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BluegrassPreps.com 5th Region Boys Basketball Preview

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While the inside of 5th Region gyms will look and sound a little different this season, the basketball still promises to be played at a high level. Returning champions, still hungry for victories on the hallowed grounds of Rupp Arena. Bulldogs looking to reclaim their position at the front of the pack. Knights, Tigers, and bears, oh my! There’s young talent, wily veterans, “Stoppers”, “Bucket-Getters”, and “Glass-Cleaners” galore! 

Then there are folks like me and you, who are just excited to watch our favorite players have the opportunity to suit up again. Excited to cheer on the team. Excited for mediocre popcorn and $1.50 sodas. Excited to catch up with parents who have been going through the same struggle of getting their kids to all of these practices that coach scheduled. Excited that a senior is getting one more chance to play. 

Excited for basketball, and the rankings that come with it. 

1. Elizabethtown Panthers(27-3)- The reigning champs get the nod in the first ranking. Despite missing the opportunity to play in the King of the Bluegrass over winter break, Coach James Haire has put together a challenging schedule for a team looking to not only advance to the Sweet 16, but make a deep run on the state’s largest stage. After falling 66-45 to John Hardin in the 17th District Finals last season, the Panthers never lost again, winning the 5th Region title before the Sweet 16 was cut short. 

Leading the attack for E-Town is Jaquais Franklin, the Region’s second-leading scorer from a season ago at 21.5 per game, which was also good for 12th on the senior scoring list statewide, but the Panthers have seven other seniors on the roster, making them one of the most experienced teams in the 5th. Of this group, Camden Williams, Khia Sherrard, Alandre Murphy, and Jacob Moberly played in each of the team’s 30 games. The departure of Myles Fields to graduation will leave a nine-point and five-rebound void to fill, but the veteran group should be more than capable of handling the task.

Elizabethtown’s record against 5th Region foes has improved each year since the 2017-18 (9-5) season, when Franklin, Williams, and Moberly began to appear on the team’s Varsity Roster, to a (17-2) record last year. With only 11 regional matchups this season prior to post-season play, running the table has to be on the mind of the Panthers, but more important is getting it done when going home is the alternative. 

Upcoming Games: 1/4 at Desales; 1/8 v. Taylor County

2. John Hardin Bulldogs(30-4)- The Bulldogs lay claim to the number two spot by virtue of Coach Jared McCurry’s, ability to get the best out of his teams. Since the 2014-15 season, when McCurry took the wheel of the program, John Hardin is averaging 24 wins per season, and has tallied back-to-back 30-win seasons.

The loss of six seniors, all of which where top-10 scorers for the Bulldogs last season, including the Region’s leading scorer, Evansville commit, Alex Matthews(23), Trevon Harris(15.6) and Preston Murrell(10.4) leaves a lot to make up, but with a group of seniors who have won the 17th District thrice, including last season, along with two Regional titles, Coach McCurry could have exactly what he needs. John Hardin will likely be relying on a pair of talented juniors, Jalen Tyus and Devon Rogers, along with senior, Darius Williams to lead them this season, as no other current Bulldogs played in more than 21 games.

Upcoming Games: No Games Week 1

3. Bardstown Tigers (25-9)- All Coach James Brewer did in his 10th year with the school was lead the team to their ninth 19th District title and sixth 5th Region Final under his guidance. The Tigers went undefeated in the district, on their way to the Regional Finals for the first time in five years.

Uof L commit, JJ Traynor along with Graduates JaRel Montgomery and Tereylin Calbert and the rest of the graduating class take with them over 60% of the team’s scoring from a season ago. That loss will likely spring JaVaughn Smith, a 47% 3-point shooter, into a more prominent role than his average of just over 15ppg, and the junior transfer from Nelson County, Bryce Riley will look to contribute some of his nearly-16 points per game last season to the Tigers.

Upcoming Games: 1/5 v. Trinity; 1/8 v. Marion County 

4. LaRue County Hawks (21-9)- Defense wins championships, as they would have you believe. If that is the case, and LaRue County proves to be more than an anomoly, then look out for the Hawks. Boasting the Region’s best scoring defense, LaRue County returns five of their top eight scorers from last season’s 18th District champion and 5th Region semi-finalist team. 

They do however lose the 5th’s leading scorer in Mark Goode and double-digit scorers Chase Childress and Warner Bryan, the latter of which averaged 12/10 for the season. If the Hawks can muster another season of stifling defense, it could provide enough time for senior, Jeremiah Belton and an experienced group of sophomores to figure out how to best make up for the graduating 45ppg. 

As for that sophomore group, Carson Childress and Caden Davis stand out due to their scoring and rebounding numbers, while Luke Trumbo and Jaxon Thomas both scored the ball efficiently on limited attempts. Players such as Trumbo and Thomas who capitalize on their opportunities tend to be valuable pieces for teams, and as evidenced by their appearances in 25+ games last season, Coach Paul Childress sees that value. 

Upcoming Games: No Games Week 1

5. Marion County Knights(22-8)- The 20th District champions grab the 5th spot. After winning 10 straight to finish off the regular season and District Tournament, the Knights lost in the first round of the 2020 5th Region Tournament. Gone are the 19/14 averages of Jamison Epps, and gone are the nearly 40 points and 15 rebounds of the 2020 senior class. 

What remains for Coach Maze Stallworth is three juniors, Dominic White, Kanyon Scott-Spalding, and Spencer Lucas, who each played at least 25 games last season, along with sophomore Markell Bell. I know, it takes more than four guys to win a region, but the first step is advancing to the district finals and this group is 16-2 against the 20th District in Coach Stallworth’s second year at the helm. 

Upcoming Games: 1/5 v. Hart County; 1/8 at Bardstown; 1/9 at Madison Southern

6. Central Hardin Bruins (13-15)- The Bruins, like so many at the top of these rankings, are experienced. They return five players with 20+ games played last season, and another five who made at least 12 appearances during the ‘19-’20 campaign. Lead by junior, Hayden Ash, who leads all returners at nearly 9ppg, and was the team’s leading 3-point shooter last season at 44% from range, the experienced Bruins will need to replace five of their top six scorers and rebounders to compete. 

Coach Matt Nickell, now in his fifth season at Central,and his staff, has their work cut out for them this season, as most coaches do, but the experience and maturity of this team could put them in a position to compete for one of the toughest district championships in the Bluegrass.

Upcoming Games: No Games Week 1

7. North Hardin Trojans (12-18)- Coach Mike Cofer is back for his 8th season at North Hardin, and  coming off back-to-back 12-win seasons. The Trojans are just four seasons removed from the second of back-to-back 17th District Championships. 

Without the trio of Naasir Johnson, Josh Moore, and Maxton Campbell, graduates who combined for about 35ppg, North will look to the extremely experienced group of Juniors and Seniors to pick up the slack. 

Jalen Sharps, a senior in his third season of big contribution will likely be relied upon to fill a large portion of that void, but he will not be alone. Fellow seniors, Trevion Butler and Marcus Scisney, along with junior, Queshaun Davis all averaged more than five points per contest and played in at least ⅔ of the team’s games last season. The Trojans return six players who shot better than 33% from distance last season, with half of those shooting better than 40%. 

Upcoming Games: 1/8 at Breckinridge County

8. Campbellsville Eagles (15-15)- Following their 20th District runner-up last season, former coach, Anthony Epps stepped away from the program to take his talents to the collegiate level with the NKU Women’s team. Enter Keith Adkins, who is bringing his wealth of knowledge from the college game to Campbellsville after 20 years of NAIA success, where he won Coach of the Year awards, Conference Tournaments, NAIA National Tournament games, and is a little less than four years removed from taking Life University to the NAIA National Championship game. To say he’s qualified to lead the Eagles to prominence is quite the understatement. 

Campbellsville is coming off a 20th District runner-up, and a 15-15 season, in which 12 of their wins came against 5th Region competition. They lose four of last season’s top seven scorers to graduation, but return impact seniors Arren Hash, Kameron Smith, Tristin Faullkner, and John Orberson.

Hash was the team’s second-leading scorer at over 10ppg and is closing in on 1,000 points for his career. Smith appeared in every game for the Eagles last season, averaging 6ppg and 3rpg, while Faulkner, the leading perimeter shooter last season shot 40% from three on 83 attempts. Orbersonis the wild card of the group, appearing in only ten games, but leaving his mark on them, posting nearly 10 points and four rebounds. There is work to be done for Campbellsville to move into the upper-echelon of the region, but they should be considered the favorites to advance to the All “A” State Tournament for the third straight season. 

Upcoming Games: 1/4 v. Hart County; ⅕ v. Evangel Christian; 1/8 at Green County; 
1/9 v. Rockcastle County

9. Adair County Indians (13-18)- Frankly, it’s odd to see “County Indians” here. Growing up in a school where marching band sets the bar for excellence is not an easy task for a high school athlete. More difficult is when that marching band is not only pretty good, but in the conversation for greatest of all time. Think Trinity Football. That is Adair Marching Band.

This team, however, has a window to make some noise of their own. Coach Jeff Breeze returns 4/5 of the team’s leading scorers from a season ago, including the top four. Lucas Pooler figures to lead the attack as a junior, as he is the team's leading scorer from last season, but he is far from alone. Fellow junior, Luke Janes, is the team’s leading returning rebounder at a little over 4.5/game to go along with just under 9 points per. 
Seniors Brice Starks, and Aaron Steele each return with scoring averages above 7 per contest, and the combo of Brady Cundiff and Clay Giles played in all but two of Adair’s 31 games last season. The experience is there, but a lot of AC attention favors 8th grader, Connor Loy, who, as a 7th grader, averaged 8 points and shot 36% from three. 

There’s more to the game than scoring, but the pieces are here for Adair to justify a ranking inside the top ten.

Upcoming Games: 1/9 v. Nelson County

10. Hart County Raiders (14-16)- If you’re beginning to sense a pattern, or a theme, it is because experience in high school basketball, and particularly at the varsity level, is an invaluable quality for a team to possess. The Raiders have plenty of that, with nine players appearing in 10+ games, and six of those appearing in 15+. 

Seniors Devin Roten, Julian Barbour, and Dustin Butler each made at least 29 appearances last season, and sophomore Clark Rexroat showed up in 24 contests. The quartet combined for 18 points and 10 rebounds per games for Hart County and coach, Justin Line, last season. With roughly 1000 FGA graduating, those named, and a large sophomore class will have a lot opportunity to improve upon last season’s 18th District runner-up.

Upcoming games: 1/4 at Campbellsville; 1/5 at Marion County; 1/8 v. Caverna

11. Taylor County Cardinals (14-17)- The Cardinals lose four of the top-five scorers from last season, but return two of three players who appeared in every game last season in seniors Conner Wise and Carson Watson. From a production standpoint, losing Kybrin Smith and Nick Knifley could cause some clunkiness early, but coach Montrelle Irvin will be looking to contend right away.

Wise is the leading returning scorer and rebounder at 11/4 last season, and likely will be relied on to keep things moving as the team figures out roles early on. Unlike the teams listed in the top ten, Taylor County is not a super-experienced team. There will be progress to be made in order to reclaim the traditional success.

Upcoming Games: 1/5 at Russell County; 1/7 at Foundation Christian Academy; 
1/8 at Elizabethtown

12. Washington County Commanders (5-26)- I know, this team won five games last season. I know, not one of those victories was against 19th District foes. But as you know, I value experience, and the Commanders have my attention with 13/16 listed on the roster having some level of experience from last season. The top two scorers, Josh Burkhead(14.7) and Caleb Foster(8) are now seniors. Freshman Beau Baker brings 7ppg and one of my favorite names in the region back for his second round of varsity action, and a plethora of upperclassmen should be ready to aide. 

Upcoming Games: 1/5 v. Bethlehem; 1/8 at Thomas Nelson

13. Bethlehem Eagles (11-20)- The Eagles are coming off an 11-win season, in which they ran into Bardstown in the 19th District semi-finals. Seven of the team’s top nine scorers graduated, and still, they have a good deal of experience on the roster. Senior Xavier Cheek and junior Camden Porter combined to play in 61 of a possible 62 games last season. Junior Samuel Mudd and sophomore Haydon Osborne each played in 24+ games. Those numbers can be expected to increase where possible.

Upcoming Games: 1/4 at Christian Academy of Louisville; 1/5 at Washington County; 1/7 v. Sayre; 1/8 v. DeSales

14. Thomas Nelson Generals (10-19)- There isn’t a ton of information available at this time. As it stands, they return second-leading scorer in junior, Braden Smith, and fourth-leading scorer, Andrew Hogan, also a junior.  

Upcoming Games: 1/4 at Beth Haven; 1/5 at Fellowship Christian Academy; 
1/8 v. Washington County; 1/9 v. Highlands Latin

15. Green County Dragons (5-21)- The Dragons are in a position to be the fastest risers in the region. Coach Keith Young is in the first year of his second stint in Green County. He returns to one of the top players in the 5th, Gunner Bush, who posted 17.2/8.5 averages as a junior last season. He’ll likely be joined on the frontline by fellow senior, Jackson Johnson, who averaged nearly nine points per contest, and is the only returning Dragon to play in each of the team’s 26 games a season ago. 

Upcoming Games: 1/5 at Metcalfe County; 1/7 v. Cumberland County; 
1/8 v. Campbellsville

16. Nelson County Cardinals (12-21)- There are no two ways around it: this Cardinals team is going to look different this year. Coach Trevor Mason is in his first year at the helm, three of the top five scorers graduated, and last season’s leading scorer is now a Tiger. Senior Daevon Livers, along with his 11/5 averages returns as the sole impact contributor to last season’s 19th District runner-up. This is a mature team in terms of age, who has had as many distractions as possible. I always look forward to watching teams navigate their way through some adversity.

Upcoming Games: 1/6 at South Warren; 1/9 at Adair County

17. Caverna Colonels (5-23)- First-year coach Blake Button takes over the youngest team, by miles, in the region. Sophomore Kenyan Wood played in every game for the Colonels as a freshman and will presumably be the de facto leader of a team boasting more 7th graders(4) than seniors(2). 

Upcoming Games: 1/5 v. Russellville; 1/8 at Hart Co.

18. Fort Knox Eagles (9-18)- Administration elected to shut down Winter Sports at Fort Knox in October. My heart goes out to Coach Kip Rambo and the five seniors listed on last season’s roster: Josiah Anderson, Jordan Armstead, Novelle Francis, Peter Omali, and Marquis White.

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14 minutes ago, ColonelMike said:

Gotta ask....what's with the emoji next to the Campbellsville write-up??

Probably an inside joke I'm not clued in on, but I'm curious....


8 with a parentheses is apparently the “sunglasses emoji” shortcut. Entirely unexpected. 

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Couple of notes I wanted to add. Bardstown also added 6'5 SR Andrew Mason who came over from Thomas Nelson, he averaged 20 ppg and 8 reg last season. 

Marion County added 6'7 James Jewell arguably the top junior in the state from Eastern HS. He is currently ineligible though there will be an appeal, and even if that fails he could be back for postseason play. 

Also did not see 6'3 SR Anthony Bowen mentioned for John Hardin. He moved in last season from Texas and arguably could be their best player this season. 

Also to add if there were a top 10 players list in no order I would probably say it would look something like:

 Jaquais Franklin- Etown

Javaughn Smith- Bardstown

Anthony Bowen- John Hardin

Andrew Mason- Bardstown

Bryce Riley- Bardstown

Camden Williams- Etown

Devon Rogers- John Hardin

Gunner Bush- Green County

Khia Sherrard- Etown

Josh Burkhead- Washington County

*James Jewell- Marion County (Currently Ineligible)


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