ColonelMike's Avatar
The 8th Region wrapped up Week number 6 last week, and we finally starting getting some hints – not answers, mind you, just hints – of which way this season is going.
Top-ranked Collins knocked off two dark-horse candidates for the region title, and they did it in convincing fashion…Simon Kenton knocked off Walton-Verona, ranked #2 in the region last week…SK also got another quality win over an out of region team. South Oldham extended their region-best winning streak (5 games)…Oldham County followed up a tough loss with a victory over the pre-season favorite to win the sixth region…and Gallatin County has won five of six.

On the other end of the spectrum, Owen County (five game losing streak) and Eminence (7 game losing streak) continued to struggle.

Carroll County continues to be the surprise team of the year.

And in the “middle”, we still have some teams that would have to be considered “dark horses”, but they each have the talent and potential to make noise after a season of development…..North Oldham, who has challenged some of the top teams and beat 10 win Jeffersontown…..Anderson County, which is looking for a signature win….Spencer County, with as talented a starting five as anybody…and Grant County, who can – on any given night – simply outscore anyone.

But more on each in a second….right now, Collins has firmed up their #1 ranking, and Simon Kenton, Walton-Verona, and South Oldham seem to be putting a little bit of distance between themselves and the rest….

1 – Collins (13-5) Last week: #1 – The Titans repeat at number one after an impressive week in which they hammered two of the better region 8 teams. A 64-38 District 30 win over Spencer County was an eye-opener due to the final margin. It was the Titans’ largest margin of victory this season, and the first time they held a team under 40 points. All of which wouldn’t necessarily have been so impressive except it came against a good Spencer squad. Collins wrapped up the week by scoring their second-highest point total of the year in a 76-59 win over the Braves of Grant County.

Collins goes as their two stellar guards go, and Marcellus Vail is averaging 18.1 ppg and Dayvion McKnight is averaging 18.0 ppg and 10.9 rebounds. McKnight is deadly at the line, hitting 83 of 104 (79.8%).

Collins gets their offense at the rim; the team makes only three threes per game on average, and they’re only attempting 11 free throws a game. But Vail and McKnight are so good at penetrating and getting high percentage shots, it hasn’t mattered.

No other Titan is averaging more than 6.3 ppg, but that hasn’t been an issue, either, as the Titans are giving up only 54.6 ppg, third-lowest in the region. Defense wins titles; perhaps that’s why Collins is 4-0 so far versus 8th Region competition.

This week: 1/8 – vs. South Oldham 1/11 – at Shelby County (30th district seeding game)

2 – Simon Kenton (11-3), last week: #3 – The Pioneers continue to move up the rankings, up one this week from number 3.

The reason? Two impressive wins last week, including a 60-57 win over the previous number two team, Walton-Verona, followed by a 68-60 victory over a strong team from Highlands.

The Pioneers are a spotless 4-0 against region competition, matching Collins. Besides Walton, they’ve defeated Shelby County, South Oldham (on the road), and North Oldham.

Coach Trent Steiner predicted last year that many of the players on this team would be great shooters, and SK has borne that out. The Pioneers are hitting 51.3% from the field (in a season when the region’s shooting, overall, is down), 41.7% from beyond the arc, and 77.6% at the line.

The result is a team averaging 78.1 ppg, second-best in the region.

Trying to choose a Pioneer to foul late in a close game is a futile endeavor; SEVEN Pioneers are hitting over 70% at the line, and an eighth player is hitting a solid 68%.

Sophomore Kelly Niece (24.9 ppg) and Jeremy Davis (15.2 ppg) lead the team. Niece is almost unbelievable as a shooter; he’s hit 27 of 54 threes for 50%. Davis isn’t far behind; he’s hit 43 threes at a 45.7% clip.

Overall, Simon Kenton’s resume is looking stronger and stronger as they pile up some solid wins, with victories now over South Oldham, Highlands, Walton-Verona, and Lafayette.

This week: SK faces Cooper on the road on 1/8, and travels to Dixie Heights on 1/11.

3 – Walton-Verona (10-2) Last week: #2 – Walton-Verona is going to be one of the “big four” when all is said and done, but they drop one this week after losing to Simon Kenton last week.

The Bearcats are an impressive 6-1 against 8th Region competition. They whipped North Daviess (IN) by 30 last week before dropping their first region matchup to SK, 60-57.

Unlike Collins – whose guards penetrate and have the ability to dominate the interior, working outside-in – or SK, whose talents feature tremendous outside shooters – the Cats make no secret that they are going to grind, grind, grind as they work the ball to their big men inside.

Kam Pardee averages 16.6 ppg, while hitting 61.3% of his shots. Dieonte Miles, the Xavier signee, averages 11.7 ppg and hits 61.3% of his shots. Of the leading scorers, only Trey Bonne is doing it from the outside, averaging 11.5 ppg – but even he’s hitting 56.1% from the field.

But the biggest difference is on the other end of the floor. Walton-Verona is simply the hardest team to score on in the region, grudgingly surrendering just 45.5 ppg, by far and away, the stingiest defense in the 8th. (the #2 team, Gallatin County, is giving up nine points more per game). And with an offense averaging a solid 64.4 ppg, the Bearcats are winning games by an average of 18.9 points per game.

Walton opens up play in the 8th Region All-A this Tuesday versus Williamstown.

4 – South Oldham (13-3) Last week: #4 – South Oldham may be the hottest team in the region; they certainly have the longest winning streak, which currently stands at five. At 4-1 in the Region, South’s only loss in the region was a five point loss to SK.

South had just one game last week, a not-so-surprising win over Iroquois, 92-57. Luke Morrison’s 19 points and Seth Johnson’s 17 led the Dragons.

In many ways, South is the early season shocker. Certainly no surprise that the Dragons are winning games….under Steve Simpson, that’s what South does. (three region titles in the last 6 years!). But with 9 seniors graduating from last year’s region runner-ups, including four starters, the Dragons had more questions than usual. New faces had to assume new roles – but who knew they would excel so well, so soon.

South usually shoots well, but this team is doing well both as a team and individually. Overall, the team is hitting 49.1% of their shots, 40.6% of their threes, and an insane 78.0% at the line. But let’s put that in perspective: South is hitting 49.1% overall – while taking 56.6% of their overall shots from BEYOND the arc!

And individually, Luke Morrison and Seth Johnson have both blossomed after assuming secondary roles the last couple of years. Morrison leads the region in scoring at 26.4 ppg, and is hitting 60% of his shots overall. Morrison is hitting 60 of 107 from beyond the arc (56.1%) and 78.3% at the line. Statistics don’t tell the whole story, of course, but Morrison has – in the first month – moved from a “mention” as a possible Player of the Year candidate to perhaps one of the top three candidates.

Johnson has also been key to South’s emergence as a serious threat. South came into the season looking for a reliable point guard who could score. Seth Johnson has filled that role, and is hitting 53.3% from the field, while averaging 15.2 ppg.

Big week for South this week, as they face the top-ranked Titans and arch-rival Oldham County, both on the road.

This week: 1/8 - at Collins 1/11 - at Oldham County

Teams capable of closing the gap between them and the top four:

5 – Oldham County (10-6) Last week: #5
I said before the season that Oldham would likely have a tumultuous December, and the Colonels certainly did. Wins over Spencer County, Highlands, Gallatin County, Taylor County, Central Hardin, and Butler were somewhat off-set by losses to Walton-Verona (by 6), Beechwood (by 4), and routs at the hands of #1 Scott County and another ranked team, Campbell County. But it was obvious that the Colonels would have an adjustment period – they lost four starters from last year’s state semi-finals team, and even though theA subs all got quality playing time a year ago, they now are being asked to be leaders, not the supporting cast.

A loss to Beechwood last week was followed by one of Oldham’s best wins of the year, a 61-57 win over the top-ranked Sixth Region team, Butler. Senior Christian Harper (18 points / 10 boards) led the way in that win.

But shooting remains a real concern. Last year’s sharpshooting, veteran team, has been replaced by a team hitting just 41% from the field, including 29.5% from beyond the arc. The Colonels seem to be looking for the “go to” guy still; nobody is averaging more than 11 ppg (Harper 11.8 ppg and Matt Teague 11 ppg).

Still, the talent on this team is very apparent. And the bad news for the rest of the region is probably the fact that Oldham is going to get better – and they’ve already shown the ability, on a given night, to beat anyone in the region.

This week: 1/11 – vs. South Oldham (district 29 seeding game) 1/12 vs. Dixie Heights

6 – Gallatin County (11-4) Last week: #6 – With the retirement of Glen Drury at Anderson County, Jon Jones became the “dean” of region 8 coaches as he has the longest tenure at his current school. And as always, Jones finds the way to make his team – regardless of size, talent, or experience – into a factor in the region race.

This team seems to have “come back to the District 31 pack” a bit, as the Wildcats are a modest 5-3 versus Region 8 competition so far. But the bottom-line is that Gallatin – winners of 20 or more games the last two seasons – are well on their way to a third straight 20+ win season. The Cats have already played #1 Collins to a two point game and they largely took care of business last week.

After beating Eminence by 50, Gallatin got a scare from the most-improved team, Carroll County, hanging on to win by one at 69-68. They finished the week with a narrow 2 point loss to Adair County from the Fifth Region.

As usual, Gallatin lacks size, but they more than make up for it with their shooting. And good shooting leads to good offense; Gallatin is averaging the fourth-most points in the region at 68.4 ppg. And their defense is tenacious; their scoring defense (54.5 ppg) is second only to Walton-Verona.

This week: 1/10 8th Region All-A tournament vs. Trimble County

7 – Carroll County (7-6) Last week: #10 – The Panthers are the big movers this week, moving up three 1) because they are starting to look more and more credible as a 31st district threat, and 2) because some of the teams right in front of them stumbled a bit this past week. Carroll has earned this spot this week; we’ll see if they can continue to improve to hold on to it.

Carroll is 5-3 versus region 8 competition, with wins over teams they were expected to beat (Eminence, Henry County, Trimble County, and Owen County), and playing surprisingly well in two narrow losses to 31st District favorite Gallatin County, losing by 11, then losing by just one in the rematch.

Their signature win so far came in an 88-79 victory over 14-win Grant County.

Their other district win came in the rematch against Trimble. The Panthers lost to Trimble by 2 in their season opener in Bedford, but bounced the Raiders in the rematch by 16 points in the Jefferson Invitational Tournament (IN).

Last week, Carroll only played one game, losing 69-68 on a last second play to Gallatin County in what would have been a big district upset(?) Or maybe not….? More impressive than the score was the shooting; Carroll simply couldn’t shoot straight last year, but against Gallatin, the Panthers hit 57.5% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. They didn’t shoot the free throws all that well (60.6%), but they created opportunities at the line (33 FTA) and hit 20. In a season in which region teams seem to be having difficulty creating free throw opportunities – many teams are barely averaging 10 FTA a game – the Panthers are averaging 20 free throw attempts per contest.

In any case, Carroll has served notice that the 31st district will not be surrendered quietly to Gallatin this year.

Keishaun Mumphrey was a force last week, with 28 points and 10 boards; the third time in the last four games he’s had double digits in rebounds. Combined with Wyatt Supplee’s 23 ppg, Mumphrey has helped to key an offense that was largely dormant last year. This year, Carroll is #5 in the region, averaging 66.9 ppg.

This week: 1/8 vs Eminence in the 8th Region All-A (at Trimble County)

8 – Grant County (14-5) Last week: #7
- Grant’s 14 wins leads the region so far this season, and Coach Joe Utter is looking at 20+ wins this year in Dry Ridge.

Last week, Grant went 1-1, defeating Covington Holy Cross by one point before losing to Collins, 76-59. The loss ended a seven game winning streak for the Braves…

The Braves continue to shoot well at 46.2% overall, 39.6% beyond the arc, and 73.7% at the line. Grant features several people who can score in bunches – Luke Dawalt, Jonas Alger, Ben Vicker, and Aaron Hurley are all double-digit performers on any given night. But for Grant to succeed this year – and make it out of the 32nd district, where 2nd ranked SK and 3rd ranked W-V reside – the Braves need to more consistently have nights with all four contributing so they can either outscore SK or have enough scoring options to grind it out against the Bearcats.

The Braves have shown the potential, losing to South Oldham by just 5 and beating Oldham County by 3 with a buzzer-beater. This team faces the toughest path to the region tourney, but they are showing a confidence in themselves we haven’t seen in a while.

This week: 1/12 – vs. McCreary Central

9 – Spencer County (8-7) Last week: #8 – There’s plenty of reasons to rank the Bears higher. They have one of the 2 or 3 best starting five in the region. Sophomore Sam Conley (16.7 ppg / 7.1 rebounds) is an all-region candidate. The Bears won the King of the Smokies tournament to wrap up 2018. They’ve won four of their last five games. And Coach Burns is one of the bright minds in the region.

Bottom-line, Spencer is much like Oldham right now: They will almost certainly be a lot better come the end of February – a common trait of young teams. But they aren’t there yet.

The last five games – despite the four wins – raise questions. It’s hard to give much credence for the three out of state wins because I really don’t know how good those teams are. The fourth win – a ten point victory over 1-15 Nelson County – wasn’t as impressive as probably most of us expected. And the district 30 showdown in Shelbyville against top-ranked Collins was more one-sided than expected, as Collins won by 26, 64-38.

The stats raise concerns, too….Spencer will ultimately be a solid shooting team, I believe, but they’ve shot less than 40% in seven straight games, including 26% against Collins.

If the Bears can use January / February to hone their shooting, they’ve got five guys who can deliver. Conley (16.7 ppg), Jacob Seawright (14.3 ppg), Lucas Hornback (9.1 ppg), Jackson Cole (8.5 ppg), and Jake Whitlock (7.9 ppg) all have the potential to be consistent double-digit scorers. If they all get going, Spencer could threaten for a regional berth in a district where the second slot appears wide-open.

This week: 1/11 - at Bullitt East 1/12 vs. Eminence

10 – North Oldham (6-10) Last week: #9 – North Oldham continues the struggles everyone pretty much expected as first year coach David Levitch – who joined the team one week before practice began – tries to get a handle on what he’s got.

After starting 4-1, the Mustangs have lost 9 of their last 11, despite at times looking very good. They’re still looking for their first win against a region 8 opponent, as the Mustangs stand at 0-4 right now (Eminence is the only other team that has yet to defeat a region opponent).

Last week was somewhat typical of North’s games so far. It was similar to the losses to Male and Waggener, when they Mustangs played superior opponents and were in contention most of the game….or the Ballard game, which they lost by just two.

And then there was the Mustang win over 10-win Jeffersontown.

Last week, North played on the road at Valley, and the Mustangs fell behind by 20+ points in the first half, only to rally in the second half, pulling to within 61-59 with half a quarter left to play. Then it all fell apart, as the Vikings outscored them the rest of the way, 17-2, ending the game with a lopsided 17 point loss. Poor rebounding was a major culprit; the Mustangs managed just 16 boards in the game.

Like Grant County in the 32nd, North faces an uphill battle to get out of the 29th district against Oldham County – who has won 8 straight district titles – and South Oldham. But in fairness, district foes would do well not to overlook North too easily. They’re slowly jelling as a group playing for a new coach and using a new system, both offensively and defensively.

Grant Adelson seems to have found his shooting touch again; he leads the team at 13.1 ppg. Trinity transfer Tyler Higdon has a myriad of talents that he displays on both offense and defense; he averages 10.6 ppg and 7.4 rebounds. William Hare is a blue-collar player who does whatever is needed, and Luke Berry showed himself to be a possible offensive threat (14 points including 3 of 6 threes vs. Valley).

North, however, will go as far as their 8th Grade point guard, Dallas Roberts. Asking an 8th grader to handle that kind of pressure in the varsity environment is a huge challenge….if he can mentally “slow down” the game, Roberts – who averages 12.7 ppg – will be able to singlehandedly raise North’s play.

This week: 1/8 – vs North Bullitt 1/11 vs. Ryle 1/12 at Shelby County

11 – Anderson County (8-6) last week: #11 – Last week, Anderson defeated Shelby County, 56-53

Anderson’s schedule has enabled them to be a mystery to date. Anderson has beaten the teams they were expected to beat, as their 8 wins came against teams with combined records of 39-80. The only team with a winning record that the Bearcats have beaten is Lewis County (10-6). On the other hand, the 6 teams that have defeated Anderson County have a combined record of 53-29. Of those 6, two have losing records, including Rockcastle County (3-10).

Within the region, it was more of the same as Anderson has gone 2-2, with wins over Henry County and Shelby County, and expected losses to Grant County and Walton-Verona.
Tyler Rice leads the team at 12.2 ppg, but right now, Anderson is just too inconsistent to know if they’ll be a contender for a region berth – or not.
This is a busy week for Anderson, but the caliber of competition may not allow us to learn much:

1/8 vs Casey County (6-9) 1/11 vs Somerset (9-7) 1/12 at Perry County Central (5-9)

12 – Shelby County (5-9) Last week: #12 – A three point loss against #11 Anderson County would seem to vindicate these two teams being ranked in this order and this close. But is Eddie Oakley’s team on the upward trend so they can get back to the 8th Region Tournament that the Shelby County Rockets once dominated – but have almost always played in.

The Rockets are struggling to shoot the ball (40.2%), and haven’t shown an ability to light it up from the outside, where they are averaging about 3 made threes a game.

A third scorer would help. Noah Gordon (13.2 ppg / 7.2 reb) and Taurius Robinson (11.5 ppg / 7.0 reb) lead the Rockets, but nobody else averages over 6.9 ppg. As a result, Shelby ranks 15th in the region in scoring at 55.4 ppg. That said, the Rockets have been competitive thanks to their defense, which is the 5th-ranked scoring defense in the region, giving up just 58.4 ppg. As a result, four of Shelby’s nine losses have been by 6 points or less.

This week, Shelby starts at five game home-stand: 1/8 vs. Bourbon County 1/11 vs. Collins 1/12 vs. North Oldham

Teams probably building for a run at a regional berth next year:

13 – Trimble County (5-8) Last week: #13 – Trimble just can’t seem to stop anyone. The Raiders are giving up 73.8 ppg, 16th-best in the 17 team region. Only Owen County and Eminence, the #16 and #17 ranked teams in the region, scored fewer than 64 points so far.

Throughout it all, guard Reece Webster continues to impress. Webster averages a team-high 16.9 ppg, but that’s not all he does offensively. The Raiders have only attempted 100 threes so far, but Webster is 19 of 44 for 43.2% beyond the arc.

The Raiders head into this week needing a win or two to get their mojo….they’ve lose 5 of their last 6.

This week: 8th Region All-A Tourney 1/8 vs. Owen County

14 – Williamstown (5-12) Last week: #14 – Coach John Reitz is patiently re-building a team from scratch. Last year, the Demons didn’t win a game until the final week of the season, and they finished with just two one-point victories.

Last week, the Demons dropped their only contest, 97-49, to Southwestern (IN).

This year, the Demons are the longest of long shots to make the region, especially residing in a district with Grant County, Walton-Verona, and Simon Kenton. But the improvement is tangible; the Demons went 5-5 to start the season, and, though they’ve now lost 7 straight, they’re no longer outmatched in every game. (in fact, during that 7 game losing streak, they’ve lost four of the games by 5 points or less).

Cole Kemper is the statistical leader, averaging 12.3 ppg. Kemper has also hit 58 of 125 threes (46.4%).

This week: 8th Region All – A tournament 1/8 vs. Walton-Verona at Trimble County

15 – Henry County (4-9) Last week: #15 – Henry County is shooting the ball well this year – 54.1% from the field overall. But the Wildcats have hit less than a quarter of their threes and 51.2% at the line. Both figures are “dealbreakers”.

Last week, the Wildcats split two games, defeating 31st district rival Owen County, 47-31, and losing to Lloyd Memorial, 76-58.

As expected, sophomore Trevor Hardin leads the Cats, averaging 19.6 ppg / 8.4 rebounds. Senior Zach Woods is on the cusp of double-digit scoring, averaging 9.9 ppg. Ethan Lankford averages 9.4 ppg.

This week: 1/8 at Walden

16 – Owen County (2-11) Last week: #16 – Last week, Owen dropped a 16 point decision to Henry County. The rebuilding Rebels have now lost five in a row, and failed to reach 50 points in all five.

Shooting woes continue to plague Coach Devin Duvall’s squad, which is hitting just 42.6% overall, 29.9% from beyond the arc, and 64.4% at the line.

This week: 1/8 - All-A 8th Region tourney at Trimble County – vs. Trimble County

17 – Eminence (1-11) Last week: #17 – The Warriors have yet to defeat an 8th Region team, going 0-7. Seven is also the number of Eminence’s current losing streak; in the last three games, the Warriors have failed to reach 30 points.

Eminence ranks last in the region in scoring (40.5 ppg) and in scoring defense (75.3 ppg).
While this season likely will not conclude with a region tournament berth, there are definitely some winnable games in the second 2/3 of the season. It will be up to Coach Jackson to “rally the troops” in order to garner some wins on the way out.

This week: 8th Region All-A Tourney – 1/8 vs. Carroll County