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Inside the 8th Region (12-26-14)

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One third of the season is in the books...here's how the 8th region is shaking out:


1. Oldham County Colonels 10-1 after defeating Aiken, OH (5-2) today in Lexington, the Colonels had a tremendous December, and - even if they lose to #1-ranked Trinity tomorrow - will pretty much have staked themselves as the team to beat in New Castle in March. Oldham is undefeated versus Region 8 opponents (3-0 vs. Anderson County, Trimble County, and Grant County) and they won all three games handily, by 25, 35, and 20 points respectively. This past week, in the Oldham County Best in Hoops Classic, the Colonels went 2-1 against three solid 7th region teams, defeating Central (5-2), St. X (5-4), and losing to an undefeated and ranked Eastern squad in the championship. Wins over 6th Region power DeSales (8-2) and Butler (3-6, but with a victory over Bullitt East) are looking better each week. Oldham's offense continues to lead the 8th at a 75 ppg clip, and the Colonels are winning games by an average of 17.2 ppg. That said, the Colonels will have to shore up the half-court defense if they are to go the distance; their remaining schedule is challenging: After Trinity tomorrow, the Colonels play Scott County and cross-county rivals South Oldham and North Oldham. Collins comes to Buckner on 1/20, and Oldham goes to Shelby on 1/30/15. Oldham has a rematch with Eastern on 2/3/15 and a much-anticipated battle with Simon Kenton on 2/6/15. Owen County, currently undefeated at 9-0, hosts the Colonels in the regular season finale for both teams on 2/19/15.


2. Owen County The Rebels are the only remaining undefeated team in the region at 9-0 and they are 6-0 against region opponents. Owen is averaging 69.7 ppg and giving up just 52.7, and 8th Region MVP candidate Carson Williams has been practically unstoppable: 26.8 ppg / 15 rebounds, and hitting 70.5% of his field goal attempts. But the opposition has been mediocre at best (opponents' combined record 36-38 as of this writing) and the Rebels' best win to date was a 2 point victory over Grant County. We'll learn a lot more tomorrow when the Rebels tangle with always-tough Clark County (5-2) in the Berea Invitational. A major question continues to be how the Rebels will do if Williams gets hurt or runs into foul trouble; unlike Oldham County, which has talent to go 10 deep every night, Owen counts heavily on Williams, Chad McDonald (12.4 ppg) and Vince Toftness (12.9 ppg) for the overwhelming bulk of the scoring.


3. Simon Kenton The Pioneers are 6-4 as of this writing, but have played a solid schedule. Losses to Covington Holy Cross, Mason County, Central, and Eastern do not take away from what could be a very good SK squad by the time all is said and done. I was very impressed with SK in the Oldham County Best in Hoops Tournament, where they beat Male, lost to Eastern by just 7 after battling back from a double-digit deficit, and beat St. X in the third place game. Matt Mullins is putting on a show, averaging 19.2 ppg / 10.3 rebounds, and hitting 64.2% of his shots. In addition, he's hitting 47.6% of his threes, making him a threat anywhere on the court. The outside shooting has been a blessing; many questioned the Pioneers' ability to shoot from the perimeter in the pre-season, but not only has Mullins lit it up, but Michael Sammons (42+% from beyond the arc) has proven dangerous from downtown. Jaeger Pracht (10.7 ppg), Noah Robinson (8.7 ppg), and Austin Fries (9.1 ppg) give the Pioneers a five-man starting lineup with five potent scorers. Robinson, at 6-3, is simply a problem with a lot of teams; he has little problem looking and passing over shorter defenders. Off the bench, sophomore Timmy Cottrell is a smart, aggressive ballplayer who is averaging 8 ppg. The Pioneers must answer two questions: Can they handle full court pressure defense? Central, with one of the shortest lineups in the state, beat the Pioneers simply because SK couldn't. And several of the better 8th region teams will bring the heat defensively. Finally, will the SK bench come through? Other than Cottrell, the bench is not really a scoring option for SK at this time. If needed, can Deaton and Racke step up and be scoring threats? And finally, can the SK defense - currently giving up 61.3 ppg, or 12th-best in the region - slow down the better teams?


4. Grant County The Braves' offensive and defensive numbers are among the better averages in the region. Grant is averaging 71.4 ppg, second only to Oldham County, and giving up just 56.7 (6th best). The Braves recently got a quality win by defeating Covington Holy Cross, and as they start to get 100% healthy, should start to really stretch their wings. So far, the Braves have beat who they should beat in the region (Williamstown) and lost to the teams maybe they were expected to lose to (Owen and Oldham). After watching the Braves - minus Adkins - get swamped by Oldham County in Buckner (the Colonels led by 29 in the third when the starters exited for good for OC), I still think the Braves will be in the mix in New Castle, and here's why: 1) Six different players are averaging between 8 ppg and 15 ppg. 2) The Braves just don't miss at the free throw line and they know how to get there, averaging 28 free throws per game (they hit 73.4%). Not only that, their best finds a way to get to the stripe; Austin Johnson has taken about a third of their free throw attempts and he's hitting a team-high 77.9%. 3) The Braves don't panic. With 10 seniors on the roster, this team may get beat by a bunch, but tey won't give in easily. Key Player: Everyone knows about Seth Adkins, Jordan Saylor, and Austin Johnson, but Cody Kellam may be just as important. With Jordan Saylor in an uncharacteristic perimeter slump, the senior guard has taken up the slack from the outside, hitting 44.8% of his threes. He's the only Brave who's hit more than one three / game so far... We'll find out a lot more about the Braves shortly; 12/29 vs. Eastern in the City of Middletown Holiday Classic and 1/3/15 at Shelby County.


5. Collins The Titans appear to have some holes, but they keep winning. Collins had a successful week last week against quality competition, going 2-1 wth victories over a solid Central Hardin team and a really good Graves County club, holding both teams to just 41 points. Their lone loss was to the first region favorites, the Calloway County Lakers, by 14. Brent Kidwell continues to play at an all-region level, averaging 20.2 ppg, and Deion Cochran is adding 14.3 ppg. The question is whether or not Collins can put enough points on the board, though, as they are averaging just 58.8 ppg (11th-best in the region). Collins' losses have generally been close losses to good teams (Henderson County by 1, Madison Central by 5, and Calloway County by 14), but there remains that bizarre 12 point defeat at the hands of Franklin County - the only win for the Flyers so far this year. Like SK, the Titans' region chances may well lie in the hands of the supporting cast; otherwise, how far can Kidwell and Cochran carry this team?


6. Shelby County Pre-season #2 in these rankings, the Rockets fall to sixth place as the questions mount. There is no question that the Shelby County roster may well be the most chock-full of talent in the region. The Rockets have lost 3 of their last 5 - albeit all three to solid teams (Collins, Central Hardin, and North Bullitt) - and inconsistency has been a major reason why. Shelby struggles at the line (62.8% for the season), is sometimes erratic when handling the ball, and doesn't always get back quickly enough on defense. Injuries are perhaps the biggest concern; star guard Malik Manica has yet to play in a game and won't be back until February at best. The Rockets' best interior player, James Gordon, has been hampered by back issues since the opening game against Mercer County, and has seen very limited action Without those two players, Shelby is very beatable. And yet, the explosive potential is obvious. Keenan Cochran is averaging nearly 15 ppg and Kyler Dugle about 12 ppg. Luke Dove, a tall, lanky player with an ability to get inside, and Kemar Mason - perhaps one of the most athletic players on the squad - both are just shy of double figures at over 9 ppg. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see this team hoisting the trophy in New Castle in March. A tough, tough January is coming up: 1/3/15 vs. Grant County, 1/9/15 on the road vs. District rival Anderson County, and - after games against Collegiate and Thomas Nelson - three brutal games against Collins (1/16/15 at home), North Oldham (1/23/15 at home) and on the road at undefeated Clay County (1/24/15). Shelby ends the month of January at home against 9-1 Oldham County on 1/30/15 and vs. Bullitt East in the King of the Bluegrass Showcase on 1/31/15.


7. North Oldham I may be reaching a bit here, but I don't think so. The Mustangs have improved to 6-5, winning 6 of their last 7 games. Sure, North really hasn't beaten anyone of note during that run, but North is doing what they should be doing against these teams and taking care of business. North started 0-4, struggling with a first-year head coach, a lot of new players, and the fact that their football players got a late start after the North football team advanced to the 4A state semi-finals. North is blessed with two great penetrating guards - brothers Jonathan Henry and Jalen Henry, both of whom are good with the dribble-drive, shoot the outside shot well, pass well, and leap well. First year coach Rob Burton has done a good job of finding some size in the NOHS hallways and getting these guys out on the team; 6-4 senior forward Travis Brown appears to be a real find - he may finish the year averaging a double-double - he had 7 points and 11 rebounds today against Highlands in the first round of the Coach Bob Classic at South Oldham HS. Senior guard Chris Burton seems to be catching up; the football RB / DB had 20 points today. Watch also for sophomore guard Zach Wheeler; he looked a little nervous in his first varsity start against Bullitt East, but the kid's a great shooter and should be a viable scoring option as the season wears on. Like Shelby, January will give us a better feel for what the Mustangs' true potential is: 1/10/15 vs. once-beaten Bryan Station, 1/16/15 vs. Oldham County, 1/20/15 vs. Anderson County, 1/21/15 vs. Male, 1/23/15 vs. Shelby County, 1/24/15 vs. Meade County (9-1), and 1/27/15 vs. North Bullitt.


8. Anderson County This is a very unusual Glen Drury team. Anderson County gets the nod here because they have the capacity to outscore almost anyone on any given night. Senior guard Austin Cummins is likely headed for all-region honors at the end of the year, based on his scoring pace; he already owns the school single-game scoring record. Anderson's 68.2 ppg average is 6th-best in the region - but (unlike most Glen Drury teams!) the Bearcats are giving up 62.6 ppg, just 13th-best in region 8. Anderson is looking for a quality win - the Bearcats so far have two wins over Garrard County (1-8), and one win apiece over East Jessamine (2-8), Bourbon County (3-6), and Sayre (6-2). But they have also lost to Bourbon County, Madison Southern (5-5), and a loss to Danville (9-4) no longer looks like a quality loss after the Admirals fell to shorthanded Gallatin County today in the Coach Bob Classic. A four-game stretch to start the new year will give the Bearcats an opportunity to prove themselves: 1/3/15 vs. Collins, 1/9/15 vs. Shelby County, 1/17/15 at Mercer County, and 1/20/15 vs. North Oldham. Whatever you do, never count a Glen Drury team out - but the Bearcats will need some help to reach New Castle next spring, with Collins and Shelby in their district.


9. Trimble County Johnny Leep is doing a great job in Trimble County, where the Raiders are 5-3 and a solid, veteran club that should rack up a number of wins this year. Junior Michael Dunaway (16.1 ppg / 10.6 rebounds) leads the way, and sharpshooting perimeter specialist Evan Long (41.7% beyond the arc) is chipping in 11.6 ppg. Six of the top seven players hit between 68% and 86% at the line. But Trimble has struggled against the elite teams, and really won't get another opportunity to pull a big upset until the post-season. The Raiders fell to Owen County, Oldham County, and North Oldham, losing each game by 35 points or more. On the other hand, the Raiders got a huge emotional lift when they knocked off South Oldham, the two-time defending regional champs, a feat they hadn't pulled off in 20 straight games. Although Trimble does play some decent teams through their remaining schedule, the Raiders will not play another regular season game that isn't imminently winnable. This could be a very special season in Bedford. The Raiders could head into district play on a long winning streak and perhaps ride the momentum to the 8th region tournament.


10. Henry County The Wildcats head into the Henry County Invitational with a 6-4 mark. This is a very young team that had a lot of success as JVs, but they're struggling through some learning pains. The Cats are 2-2 in district play, with wins over Gallatin County and Eminence, but losses district favorite Owen County and Carroll County in overtime. Henry does have some opportunities to measure their growth over the remainder of the season, with big games against Owen County (1/9/15 at Owenton), Oldham County (1/24/15 at home), Grant County (2/3/15 at home), Shelby County (2/13/15 at home), and Simon Kenton (2/19/15 at home).


Key Eighth Region Upcoming Games:/B]


Saturday 12/27/14

Owen County (9-0) vs. George Rogers Clark (5-2) at Berea Invitational

Oldham County (10-1) vs. #1 ranked Trinity (7-2) at Traditional Bank Holiday Classic

Walton-Verona (5-4) vs. Woodford County (5-2) at Lloyd Memorial Tournament Bearcats with the region's worst offense (49 ppg) but the stingiest defense (49.3 ppg) challenge 11th region's Yellowjackets


Monday, 12/29/14

Grant County (6-3) vs. Eastern (7-0) (City of Middletown Holiday Classic at Eastern HS)

Trimble County (5-3) vs. Lyon County (5-4) (Jim Hurst Holiday Cassic at Trimble Co HS)


Friday, 1/2/15

Oldham County vs. Scott County - OCHS coach Coy Zerhusen vs. his alma mater and former coach


Saturday, 1/3/15

Shelby County vs. Grant County

Collins vs. Anderson County - key district seeding game

Gallatin County at Owen County - Gallatin's Jon Jones lost his ace in the first game of the season; Wildcats fighting back have won their last two (over Carroll and Danville). Can they upset Owen and threaten the Rebels' reign in the 31st?

South Oldham at Central Hardin - Dragons struggling out of the gate after replacing entire starting lineup from last year. Big test on the road against a Fifth Region team.

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1) Oldham - agree 100% that they're the best team in the region right now.

2) Simon Kenton - played great at the best of hoops. Like to see how they sustain that. Some role players have really stepped up lately.

3) Grant County - they've beat Lafayette and Holy Cross both by double figures if I'm not mistaken. Caught a sick but the last two weeks.

4) Collins - I think Kidwell and coaching make this a very tough team.

5) Owen County - beat someone and I would have them higher. just not impressed with Owen County. I am with Carson but not the team

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Depth to me is the concern for both SK and Owen. At this early stage, I'm giving Owen the edge only because they have yet to have the slightest hiccup. And they do have one solid win over a quality team in Grant County. I agree SK looked good in the Best in Hoops. Those two plus Oldham, I think, are the top 3 right now. But Grant, Shelby, and Collins are all very much in this picture....it's a six team race at the moment, with North Oldham and Anderson solid dark horses.

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