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Thanks to the work of the some of the state's most knowledgable writers, the Preseason Hoops Preview has been released.


First Region


1. Paducah Tilghman: There isn’t a team in the region that can match the Tornado’s talent and depth in the frontcourt. David Jones, a 6-4 senior forward, and 6-5 junior center Isaac McClure are returning starters and 6-4 junior Stefon Perry is ready to blossom on the offensive end. Brent Buchanan, a 6-3 senior, is a hardnosed player who isn’t afraid to be a banger on the boards.


Senior Eric Hutcherson has been a starter since his sophomore year, and needs only to improve his decision-making to become the region’s top playmaker.


Cole McKeel shot close to 50 percent from 3-point range in limited action last year and will step in at shooting guard.


Top Players


6. David Jones, Paducah Tilghman: Became a dominant inside player late last season.


7. Isaac McClure, Paducah Tilghman: Proven defensive force, a great rebounder and shot-blocker.


8. Matt Kimbler, Graves County: Will lead the balanced Eagles, can score, defend and take care of the ball.


9. Luke Shuemaker, Lone Oak: Lefty penetrator could become a big scorer.


10. Gabriel Shaw, St. Mary: Versatile, underrated player capable of playing all five positions.


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Second Region


Scott Brown

WKDZ Radio


1. Henderson County (19-11) – The Colonels have appeared in the Second Region title game four of the past five years but have no championship hardware to show for it. For Henderson to claim their first region title since 1999, they will need their returning nucleus to stay intact for the season.


The Colonels return four starters from last year’s team that won the Sixth District title for the sixth straight year and 11 of the last 13.

Darius Haygen (6-0, Sr.) shook off the effects of a facial injury that required him to wear a mask and averaged 12.5 points and 4.3 assists a game.


The Colonels also return some size up front in 6-5 senior Jarred Crowder (14.1 ppg., 7.9 rpg.), who shot 50-percent from the field, and 6-2 junior Josh Terry (11.5 ppg., 5.6 rpg), who had a solid regional tournament and hit 59-percent of his shots for the season.


Guard Antionne Lightfoot (7.8 ppg.) joins the team late from football season and gives the Colonels a slashing-type guard that can hit the boards as well as a quick backcourt that can apply pressure on defense.


Guard Walker Brunner (5.4 ppg.) and forward Joe Smith (4.8) are two of eight seniors on the Colonel roster who saw considerable playing time last year.


With the combination of size, speed, experience, and coaching, this should be the year Henderson County can get over the hump and return to Rupp Arena.


5. Fort Campbell (16-9) – The Falcons, known more for their football and track prowess, advanced to their first region tournament since 1983 and were a bucket away from the school’s first-ever district title.


Amy Gammons, the state’s only female boys’ basketball head coach, has four starters back from last year’s team and looks to get up and down the floor more this year.


6-2 senior Robert Rogers led the Falcons in scoring at 13.4 points a game and returns in the backcourt along with 5-11 senior Toron Thomas (11.5 ppg.) and 5-9 junior Robbie Townsend (10.1 ppg.).


6-3 senior Durell Williams will provide the inside muscle for the Falcons.

6. Caldwell County (14-12) – The Tigers’ move to the Seventh District after decades in the small-school Fifth District wasn’t a smooth one as Caldwell was bounced in the first round of the district tournament on their home floor.


With three starters returning, including one of the region’s best players, Caldwell seems poised to make a run at the district title.


Senior guard Matt Fraliex would start at center for most teams, but is able to use his 6-5 frame to beat you from the inside and outside.


The Murray State bound Fraliex, a cousin to head coach Michael Fraliex, averaged 26.2 points a game while shooting 45-percent from 3-point range and 55-percent overall. He was also among the statewide leaders in free throw percentage at 87.2-percent.


Fraliex the coach feels like Fraliex the player will have more help on the offensive end this year, with guards Coley Rogers (6-2, Sr.), Ben Hudson, and Rodney Bell (5-11, Sr.) returning.


The third-year coach has also been pleased with the summer play of Jake Pepper and L.J. Wilson.


“I think we'll be a better shooting team and a much better defensive minded team,” said Coach Fraliex. “These kids are extremely hard nosed and I think we have a good group of core guys with some good young guys who will contribute as the season progresses.”

7. Hopkinsville (8-16) – The winds of change have swept through Tigers Gym after Hopkinsville posted their fewest number of wins since 1994 and missed the region tournament for the first time since 1997.


Jim Simmons, a long-time assistant coach under Allen Hatcher at Graves County takes over for Terry Hayes, who left after ten years and a 150-133 record.


Like the teams at Graves County, Simmons is stressing discipline and hard work with the Tigers, who return three players who started at times last year.


5-9 senior point guard Greg White averaged 11 points a game, while 6-4 senior Chad Brown (5.4 ppg., 4.0 rpg.) has the potential to be among the region’s best players if he can stay out of foul trouble.


Simmons, whose only other head coaching job was a 7-16 stop at Crittenden County in 1990, has been pleased with the preseason work of 6-1 guard Dominique McDonald, 6-2 forward Richard Brown, and 6-8 center Karlos Thompson.


“If we keep working as hard as we are now, we’re going to get better every day and be as good as anyone in the region,” Simmons said.


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Third Region


Mark Mathis

Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer


1. Apollo (25-11) - Tony Hopper coached Apollo to an appearance in the Kentucky high school state championship game that could have best been considered a surprise.


The Eagles were regarded as the third-best team in the 9th District when postseason play began, but they beat Owensboro High School in the first round of the district tournament and continued to survive and advance

while regional favorite and state power Owensboro Catholic fell in the 3rd Region Tournament.


Apollo beat Ohio County in an epic three-overtime regional championship game, then used its veteran guard play to control tempo through three round of the Sweet Sixteen in Lexington.


They finally fell in the title game to a more talented and athletic Jeffersontown team on the last Saturday night of the season.


"I told them that sometimes athletics is not always fair and you have to take your lumps sometimes," Hopper said that March night. "But this isn't too bad a lump to take."


Although Apollo lost guards Doug Denton and Jake Wells, it has one of the state's top juniors with Tyler Brown, who made a big impact at the state tournament.


Brown, a 6-foot-2 player who can create his own shot and has a great touch from outside, could be one of the early favorites for 2008 Mr. Basketball honors. He scored 17 points and nearly seven rebounds a game in the state tournament.


He leads what Hopper calls a nice nucleus coming back. "We may be better offensively since any time I've been here," Hopper said.


The lead candidate to replace Denton at the point is De-Lon Butler, a 5-8 guard who is athletic and can shoot the ball. Justin Little is a 6-3 senior who has improved. Carlos Alas also played a lot last season and could be a surprise in the region. Terrance Johnson had a strong game in the state tournament semifinals against Pleasure Ridge Park.


Center Ben Duvall, who will play football at Purdue, will not come back for his senior season and Logan Robbins will also not return to concentrate on baseball.


There are some questions for the Eagles as they move on from the excitement of last year's 25-11 run.


"You always have got to fight that complacency, that feeling of look at what we've already done," Hopper said. "We've got to find other challenges to try and motivate them. We came up short in the final.We feel we're going to catch everybodies A game. People are going to say look what they did last year and we can knock them off.


"We have to replae leadership. Who is going to step up. That's our biggest thing trying to figure out."


Hopper, a veteran coach in the region with long runs at Central City and Muhlenberg North, is in his third year at Apollo and he doesn't want the Eagles putting all their hopes on Brown.


"I don't think we can be regional contender with one guy doing all of the scoring," Hopper said. "I'm more like share the wealth. It takes the pressure off one guy. But I also firmly believe that the cream comes to the top. When everything else breaks down (Brown) can get some things done."


2. Ohio County (14-15) - Most coaches in the region feel Ohio County is the favorite based on its huge front line of Josh Clemons, Colin St. Clair and Chase Melton.


This could be the most intriguing district in the region with the return of Ohio County's Josh Clemons. The 6-foot-10 senior was severly injured in a car wreck and missed the entire second semester of school. He was granted a fifth-year of eligibility by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association because of medical reasons and could be a force.


Ohio County will be further motivated by the triple overtime loss to Apollo in the regional championship game.


"You better believe it," Ohio County coach Paul Decker said. "We've got some kids whho don't like to lose, like Colin St. Clair, he's very competitive."


"We talk about that a lot. It was a tough one to get over. We used it as motivation when we were in the weight room."


Being in the weight room was a prime focus of Decker's in the offseason. With the big bodies he has inside, added strength could make the Eagles even tougher to contend with this season.


"We really hit the weight room," Decker said. "We wanted our guards to get stronger to help with handling the ball. I thought it would help our program all the way around."


Everything Ohio County does this year will be based on getting the ball inside. Clemons is 6-10, 235 and averaged double-figure scoring before he got hurt.


St. Clair (6-5, 200) is Ohio County's leading returning scorer and rebounder. He averaged 15 points and eight rebounds a game and made 60-percent shooting from the field. Melton (6-9, 250) took over when Clemons was lost for the season.


Both St. Clair and Clemons are offensive minded and can step out to hit the 15-footer.


The Eagles must replace a veteran group of guards who were also good outside shooters.


Alex Embry could be one of those guards. He is a good shooter who has improved his ballhandling. B.J. Garner is perhaps the most versatile player for the Eagles.


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Fourth Region


Mark Mathis

Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer


4. Franklin-Simpson (16-13) - David Clark is cautiously optimistic about the Wildcats’ chances. The team is built around All-State guard Glenn Dalcourt, who averaged 14 points and six rebounds a game.


Rayco Bryant, a 6-5 junior center, had 12 points and six rebounds a game. Juniors Colby Clark and Jordan Bell will run the team at the guard spots.


5. Bowling Green (13-14) - The Purples have a lot of talent and more experience than last season. Senior Sean Savage is one of the top guards in the region. Rondale McMillian and Timmy Bridgeman are two other fine players for BG.


6. Russellville (17-13) - The Panthers are senior laden, like a lot of teams in this region. They have a top guard in Jerrell Mayo who is tough to defend. Tyler Meacham is another good guard.


Justin Hinton and Josh Kennedy are forwards while the post is occupied by Justin Rust.


7. Clinton County (17-11) - Justin Vittatoe is a 6-5 senior who averaged 18 points and nine rebounds a game. He can play all five positions and is one of five senior starters.


Shawn Parrish (6-foot), Josh Choate (6-1), Michial Conner (6-foot) and John Papineau (6-4) are the other seniors. Clinton County also has two more seniors, Alex Talent and Jarrod Lathem, who help the team.


Daily improvement will be the key for Clinton County to be a regional contender.


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Fifth Region


By Taylor Hardin

Special to Bluegrasspreps.com


1. Elizabethtown (28-4) – The Panthers return one of the favorites for Mr. Basketball, senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew, who averaged 21.3 points and 11 rebounds a game.


Despite the monster season, it wasn’t enough for the Panthers to return to Rupp Arena as E-town was knocked off by John Hardin in the region title game.


Pettigrew’s supporting cast is changing significantly as last year’s reserves – Bennie LaPrade and Reid Walters – should break into the starting lineup this year.


2. North Hardin (10-16) – The Trojans were penciled in as the preseason region favorite in the spring, despite a season that didn’t meet the usual expectations in Radcliff.


However, senior forward James Sykes, who nearly averaged a double-double, and his 7-foot-1 sophomore brother Jamarious moved to Georgia over the summer.


Despite the losses, the Trojans may still have enough to win a championship in a region where the top teams are restocking the shelves.


Senior guard Andre Autry has the most experience of this year’s projected starters, which should also include junior Maurice Gosa and sophomore La Rod King.


3. Adair County (20-7) – In a season where the Hardin County schools lost more starters than they return, the Indians are hoping the return of four starters will be enough for Mark Fudge’s team to claim the school’s first region title since 1995.


Adair will rely on seniors Chad Lewis (11.5 ppg., 6.7 rpg.) and Joseph Willis and 6-8 sophomore Darrin Ballou this year as part of a unit that allowed 60 or more points just four times last year and held their opponents to just 47.9 points a game.


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Sixth Region


By Charles Taylor

Special to Bluegrasspreps.com


There’s a new kid on the Sixth Region favorites block this season as Doss comes into the season as the coaches’ pick.


The Dragons have a boatload of talent, including Mr. Basketball candidate Jeff Brooks, in their quest for the school’s first regional title since 1987.


But Doss coach Shawn Purlee knows it won’t be easy.


Pleasure Ridge Park has won three consecutive regional titles and again will be solid, while DeSales, Fairdale, Central and Iroquois should also figure into the title chase before the end of the season.


4. FAIRDALE BULLDOGS – In his second year replacing veteran coach Lloyd Gardner, coach Gregg Longacre has the talent to win the regional talent.


Senior forward Reggie Smith is the leader for the Bulldogs, who have four starters back and a solid seven-player senior class.


The 6-4 Smith averaged 16 points and nine rebounds and will get plenty of help from guard Clinton Lucas, one of the regions top shooters, and point guard Byron Board. J.R. Gates and Muriel Wilkerson give Fairdale an inside presence.


5. CENTRAL YELLOWJACKETS – Coach Doug Bibby had one of the state’s top freshmen classes last season when the Yellowjackets won 18 games.


Those kids earned a year of experience and are joined by several others.


Sophomores Lee McGee, Paul Bunton and Ridge Wilson are all 6-5 and solid players both inside and on the perimeter. Junior Randy Skeens is back after averaging 10 points a game, while junior LeeVaugh Morris is also a top returnee.


6. IROQUOIS RAIDERS – The Raiders only won 12 games last season but will be the most improved team in the region. Eight key players are returning for second-year coach Michael Stinnett.


Senior guard Ardy Phillips averaged 13.5 points last season and will be expected to score more, while forward Larry Hoskins also averaged double figures.


7. BULLITT EAST CHARGERS – Robert Troutman returns as one of the region's top players and he has some sidekicks that will help the Chargers surpass last season’s 14-win total in their second season in the region.


The 6-5 Troutman also averaged eight rebounds a game. Guards Matt Miles and Tyler Downs will also help bolster coach Troy Barr’s roster.


The Chargers have just three seniors on the 19-player roster.


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Seventh Region


By Charles Taylor

Special to Bluegrasspreps.com


Normally, when the defending Kentucky state champion returns three starters they would be a heavy favorite to win a regional title the next season.


But not in the rugged Seventh Region race.


Jeffersontown has three key starters returning but is expected to be in a dogfight for the regional title with Ballard and Male. All three teams are among the top 20 teams in the state and the regional coaches actually believe Ballard is favored in the race.


1. BALLARD BRUINS – Ballard hasn’t won a state title since 1999 but coach Chris Renner has enough talent to claim the title this season.


The Bruins are loaded and figure to be a top-five team in the state.


Ballard has one of the state’s best backcourt tandems in Antiquwan Beckham and Johonne Hamilton, both seniors and three-year starters. The 6-foot-5 Beckham has signed with IUPUI and averaged 14.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game last season.


The 6-1 Hamilton averaged 13.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.7 steals and is the Bruins’ defensive stopper.


But that’s hardly the start of the talent roll call at Ballard, which can go 12 deep as coach Renner said all 12 could lead the team in scoring on any given night.


Jonathan Gholson is a transfer from Moore who sat out last season and should give the Bruins a huge lift. He’s athletic and a solid wing player.


Forwards Chris Gowers and Paul Dowell and guards David Stanley, Jamal Crook and Wesley Cox are the other key players returning.


Top Players


1. Antiquawn Beckham, Ballard, 6-5, Sr.

Comment: When he gets going to the basket, he’s hard to stop.


2. Thomas Coleman, Jeffersontown, 6-9, Sr.

Comment: Can be the most dominant player in the state.


3. Chris Duncan, Fern Creek, 6-7, Sr.

Comment: Will have to do a lot to pick up slack for his team.


4. Douglas Beaumont, Male, 5-10, Sr.

Comment: Mr. Football can also get it done on the hardwood.


5. Rashad Basey, Jeffersontown, 6-2, Sr.

Comment: Played a huge role in Sweet 16 win for Chargers.


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Eighth Region





By Mickey Jackson

Special to Bluegrasspreps.com


Top Players


1. Mike Hester, Simon Kenton, 5-9, Sr.

Comment: He’s steady, heady and one of the state’s best guards.


2. Eugene Wade, Shelby County, 6-8, Sr.

Comment: Makes the Rockets a top-20 team with solid post play.


3. Isreal Chambers, Shelby County, 6-6, Sr.

Comment: A dominator in the paint.


4. Sean Stiles, South Oldham, 5-9, Sr.

Comment: Has improved dramatically over the summer and was already good.


5. Matt Spencer, North Oldham, 6-0, Sr.

Comment: Should thrive under new coach Danny Edelen.


6. Josh Hurd, Simon Kenton, 6-8, Sr.

Comment: When he gets it going is unstoppable in the paint.


7. Eric Dunlop, Oldham County, 5-10, So.

Comment: Another talented guard in the Gary Forrest stable.


8. C.J. Penny, Anderson County, 6-3, So.

Comment: His team will have to rely heavily on his performance.


9. Cody Perkins, Gallatin County, 6-2, Sr.

Comment: Has a lot of on-the-floor smarts and is a solid shooter.


10. Josh Elbert, Simon Kenton, 6-4, Sr.

Comment: His solid play could take Pioneers to another level.


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Ninth Region


By Dave Pugh

Special to Bluegrasspreps.com


Mike Listerman’s Covington Catholic Colonels made their second appearance in the Sweet 16, in the last three years. Unfortunately, for the Colonels they were upset in the first round in Rupp Arena by an upstart Owensboro Apollo team that eventually made it to the finals on Saturday night.


The 2006-07 Colonels will be the favorite to return to Rupp Arena despite losing several key players from last year’s region winner, most notably PG Tim Tierney.


However, the road to Rupp will be littered with potential pitfalls, especially within their own 35th District. In arguable one of the toughest districts in the state that includes Covington Holmes, Holy Cross, and Beechwood, the Colonels will not have to look far for fierce competition.


Matter of factly, if it were not for the potentially season ending injury suffered by Holmes point guard Duran Jefferson, the Bulldogs of Holmes would be the #1 choice in the region. Lest we forget, Holy Cross will be waiting in the wings if either Cov Cath or Holmes stumbles. However, with what the Colonels have returning including the best scorer in the region in Todd Jacobs, the Colonels should prevail.


Three of the biggest games in Northern Kentucky this year will be the triumvirate of games between: Cov Cath v Holmes, Cov Cath v Holy Cross, Holy Cross v. Holmes. These three will play a huge role in gaining the #1 seed in the 35th District, which means avoiding having to play a top 3 team in the first round of the districts.


1. Covington Catholic (24-7)- Todd Jacobs the 6’0 scoring dynamo will lead the Colonel brigade this year.


Jacobs who has been a three year starter is a clutch shooter who can score in a myriad of ways. He can beat you from behind the arc, are drive it or drive and hit the pullup. One of the toughest matchups for anyone in the region.


The supporting regiments aren’t too shabby either. Gritty, gutty Brandon Brown should take over the PG chores in absence of the graduated Timmy Tierney. Along with Jacobs and Brown, 6’1 Kurt Bovard returns to add another scoring option for CCH.


The middle should be owned by 6’4 Billy Schult, who improved over the course of last season. The Colonels do not lack height, there are several underclassman who measure 6’5 or taller, including Aaron Noll, and Clay Lampl. Offense should not be an issue in Park hills this winter.


2. Holmes (19-9) - The Bulldogs started last season like gang busters and well on their way to a possible repeat of the previous year’s region title, but a mid season implosion left the Dogs to stagger to the finish line before bowing to Dixie in the first round of the region.


Early in this preseason, the Dogs were dealt a blow when PG Duran Jefferson suffered a broken leg during football season, which will effectively sideline him for most of the season if not the entire season.


However, before anyone sheds tears for David Henley’s bunch, the Dogs cupboard is not bare. Holmes will likely have the best all-around player in the region in 6’1 Austin Hill who has steadily improved his game. Athletic, long and quick and has a knack of finding creases and seams to get the ball to the rim.


Also, returning will be Greg Rice who was dismissed from the team during the latter part of last season. If Rice is focused, very few in the region can handle him in the paint.


Jumping jack Arrez Henderson, 5’11; JR will return and will not catch people by surprise. A little undersized to play in the paint area, Henderson will likely get his chance to expand his game by playing some guard spots, and handle some PG duties.


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10th Region



By Philip Hay



1. Mason County (25-9) - The Royals advanced to the second round of the boy’s state tournament a year ago and hope to build on that experience.


Darius Miller will again be the go to player for Mason County, but the cupboard is far from empty as he will have a boat load of talent surrounding him. Coach Chris O’Hearn will have plenty of weapons to fuel the defending region champions.


2. Clark County (22-9) - The region runners-up from a year ago have one of the most explosive 1-2 punches in the region.


Preston Knowles and Tristian Jones will wow crowds again this season. Don’t be surprised if Scott Humphrey’s Cards are back in the championship game this year with a different result.


Top Players


9. Jimmy Uebel (Bishop Brossart) Uebel is the ultimate role player. He is able to step out and play the wing or crash the glass.


10. Chris Owens (Saint Patrick) A super smart player that could take over for Saint Patrick. Once he realizes his potential then Owens will be a difference maker.


11. Nathan Sharp (Scott) Sharp will provide experience for the Eagles. That and double digit scoring on a nightly basis.


12. Jordan Stephens (Montgomery County) Stephens could be a major force inside as the 6-7 junior will have big expectations. If he continues to improve then the big fella will open a lot of eyes.


13. Jesse Hall (Bracken County) Everything the Polar Bears do will run thru Hall. His quick first step is a tremendous asset and he will make things happen.


14. Jeremy Hardymon (Augusta) Hardymon will be fun to watch again this season. He is able to score, handle the ball and do much more.


15. Josh White (Augusta) The type of player that goes nonstop from tip to games end. He will be the important piece in the Panthers success.


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11th Region


By Ron Harrison

Special to Bluegrasspreps.com



11. Western Hills (13-13): Coach Enoch Welch guided the Wolverines to a 13-13 record in his first year as head coach at Western Hills. The Wolverines were 6-21 the previous year. They expect to be improved and have more depth this season.


The top returnees include 6-5 Sr. forward Kris Toles (10.5 ppg), 5-11 Jr. guard Jay Van (9.5 ppg), 5-10 So. guard Darius Reed, 5-8 Sr. guard Tyler Combess (7.0 ppg), 6-6 Sr. center Andrew Elliston, 6-0 Sr. forward John Kendell (7.0 ppg), 5-11 Jr. guard Mike Hyatt, and 6-3 Sr. center Brandon Hawkins.


Top newcomers are 6-3 So. Mike Satterwhite, 5-10 So. Nolan McGuaghey, 6-2 Jr. Ryan Belcher (injured last season), 6-2 So. Marcus Wise, and 5-10 Fr. J. T. Riddle.


12. Sayre (18-8): Coach Gene Kirk’s Spartans graduated five seniors from last year’s squad but will have better size this season. Coach Kirk expects some talented young players to add depth and expects good team chemistry.


6-6 Sr. forward/center Alex Lloyd, 5-7 Sr. guard Dee Smith, and 6-3 Sr. guard Trae Cunningham are expected to provide offensive firepower this season. Smith is a good defender and shooter and Cunningham can nail the outside jumper.


13. Woodford County (19-12): Coach Brad Mefford takes over as head coach this season and faces a major rebuilding job. The Yellowjackets graduated eight seniors and most of the scoring punch from last year’s team.


Coach Mefford, who was head coach at Frankfort last season, recognizes he has his work cut out for him but is looking forward to the challenge. The Yellowjackets will play an uptempo style and some of the players counted on to contribute include 6-2 Sr. forward Graham Watts, 6-5 Jr. center Travis Swan, 5-9 Jr. guard Tae Mulder, and 6-3 So. guard Cameron Mattingly. Mattingly has the ability to slash to the basket as well as nail the outside shot.


Coach Mefford brings enthusiasm to the job and likes the fact that there is only one high school in Woodford County.


14. Madison Southern (16-12): Coach Shane Buttry’s Eagles graduated seven seniors from last year’s team. This year’s squad will be smaller, quicker, and must again rely on three point shooting and improved defense to compete with the big boys this year.


Key performers this season are expected to be 6-3 Sr. guard Ty Robinson, 5-10 Sr. guard Josey Cruse, 6-1 Jr. forward Casey Botkin, 6-3 Sr. forward Matt Adams, 6-0 Jr. forward Lucas Devere, 5-10 Jr. guard Josh Burns, and 5-9 Fr. point guard Carrington Todd (who could start before the season is over).


The Eagles have a talented freshman class with three of them possibly seeing varsity action this year.


15. Frankfort (11-15): Juan Byars takes over as head coach at Frankfort this season. Coach Byars must replace sharpshooter Matt Anderson who graduated, but has some nice talent at his disposal.


The Panthers expect to return 6-4 Sr. center Josh Smith, 6-3 Jr. forward E. J. Fields, and 6-0 Sr. guard Zed Smith. Frankfort, as with other teams, often has to wait until their footballers get their basketball “legs” before reaching full strength. The Panthers should also have some young players capable of helping this season.


16. Berea (15-15): Coach Todd Baldwin takes over as head coach this season and faces a major rebuilding job. Ten players graduated from last season’s Pirates squad.


5-10 Sr. Justin Engle and 5-10 Jr. Ben Flara logged varsity minutes last year but the team will be relatively inexperienced this season..


17. Model (7-19): Coach Kent Miller’s Patriots struggled last season but played hard and remained competitive in most of the games. However, Model graduated their leading scorers from last year’s squad.


6-3 Sr. wing Quenton Sandwith will be the lone returning starter. Other players expected to contribute include 5-10 Sr. guard Brett Miller, 5-9 Sr. guard Jarrod Middleton, 6-0 Sr. forward David Musick, 6-2 Sr. forward Kevin Haun, and 6-3 Sr. forward Shawn Stapp. Coach Miller expects the Patriots to be solid defensively and be a decent shooting team.


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12th Region


By Mike Marsee

The (Danville) Advocate-Messenger


If the 12th Region is so wide-open, why is almost everyone picking the same team to win'


Coaches around the region were practically lining up to pick Lincoln County, saying the Patriots have a little more of what it takes to make it to Rupp Arena than the rest of the field.


But while Lincoln is an overwhelming favorite among those trying to handicap the regional race, they're expecting another crowded stretch run on the way to the finish line March 13.


For the second year in a row, the season opens with at least two teams in every district that can be considered potential regional champions. And while that list might be pared a bit by the postseason, the title once again appears to be up for grabs.


Still, Lincoln is the one at No. 1 on most lists.


'Lincoln County's the team to beat because of who they've got back,' Boyle County coach Ronnie Bottoms said. 'They've got the coaching, they've got the athleticism, and those kids have played together for a while.'


But Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson insists his isn't the only team to beat.

'I think we're right there, but there's five or six teams that are right there,' Jackson said.


One way or the other, the road to the regional title runs through Lincoln, because the Patriots will host the regional tournament.


Here's a team-by-team look at the 12th:



Lincoln and its loyal fans haven't celebrated a regional championship since 1980, but this team has been constructed with the idea of ending that drought.


Virtually all of its key players have been on the floor together for the last two or three seasons, and they have become a balanced team with a number of weapons but no single star.


The Patriots are deep, they're balanced and they're usually not led in scoring by the same person in consecutive games.


'I think it's going to be the same way; at least I hope it is,' Jackson said. 'We feel like on any given night, any of six kids can lead us in scoring.'


No Lincoln player averaged in double figures last season, but four of them -- senior forwards Braxton Miller and Chase Overstreet, senior guard Ryan Young and junior guard Trent Calhoun -- averaged eight or nine points per game.


There are four returning starters: Miller, Overstreet, Young and junior guard Daniel Ralston. There were also four others who were in the playing rotation last season: Calhoun, senior guards Noah Keeton and Kelly Reed and junior guard Levi Rogers.


All of them are capable of a big scoring night, and they'll all probably have one or more over the course of the season.


Lincoln gave up just over 56 points per game last year, not an alarming number but one that Jackson would like to see reduced. He said the Patriots still need to improve on defense, and he said they have to be better on the boards as well.


This is Jackson's third year at Lincoln after leaving University Heights, and he has brought these players along steadily during that time. Now he's challenging them with a tough schedule that includes trips to the Hoopin' It Up Holiday Classic in London and the Fifth Third Bank Classic in Lexington, games against a handful of teams that are usually in the running for regional titles (Perry County Central, Mason County, Madison Central, Paul Dunbar) and battles with every 12th Region team in the top half of this list.



Southwestern surely isn't interested in being second on anybody's list after losing to Boyle in last year's regional final. And the Warriors have many of their key players back as they try to make another March run.


Seniors will lead the way, starting with point guard Casey Dalton, who returns to run Dave Schultz's thrill-a-minute offense.


Also returning to the lineup are forward Jonathan Edwards, one of the team's tallest players and the top returning 3-point shooter, and forward T.W. Sears. Senior guard Kyle Rodgers will also play a larger role.


The challenge will be replacing Dustin Fothergill, who was one of the region's top players last year, and it's a good bet that Southwestern will rely on several players to pick up the slack.


No matter what, the Warriors figure to keep playing at the same breakneck pace that has become their trademark in recent years, pushing the ball up the floor and firing 3-point shots at will.


They averaged 70 points per game, about seven more than the second-highest team in the region, and they'll put up some big numbers again this fall.


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13th Region


By Les Dixon



Different year, same expectations.


Gone is last year’s Mr. Basketball Walt Allen, but returning is Notre Dame signee Ty Proffitt and sharpshooters Jordan Hammonds and Trey Smith.


And yes, many are already penciling the Cardinals (28-6 last season) in to represent the 13th Region at Rupp Arena in March, but Wright believes it’s way too early to think about the Sweet 16.


“Right now, things are going OK, but we have had quite a bit of sickness and we’ve been banged up a bit, so we’ve had to get over that first,” he said.


“The thing I like about this team is that they have goals set, but they are team goals,” he added. “I say this every year. It’s a different team from last year with different players. I think we can compete with anybody and

our guys know if we want to have the success that we have had in the past then they will have to work hard for it.”


South Laurel is coming off an Elite Eight performance from last season and is only two years removed from a state championship.


6. Cumberland (9-14) - The Redskins might have only won nine games last season, but they were good.


They’ll be even better this season.


Cumberland will be led by 6-foot-5 center Desmond Johnson (11.4) and senior guard Kyle Simpson (10.4).


Brock Leisge (6.4), Brooks Hogue (4.7) and transfer Garfield Wilson will play a big role in the Redskins’ success this season.


7. North Laurel (14-16) - The Jaguars will have to replace six of their top seven scorers from last season and their success will depend solely on one player - senior Shawn Asher (6-foot-5, 10.5).


He is healthy and we are expecting great things out of him,” Conway said of Asher. “We will probably go as far as he takes us. If he has a good season then I like the outlook on our season.


It all starts and stops with Shawn,” he added. “If he becomes a good leader on the floor, then our team will follow his example. If not, I’m not sure yet. That is putting some pressure on his shoulders isn’t it?”


Also returning will be senior Anthony Trabish (6-foot-4, 1.6), sharpshooting Nick Shannon (5-foot-10, 1.4), Luke Dalton (0.7), Justin Hubbard (0.5), Phillip Cottongim (0.0) and Josh Tiller (0.0).


8. Harlan (13-13) - We will get to see just how good John Smith is this year after the Green Dragons graduated four of its top six scorers.


Smith averaged 22.3 points a game before getting injured last season and looks to improve on those numbers during his senior campaign.


Senior Robbie Curtis (10.2) will try and shoulder some of the scoring load for Harlan.


9. Clay County (25-6) - Who would have thought the Clay County Tigers would drop this low? Clay County has a new coach in former Hazard coach Kevin Spurlock.


He’ll have to find a way to replace all five starters from last season’s 13th Region semifinalist squad. The Tigers averaged 64.4 points last season and graduated 53 points of it.


Returning to the mix will be Zach Lewis (5.6), who guided the Tigers football team to the first round of the playoffs this season.


Matt Dobbs (6-foot-4, 1.0) and Justin Hobbs (5.6) give Spurlock some much-needed experience along with Jeremy Sizemore (1.3) and Ryan Lee Smith (1.3).


10. Knox Central (6-20) - Since participating in the 13th Region finals in 2004, Brandon Elam’s squad has posted a dismal 13-36 record. Things are expected to change this season.


The Panthers return a solid nucleus of young talent, which will be led by junior Cory Williamson (12.3) and freshman Cody Miller (10.2).


“We have had some struggles playing these young guys for a couple of years,” Elam said. “We have depended on freshmen for two years now. Now were are in a position where we maybe have one senior on the roster. We are looking at some guys now that experience should not be a problem.”


“They have played some of the top teams in the state,” he added. “We feel like, although this team is still young, experience should not be a problem. We are very excited about what this bunch can accomplish in the next couple of years.”


Also returning will be Chad Messer (6.0), Jacob Scalf (5.7) and Seth Bingham (3.0).


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14th Region


By Perry L. Powell

Special to Bluegrasspreps.com


The 14th Region proved to be one of the most balanced in the state last year, with both regional semifinals going to overtime. Things aren’t expected to be much different in the 2006-07 season with around five teams likely to make a run at Rupp Arena.


1. June Buchanan (23-6) – The Crusaders saw their improbable run at their first region title come to an end with a double-overtime loss to Hazard in the 14th Region Tournament semifinals.


Guard Clark Stepp, the nephew of 1980 Mr. Basketball Ervin Stepp, averaged 26 points and nine assists as a sophomore – which mirrored his totals from his freshman season.


The 6-3, 170-pound junior has developed into one of the best players in the mountains and will be counted on to help lead JBS on the floor.

Western Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky are among the schools interested in Stepp, who teams with Tate Cox to form one of the state’s best backcourts.


Cox (5-10, Fr.) averaged 17 points and shot 80-percent from the free throw line as an eighth grader.


Head coach Gary Stepp is also looking for a breakout season from 6-9 sophomore Garrison Collins, who averaged 8.1 ppg., and 6.2 rebounds.


Ryan Conley is the only senior projected to start for the Crusaders, who are hoping 6-3 Brent Hall and 6-6 Trey Short can bolster their inside game and improve on their 32 rebounds a game average.


The Crusaders have beefed up their schedule, which includes a trip to the Fifth-Third Classic in Lexington and the WYMT Mountain Classic.


Top players


Clark Stepp (June Buchanan) – Should have a breakout year against an improved schedule


Justin Hicks (Hazard) – Main reason behind Bulldogs’ run to the Sweet 16 last year.


Kenny Brandenburg (Lee County) – Another of the region’s talented point guards who has improved his game


Tyler Bailey (Perry County Central) – Region’s best big man ready to make an impact on the glass


Zach Hurt (Cordia) – May be the most improved player in the region from the end of last season.


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15th Region


By Jerry Boggs

Appalachian News-Express


1. PAINTSVILLE — Not since the Tigers’ state championship run in 1996 has so much excitement been based around one team.


Arguably, Paintsville has been building to the 2006-2007 campaign since Landon Slone burst on the Kentucky hoops scene as a freshman. Slone is one of a handful of starters back to try to lead the Tigers to the promised land this season.


With returnees Shane Grimm and J.D. VanHoose, Paintsville simply has every other team in the 15th Region out-gunned.


2.. SHELBY VALLEY — The Wildcats have been fixtures in the 15th Region Finals for a long time and last season was no difference.


Despite the loss of Cade and Mitchell Riddle, coach Jason Booher seems to have the pieces to solve the puzzle. With returnees Jacob Bryant, Jeremy Jackson and point guard Elisha Justice, Booher will mix in Jonah Justice and Kyle Goodson, who is returning to the team after sitting out last season.


A couple of talented freshman could help Shelby Valley answer their questions in the post and lift the speedy Wildcats back into the regional finals.


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