Ballard 76-59 on January 30.
12. Atherton Rebels (9-15)
The Rebels won their last game of the regular season, beating the Brown Bears 70-54. That win left Atherton one victory short of the 10-win mark, a mark Atherton has achieved two of the previous three years. Perhaps its best win of the season was its 67-65 win over Iroquois the first week of the season. Senior Jacob Pulford leads the Rebels in both scoring (15.9 ppg) and rebounding (7.5 rpg), although Atherton’s statistics have not been updated on the KHSAA website for the past several games. Atherton was 0-3 against the other three teams in the 27th district (Trinity, Waggener, and Seneca), leaving the Rebels as the no. 4 seed in the 27th district tournament. Unfortunately for the Rebels, that means its semi-final match-up is with the Trinity Shamrocks. Trinity beat Atherton 70-43 on January 30.
13. Christian Academy Centurions (6-20)
After going 24-11 and advancing to the championship game of the Seventh Region tournament last year, Christian Academy has had a tough season this year. Its head coach, Chad Carr, took a leave of absence in late January and has not returned. Coach Carr’s son, Austin, who was a starter, is not currently with the team. CAL’s six wins this year include only three wins against Kentucky teams (Shelby County, Kentucky Country Day, and Whitefield Academy), and it finished the season with a 11-game losing streak, including losses this week to Bullitt Central (72-54) and Collins (73-40). Christian Academy is the no. 3 seed in the 28th district tournament and plays Eastern in the first round. Eastern beat CAL 70-51 on January 30.
14. St. Francis Wyverns (13-15)
St. Francis had a 78-67 overtime loss to Western and a 74-54 loss to Lexington Sayre this week before beating Frederick Fraize on Saturday 72-36. Its 13 wins this season represent only the third time in school history the Wyverns won 10 games or more in a season. Its wins included games against larger schools such as Hancock County and Fleming County, and it achieved lopsided wins against some of the other small schools it traditionally plays. Senior Jomar Sullivan has had an outstanding year, averaging 18.1 ppg according to the most recent statistics posted with the KHSAA. He also is a ferocious rebounder. Junior Ahmad Moore contributes 11.4 ppg. The Wyverns’ wins over Portland Christian and Shawnee earned it the no. 3 seed in the 25th district tournament, where it will face Manual in the semi-finals. Manual beat the Wyverns 87-49 on January 30.
15. Shawnee Golden Eagles (5-22)
Shawnee lost this week to Waggener (70-30), Eastern (63-23), and Seneca (58-55) to finish the season 5-22. While it would be easy to look at that record and conclude that Shawnee had a bad year, I look at it and see the improvement Shawnee made from last year, when it won only one game. Its five wins included a win over the 23-win Collegiate Titans, a game the Golden Eagles won with a 75-foot shot at the end of the second overtime. Those wins also include two wins over Portland Christian (48-47 on January 6 and 59-55 on January 16), who the Golden Eagles will play in the first round of the 25th district tournament. One of the benefits of a five team district is that the 4th and 5th seeds have a legitimate shot at some post-season success, and either Shawnee or Portland Christian will have a post-season victory this season.
16. Portland Christian Eagles (13-14)
Portland Christian lost to Whitefield Academy (76-60) and Collegiate (70-61) before playing in the Kentucky Christian Conference tournament this weekend, which it won for the second year in a row with victories over Heritage Academy (81-49) and Christian Fellowship (57-43). Portland Christian’s 13 wins make this season the fourth straight in which the Eagles have reached double digits in victories, the first time Portland Christian has had such a streak in its 60-year history. In junior Quincy Dye, Portland Christian has a player who may end up being both the leading scorer and leading rebounder in the Seventh Region. Portland Christian is in the five-team 25th district and faces the Shawnee Golden Eagles in the 4 v. 5 game in the 25th. While Shawnee beat Portland Christian twice in the regular season, both games were close (48-47 and 59-55) and suggest that the opening game of the 25th district tournament should be a good one.
17. Brown Bears (11-17)
The Brown Bears had an interesting season. After losing 13 of its first 17 games, Brown won five games in a row, including a 63-61 win over Trimble County. It ended the regular season with 11 wins, the most for a Brown Bears team since the 1999-2000 season. That is tremendous success for the Bears, and they should be proud. Junior Jai’Rus Bibb is perhaps the quickest player in the region and fun to watch. Brown faces St. X in the semi-finals of the 26th district tournament. St. X beat the Bears 84-46 on December 19.
18. Walden Wolverines (2-16)
Walden finished the season with a 74-63 loss to Eminence. As it has done in the past, Walden has chosen not to participate in the post-season, so its season is over. Was it a successful season? I hope Walden believes it was. After not fielding a varsity team last year, this season gave seniors such as Jack Pitchford the chance to play competitive high school basketball in their senior year, and that is a success. While the wins were few, the Wolverines experienced victory on a couple occasions, and that is a success. Walden’s roster had plenty of underclassmen and it fielded a solid junior varsity team, so hopefully Walden will move forward in terms of wins in the years to come.
Top Ten Players
1. Jay Scrubb, Trinity, 6’5” senior
Scrubb had a monster year, leading the region’s best team in both scoring (17.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg). Louisville Invitational Tournament MVP. KABC Seventh Region player of the year. Would be a worthy Mr. Basketball.
2. David Johnson, Trinity, 6’5” junior
High Division I recruit had a very solid year, averaging 14.2 ppg and 5.7 rpg. A tremendous athlete who will be one of the leading contenders for Mr. Basketball next year.
3. Justin Powell, Trinity, 6’5” sophomore
Teamed with Scrubb and Johnson to form Trinity’s version of the Three Amigos. Contributed 11.5 ppg and 4.2 rpg. Getting a lot of attention from high Division 1 schools.
4. Jaago “J.J.” Kalakon, Waggener, 6’4” junior
Best athlete on a team that plays a lot of players. Averaged 13.1 ppg and 5.2 rpg. Holds several Division I offers.
5. Pierce Kiesler, St. Xavier, 6’7” senior
Led the Tigers in scoring and was one of the leading scorers in the region at 18.6 ppg. Shot 61.3% from the field. Also collected 7.8 rebounds per game.
6. Solomon Mathis, Kentucky Country Day, 6’0” senior
Upped his scoring average from last year’s 16.9 ppg last season to 21.2 ppg. May end up being the top scorer in the region. As defenses were usually focused on him, his offensive production was impressive.
7. James Taylor, St. Xavier, 5’11” sophomore
Solid point guard who averaged 11.9 ppg. An assist machine.
8. Chez Moore, Collegiate, 6’4” sophomore
A big reason Collegiate had its best season ever this year. Averaged 19.2 ppg and 10 rpg.
9. Quincy Dye, Portland Christian, 6’2” junior
Averaged 20.9 ppg in the regular season while shooting 64.3% from the field. Also averaging 10.1 rpg. Depending how things play out this week, Dye may end up leading the Seventh Region in both scoring and rebounding.
10. Richard Ninamou, Seneca, 6’2” junior
Teamed with senior Carl Parker to form a dynamic duo until Parker went down with an injury. Ended up averaging 17.5 ppg and 7.9 rpg.
10a-c. Dorian Tisby, Ballard, 6’3” senior, Marshon Ford, Ballard, 6’2” senior, Delonta Wimberly, Ballard, 6’3” senior
OK, so maybe this is cheating, but I couldn’t make this list without someone from Ballard being on the list, and I concluded it wouldn’t be fair to include one or two but not all three of these fine players. All three have been outstanding this year for the Bruins, each averaging over 10 ppg and 5 rpg.
The District Tournaments
This week’s district tournaments are unlikely to bring many surprises as to who advances to the Seventh Region tournament. The better teams within the Seventh Region are spread out among the districts, and so most of the districts are pretty predictable. It all gets started tonight with the Shawnee-Portland Christian game in the 25th district.
The 25th is the only five-team district in the Seventh Region, meaning the no. 4 and no. 5 seeds play for the right to face the no. 1 seed. Portland Christian and Shawnee have played twice this season, with Portland Christian winning both times. But both were close, and I anticipate another close game in this one.
The winner of that game will advance to play the no. 1 seed, the Central Yellow Jackets. Central had double digit wins over Portland Christian and Shawnee during the regular season, and I suspect Central will again prevail over whoever it faces.
The other semi-final pits the Manual Crimsons and the St. Francis Wyverns. St. Francis has had a good year, one of the best in its history, but Manual handled the Wyverns rather easily in the regular season and is likely to do so again.
Central and Manual in the 25th district championship has the potential to be a really good game. Central prevailed in the regular season match-up 77-74 in double overtime. Regardless of how it turns out, of course, both will advance to the Seventh Region tournament.
The 2 v. 3 match-up in the 26th pits the Male Bulldogs against the Collegiate Titans. Collegiate had had its best year ever, but it would take a tremendous effort to reverse the outcome of the regular season game between the two teams, a 83-45 Male victory. I suspect this game will be much closer, but anticipate that Male will prevail once again.
The St. X Tigers play the Brown Bears in the other semi-final. The Bears have had a successful season, but it is hard to see its season lasting beyond this game.
So, it looks like Male and St. X will play in the district championship and advance to the Seventh Region tournament. St. X beat Male 63-54 in the regular season.
The Waggener-Seneca semi-final match-up in the 27th district has the potential to be a good game, although Seneca’s chances would be greatly improved if Carl Parker were available to play. This should be an up-tempo game, with both teams playing extremely hard. Waggener prevailed in the regular season 71-62, and I anticipate Waggener will prevail again in this game.
The Trinity-Atherton match-up in the other semi-final likely will not be as close. Trinity won in the regular season 70-43.
Trinity beat Waggener 62-45 in the regular season, and is likely to prevail in the district tournament championship.
The Eastern Eagles face the Christian Academy Centurions in one of the 28th district semi-final match-ups. Eastern won in the regular season 70-51. I think Eastern will advance from this game.
Ballard matches up with Kentucky Country Day in the other semi-final. The regular season game between these two was closer than expected, with Ballard winning 76-59. Ballard should be able to take care of business in this one.
Ballard beat Eastern 77-48 in the regular season. I suspect that Ballard will emerge as the district champion.