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State Tournament Preview - Martin County (15th Region Champions)

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2020 15th Region Champions – Martin County Cardinals – State Tournament Preview


Season Overview:

Martin County opened the season against a tough schedule, going 5-8 coming out of December. The team was still trying to figure its identity and players were still discovering their ultimate roles. Expectations had been high going into the season and tempers were flaring in the stands and on the bench. The Cardinals were able to weather the storm, right the ship, and ended up being better for it. It’s also important to note that early on the competition level was extremely high as Martin County played in the King of the Bluegrass and Lexington Catholic Tournaments. This competition level would prepare them for a post season run 37 years in the making. They would close the season white hot and are currently on a 13 game win streak (15 of last 16).


The seasons journey would see many milestones for the Cardinals. They would go undefeated in their new gym and cut down the 57th District nets, ending a four-year regional tournament drought. Trey James would cross the 1,000-point mark and 1,000-rebound mark while committing to Wake Forest University and breaking the KHSAA all-time shot block record held by Isaiah Cozart (Madison Central). Brady Dingess would hit the 1,000-point mark and take home 15th Region Tournament MVP honors. Ethan-Smith Mills would cross the 1,500-point mark. Braxton Maynard would also hit the 1,000-point mark. Freshman 6th man Parker Davis would throw down his first career dunk and then add to his total. Overall the team saw many milestones, but none greater than returning to Rupp Arena for a community that has lost two of the sports figures, had a shortage of water and is economically struggling with the lack of mining.


Quick Reference Guide


Head Coach: Jason James

Head Coach Career Record: 71-86 (0.4522) (Currently in 1st Season at Martin County: 5th Overall)

(49-74 while coaching Sheldon Clark [2016-2019] 22-12 while coaching Martin County [2020-present])

Enrollment: 505

Mascot: Cardinal

Colors: Red, White, and Columbia Blue

Founded: 1973 (Consolidation of Inez and Warfield into Sheldon Clark – Renamed Martin County with new school opening in 2019-2020 calendar year)


District: 57th

All Time Record: 22-12 Sheldon Clark final record = 651-664 (0.4951)

Regional Titles: 1: 2020 [sheldon Clark won (1) in 1983]


Record Previous 5 Years (As Sheldon Clark): Overall (72-80) vs. 15th Region (45-41)

2018-19 10-20 (Lost 57th District)

2017-18 11-20 (Lost 57th District)

2016-17 19-12 (Lost 57th District)

2015-16 9-22 (Lost 57th District)

2014-15 23-6 (Lost Regional Semifinal)



What to Expect at the State Tournament:

The Martin County Cardinals will do what they have been doing. They will play solid half-court defense with Trey James anchoring the middle of the paint and guards pressuring the ball on the perimeter, often switching all screens. With James in the middle, the defense is kinda like a one-man zone with the four guards forcing everything to the paint. As long as James is not in foul trouble, it forces teams to score from the 12 to 17-foot range and that is tough to do in today’s game. They will also put Ethan Smith-Mills on the other team’s best player and have him either face-guard or give zero help. This team will press on an emergency basis only.


On offense the Cardinals will look to run opportunistically, but typically run sets to get attack the middle and corners of the defense. Outside shooting is not a problem as every player can knock down triples outside James. The Cardinals typically go six deep and rarely beyond that. When Parker Davis comes in, look for traps on ball screens and the occasional 1-3-1 zone with James in the middle.


This team never panics and has a belief in themselves rarely seen. They are well coached and well drilled in their style. They trust one another and play unselfishly. In short, this is a team that does not beat its self and does not let runs take them out of their game. They are fun to watch.


Martin County Starters

1. Brady Dingess (Sophomore) PG 6’1’’ – Brady Dingess is perhaps the most improved player in the region and the steady force behind Martin County’s run to Rupp Arena. He is smooth with the ball and never changes his demeanor on the court regardless of the situation his team is in. Dingess took home 15th Region Tournament MVP honors, posting impressive games throughout the tournament to include the game winning steal and layup in overtime to beat Pikeville (Regional Semifinals). Dingess plays a lot like James Hardin with his ability to draw fouls by getting into the defender on dribble drives. He shoots it well in all three phases (inside, midrange, 3FG and FT’s). Dingess is the engine that makes the team go! He enters the state tournament leading his team in scoring at 16.5 ppg and assists at 4.3 apg.


2. Braxton Maynard (Senior) G 5’11’’ – Maynard is the heart of the team and a player that plays with a lot of passion. Last season he was forced to play the point guard (Dingess played at Paintsville) and gained valuable experience both handling the ball and running the offense. This experience has allowed Martin County to have two excellent ball handlers on the floor at all times, as Maynard can take people off the dribble and set up the offense. But that is Maynard’s secondary roll on this squad. He plays with a ton of confidence and has been the guy who has hit the big shot or got the big rebound for his team. He enters the state tournament 10.2 ppg and 3.1 rpg.


3. Ethan Smith-Mills (Senior) SF 6’2’’ – Smith-Mills is a Martin County native who is the best on ball defender on the team. Night in and night out, he gets the assignment of guarding the best player on the opposing squad. Smith-Mills is a lefty who has the ability to shoot from deep and he usually finds himself open in corners. He is capable of scoring the ball as he proved by scoring over 1,500 points at Allen Central, Floyd Central and now Martin County. Expect to see him face guarding someone full court and scoring when open. Smith-Mills enters the state tournament averaging 9.5 ppg and is second on the team in rebounding averaging 4.7 rpg.


4. Jordan Dalton (Junior) G 6’2’’ – Junior guard Jordan Dalton provides toughness, clutch shooting and the ability to feed the post for the Cardinals. He has a knack for knocking down big triples, can handle the ball in certain situations and has the shown the ability to effectively guard post players. Typically, Dalton shares the court with sixth man Parker Davis, but during Martin County’s tournament run has played key minutes down the stretch. Dalton is the best passer when it comes to feeding the post and often goes high low to James. If you forget about Dalton, he has the ability to hurt you similar to death by a thousand cuts.


5. Trey James (Junior) F 6’10’’ – The Wake Forest commit is the most disruptive defensive force in the entire state with his ability to block and alter shots at the rim. He already holds the state record for blocks in a career and still has a year to increase those numbers. James plays above the rim and can scores best when fronted by the opposing team (over the top entry passes on the seal). His defensive presence allows Martin County guards to apply lots of pressure on the perimeter, forcing teams to beat them from 14-17 feet. When this team is at its best, James flirts with a triple double in points, rebounds and blocks.

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Even though the state tournament is postponed, today Martin County would have faced Owensboro Catholic. Wanted to post their tournament preview so the players, coaches and community could get their due coverage in the media.


It has been 37 years since Martin County earned the right to play in the state tournament and I believe they had an excellent chance to win a game as the one of the mountain representatives!

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