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BluegrassPreps.com 4th Region Boys Basketball Preview

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Warren Central capped another thrilling run in the region last season with a third straight victory over Bowling Green in the finals by a 53-42 score, a surprisingly easy victory given their loss in the district finals to them ten days prior.  Their victory made it nineteen region titles in a row for the 14th District, with no signs that streak will slow down anytime soon.  But the Dragons moved on from 11 seniors, leaving a familiar team to fill the void at the top.

Preseason 4th Region Rankings

1. Bowling Green – Out with the old, in with the old.  Bowling Green welcomes back former head coach DG Sherrill, who replaces Derrick Clubb after three seasons – the same coach who replaced him after he resigned following the 2017 state championship for the Purples.  Sherrill-led teams have won 29 straight games overall and 48 straight against region competition.  And he doesn’t step back in to a bare cupboard.  Indeed, he inherits easily the most talented team at BG since that 2017 state champ.  Eight seniors and eight juniors dot the roster.  Every starter from a year ago is back, although Conner Cooper will be recovering from an injury suffered during the football season initially.  Sr. wing Isaiah Mason, an NKU signee, headlines the team, and should be the region’s POY. He averaged 16.1 PPG a year ago.  Talented junior Turner Buttry (10.9 PPG) will distribute, and shot a ridiculous 48.2% from three a year ago. C/F Cobi Huddleston will also be joined by returning big man (and UK football signee at TE) Jordan Dingle, who missed last year with an injury. All the pieces are there for a district, region, and state title run. Frankly, it would be a surprise to see them drop a single region game.

2. Barren County – Last year saw the Trojans bounce back after missing the region tournament the two years prior, winning 23 games and their district tournament before running into a buzzsaw against Warren Central in the region tournament. The effort earned region stalwart Warren Cunningham coach of the year honors. Barren County loses their #2 and #3 scorers from last year, but return first team all-region forward Aden Nyekan, entering just his junior season, the best junior in the region.  Nyekan averaged 16.9 PPG a season ago, rebounds well, and plays above his height.  Gavin Withrow is also a returning starter, averaging 5.4 PPG.  The Trojans will find out right away what they’re made of – they host Bowling Green in the first game of the year. They’ve lost 10 of 11 against the Purples.

3. Greenwood – The Gators have been getting the worst of it from Warren Central and Bowling Green’s dominance, failing to escape the district with some very good teams the last two years. They lose two of their top three scorers and two all-region selections in Ben Carroll and Noah Stansbury, but second team selection and leading scorer Cade Stinnett returns for his junior campaign, looking to build on a breakout season that saw him score 15.6 PPG.  Senior Marc Grantis also back after averaging 10 PPG a season ago for a Gator team that was very balanced in scoring.  Greenwood will need to improve on a perimeter game that shot only 34.4% last year, and lost their two most consistent threats in Carroll and Stansbury. Grant will be a key part of that development, shooting right on that average a year ago.

4. Allen County-Scottsville – The Patriots fell back from their phenomenal 2018-19 season a year ago, going 15-16 but still advancing to the region tournament.  Only three seniors were lost from last year’s edition, but this team will feature twelve upperclassmen – six seniors and six juniors.  The top two scorers from last year return, including third team all-region selection Mason Shirley.  Shirley is a do-everything player for the Patriots, leading the team in scoring with 16.5 PPG, serving as the leading rebounder with 5.3 boards per game, and hit a little over 45% of their makes from the perimeter.  They will continue to lean on him while also having football standout Jax Cooper come along, looking to improve on a 12.4 PPG average from last season.  Allen County-Scottsville will look to go to their third straight region tournament for the first time since going to four straight from 2004-2007, and will seek their first win in the tourney since 2005.

5. Warren Central – Unless you follow the Dragons closely, probably every name you recognize is gone from the three time defending region champs. Junior Jaiden Lawrence is the leading returning scorer at just 3.2 PPG, and the top seven scorers from a year ago are gone. They did get a high impact transfer in Jace Carver, formerly South Warren’s leading scorer a year ago with 14.8 PPG, returning to the program his brother Byron played for seven years ago.  He’ll be one of only three seniors as Central undergoes a youth movement.  Central will likely take their lumps early due to a lack of strong preseason work, so will look to Carver and Lawrence to stabilize a rotation as their uber-talented sophomore class comes along.  Keep your eye on Izayiah Villafuerte.  The sophomore guard is a sharpshooter, hitting 8 of 15 attempts as a freshman a year ago.

6. Clinton County – The Bulldogs kept up their 16th District dominance last year, winning their third district title in four years, finishing as the #1 seed for the fourth straight year, and they capped it with their second consecutive trip to the 4th Region semifinals.  You can expect a similar result this year as they pursue a third straight 20-win season.  The top two scorers return for the Bulldogs, with Chase Stines averaging 15.3 PPG and Nick Brown just under double digits with 9.2 PPG.  That scoring may be enough as the Bulldogs are traditionally one of the lower paced teams in the region, and had the #1 defense in the region a year ago, allowing just 49.75 PPG.  There were only four games all last year where Clinton County allowed over 60 points in regulation.  That is a winning formula for the team, and one you should not expect them to deviate from.

7. Franklin-Simpson – The Wildcats extended their streak of region tournaments to five a year ago, rallying from a midseason slump that saw them lose five of six games, pushing Logan County in the district championship, before bowing out against Clinton County.  Franklin lost several contributors from the team, but return their top two scorers in Kyjuan Stutzman and Andreyous Miller.  Miller was particularly impressive in their final game against Clinton County, scoring 25 of the team’s 42 points in the game.  Look for both to take the next step.  They’ll have the definite experience edge in District 13, as only Russellville returns more of their roster. 

8. South Warren – The Spartans will be starting over yet again with a new coach going into this year, with Jason Holland coming in to take over for Blane Embry.  He is the sixth coach in the 11 year history of the program, and sixth in the last eight years.  He inherits a team that just posted their second winning record in three years, though a trip to region has eluded them. The team lost leading scorer Jace Carver to transfer and second leading scorer Caleb Mitchell to graduation, but Tay Jones (9.6 PPG) and Caden Veltkamp (8.5 PPG) are solid pieces to build around.  Holland twice took teams to the Sweet 16 while at Oldham County, so postseason success is not new to him. South has to find a way to break through against Bowling Green (0-25) and Warren Central (1-22) to seriously contend for a region spot.

9. Logan County – Last year was the most successful season for the Cougars in over 35 years, but experienced massive turnover, leaving them with many unknowns for this year.  Six of their top seven scorers from last season depart, as does head coach John Tinsley.  Newcomer Nathan Thompson does have one thing going for him – senior F/G Anthony Woodard.  Woodard may be the most talented player in the region, and averaged 13.7 PPG for Logan County a season ago, earning a first-team all-region selection.  Woodard is tall with good range, and can be very difficult to match up with.  Woodard will likely have to carry the lion’s share of production, especially in the early weeks as the rest of the team gains their first meaningful experience on the court.

10. Metcalfe County – One team that doesn’t have an experience issue is Metcalfe County.  The team featured no seniors a season ago, so for all intents and purposes, they have the same squad back this year.  That includes second-team all-region selection Boston Devore, who posted 18.6 PPG.  Peyton Dial (14.6 PPG) also gives the Hornets a strong scoring option.  Metcalfe County really stumbled down the stretch a year ago after making a run to the All “A” Quarterfinals, losing six in a row and eight of ten, pushing them to #4 in the district and causing them to bow out against Clinton County.  Still, they should start with strong momentum this season, enjoying an experience edge as the rest of the region gets up to speed. 

11. Glasgow – Injuries stole what looked to be a promising season for Glasgow a season ago, and while the Scotties rallied with wins in five of six games entering the postseason, they fell to Allen County-Scottsville in the district tournament. Seven seniors depart from the squad, including the top four scorers, leaving Glasgow with many question marks.  Sam Bowling is the leading returning scorer with 5.7 PPG a year ago.  Ethan Harlow is the lone senior on the squad, and the Scotties may be more poised to make a run in 2022 with nine juniors filling out the upper class.

12. Warren East – The Raiders have enjoyed their longest period of stability at the head coach position since the great Tommy Compton retired two decades ago as Brandon Combs returns for his seventh season at the helm.  The same usual challenges block the way to region success for the Raiders in the form of every other team in the 14th District.  Still, East returns a corps of young talent, three of their top four scorers, led by junior guard Kaleb Matlock, who averaged 10.6 PPG a season ago and shot a healthy 36.3% from the perimeter.  The team will be pushed in a difficult January slate that sees them play Bowling Green and Warren Central twice apiece, as well as games against Barren County and Greenwood.

13. Russellville – 2019/20 was a season to put mostly in the rearview mirror for the Panthers, ending the year on a ten game losing streak and falling in 18 of their final 21 games.  The primary use for the season was a building block to this one.  Only one senior departs, and the team has every significant contributor returning.  Chief among those is Jaquis Todd.  Todd Shot 37.2% from three en route to leading the team in scoring with 15.7 PPG.  Josh Allen will continue to provide interior scoring, posting a 53.4% field goal percentage and 9.3 PPG.  Look for a decent jump in performance for the squad, who may be able to make a run at Logan County for second in the district.

14. Russell County – The Lakers rebounded in the win department for a 13-17 season last year, but fell short of returning to the region tournament after their record streak of 13 straight region tournaments ended in 2019.   This time it was Cumberland County taking Russell County down with a 67-61 OT win in the district semifinals. Six seniors are gone, including three of the top four scorers, making it likely that the Lakers will slide back again.  Junior Jay Milburn is the leading returning contributor, posting 9.4 PPG last year.

15. Cumberland County – The Panthers notched two of their seven wins a season ago over Russell County, the latter sending them to the region tournament, where they fell to Logan County in the quarterfinals.  Three of their top four scorers are gone along with three other seniors, leaving Cumberland County in neutral as they attempt to climb back up the rankings.  Ty Seay returns for his junior year after posting 9.6 PPG last year.  Senior Hunter Perdue (5.5 PPG) and Junior Will Staley (4.7 PPG) also return.

16. Monroe County – The Falcons may be the team that was hit hardest by graduation from a year ago, as their five graduates were also their top five scorers.  Tucker Glass returns, averaging 4.5 PPG while playing in all 28 contests a year ago.  John Harlin (28 games, 2.8 PPG), Clayton Biggerstaff (27 games, 1.1 PPG), and Jameson Pruitt (25 games, 1.6 PPG) also logged significant minutes a year ago.  Distressingly, five of the first seven games are district contests, so the Falcons may find themselves buried in the district standings before gaining needed experience to compete.

17. Todd County Central – The Rebels face a similar challenge as Monroe County, losing five of their top six scorers to graduation, and six seniors overall.  Preston Moore averaged 9.1 PPG and is their leading returner, but also played in only 15 games on the season.  Amari Andrews (4 PPG) scored 10 in the season ending loss to Franklin-Simpson, and will look to build on that effort going into the year.   

Top Players in the 4th Region

1. Isaiah Mason, G, Sr. (Bowling Green) – A two time all-region first team selection, the NKU signee is poised to lead his team to Rupp and potentially a state title.

2. Anthony Woodard, F, Sr. (Logan County) – Possibly more talented than Mason, he is athletic and very difficult to match up with.

3. Aden Nyekan, F, Jr. (Barren County) – The heir to Isaiah Mason’s “Best non-senior” title, Nyekan will be the POY in 2022.  Book it.

4. Cade Stinnett, G, Jr. (Greenwood) – He may suffer some from increased attention due to graduation around him, but his sophomore year was phenomenal.

5. Boston Devore, G, Sr. (Metcalfe County) – Devore is one of the top scorers in the region, and should push over 20 PPG this year.

6. Turner Buttry, G, Jr. (Bowling Green) – Buttry may be the best pure shooter in the region. Could push for 50%+ made from three this year.

7. Mason Shirley, G, Sr. (Allen County-Scottsville) – Among the most confident players you will ever watch.

8. Conner Cooper, G, Sr. (Bowling Green) – A football injury may prevent him from living up to this ranking early, but he’ll be critical for the Purples.

9. Jace Carver, G, Sr. (Warren Central) – Carver will be relied on for senior leadership for a Dragon program lacking in it this year.

10. Kyjuan Stutzman, G, Sr. (Franklin-Simpson) – Stutzman increased his average by 10 PPG from his sophomore year to junior campaign – they’ll need more of that from the guard.

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