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Region 1 Tournament Preview Ė Murray State University

At the beginning of the year all the hype was about two teams and two players. Zion Harmon with Marshall County and Jackson Sivills with McCracken County. It seemed that Marshall would be the favorite this season because they were going to have the one of the best players in the state and were playing a national schedule against some of the best teams in the country. Reality set in quickly that they were not ready for that type of schedule and McCracken defeating them on their on court. When they finally met a second time, Marshall had been playing their best ball of the season and it ended up the same. Two close games with the Mustangs coming out on top. In the meantime, some of the other teams in the region showed real improvement and what looked like only a two team race has turned into much more. This should be an exciting tournament and is definitely not a slam dunk for McCracken County like it seemed in mid January. The only thing that could make this tournament better, was if Murray was in it. It is sad to see such a successful season and team get knocked out in district play. Donít count out Calloway County or Paducah Tilghman, either team could earn their ticket to Rupp given the right breaks and right circumstances. Should be a fantastic region 1 tournament again this year.

McCracken County (27-5)

The Mustangs proved all year they were the team to beat in Region 1 as they went undefeated in Region 1 play going 17-0. During that they had a number of close games which really shows how open this region really is. They beat Calloway County by 5 points, Marshall County twice, once by 4 points and once by 5 points. They beat Graves by only 6, and Paducah Tilghman by only 3. Any one of those game could have gone the other way, so McCracken will have their work cutout for them as they drew the toughest team they could have for the first round, Calloway County. If they defeat Calloway they most likely will face Mayfield, which they havenít seen this year. After that it will most likely be either Marshall County for a third time or Paducah Tilghman for a 4th time.
The Mustangs are led by region 1 Player of the Year Jackson Sivills. He is scoring almost 22 points per game and pulling down almost 8 rebounds per game. He is deadly from three point range hitting over 41% he attempts, which he took 194 of this season. He is also an 84% free throw shooter, and likes to take it to the basket when he isnít draining threes, so he is very difficult to game plan for and guard. Noah Dumas is the other scoring threat for McCracken. He averages 13.4 ppg and can also shoot from the outside, but isnít as accurate as Sivills. Overall the team averages 66 ppg while only giving up 50.5 ppg.

Marshall County (21-10)

Marshall was supposed to be the team to beat this year, and while they have been good, they havenít been the best team, but most likely have been the second-best team. They spent much of the first half of the season playing a national schedule and piling up losses against teams that just outmatched them. After settling down and playing a Kentucky schedule, they started racking up wins and confidence, winning 14 of their last 15 games, with their only loss coming to Calloway County by 1 point, which they avenged in the district title game. The only other team in Western Kentucky they lost to was McCracken County, twice.
Zion Harmon is a brilliant talent and is without doubt what makes this team go. He averages 25.4 ppg, and he is money from the free throw line (missed only 13 this year). He could improve from outside, but is respectable. The Marshalls are at their best when they donít rely solely on Harmon, and they have talent to do that. Jonathan Stokes gets almost 15 ppg and 10 rpg. Tyler Powell adds almost 13 per game. This team defeated Calloway County without Harmon who had to sit out a game. Together they can put a game together that can take out McCracken if they should meet them in the finals.

Paducah Tilghman (20-11)

Tilghman has been a much more consistent team this year than in previous years and they have the talent and ability to win the region, albeit a long shot. They have played both McCracken and Marshall close they year, and easily defeated Calloway County twice. They did lose to their first round opponent Carlisle County, but it was the first game of the season, and this team is much better than it was then. Expect the Blue Tornado to win their first round game, and battle hard for a difficult win against Marshall County. They had trouble stopping the Harmon/Stokes combo in those games and will have to figure that out if they are going to win.
Tilghman is led by Michael Laster with 17 ppg and 5.2 rpg, and Eli Brown adds 14.3 ppg. The Tornado average almost 67 ppg, but they give up almost 60 ppg defensively. The key for them to make it to Rupp, will be to get better at the free throw line, play stiffer defense, and get a few bounces and calls to go their way.

Calloway County (18-13)

It is really difficult to figure out this Laker team. One moment they are playing above their talent level and the next below it. As examples, they lose to Graves County by 22 points, and then defeat Marshall County. They get pummeled by Paducah Tilghman and then turn around and beat a very good Murray team to knock them out of the post season. This team can very well pull the big upset and take out McCracken in the first round. It would be a shock to many in the state, but to those following region 1 action, it is very plausible.
Calloway is led by a trio of players. Chandler Steele leads the way with 15.5 ppg and 8.2 rpg. He is very good around the basket and can really frustrate teams inside on both ends. Cade Butler and Kade Mize take care of things in the front court averaging 11.6 ppg and 10.1 ppg respectively. Both have no problem shooting it from deep and when they get hot, Calloway is a very, very dangerous team. They only lost 3 games this season when they made more than 5 three pointers. This should be the best game to watch in the first round.

Graves County (12-19)

Graves record doesnít seem like they belong in this tournament, but they have earned themselves some serious consideration as a Cinderella team. They have played the top teams in the region very well the last month of the season. They only lost at McCracken by 6, and backed that up by losing to Marshall by only 5. They did lose to both Mayfield and Carlisle at the end of the season which was a slight surprise because of how tough they played the top tier teams. So which team is going to show up in the first round of the region tournament will be crucial to their success. They will be a significant underdog to Harmon and Marshall County, but they have proven they can play with them on a given night.
The Eagles will be led by Seth Thomas who is the teams leading scorer with 15.3 ppg. Grant Mason (6.8 ppg) stepped up big in both the Marshall and McCracken games, and will need to do so again if Graves is going to keep it close.

Mayfield (20-9)

Mayfield has been a consistent team in the middle of the pack of region 1 all year. They have won the games they were supposed to and lost games when they were underdogs. No significant upset win, but no real glaring loss either. They did play a lot of tight games against better teams, which could help with their confidence. Marshall County, Calloway County, and Paducah Tilghman all were games where the Cardinals lost by less than 5 points. One or two calls or bounces go their way and they do pull out an upset. That could happen this week. They should easily win their first round matchup with Fulton County, they are the weakest team left in the region and they just beat them by 24 two weeks ago. Second round game looms with either McCracken County or Calloway County, both would be heavy favorites.
Mayfield have been without DeAngelo Brooks the last few games. He has averaged 14.4 ppg and it doesnít look like he will be available for the region tournament. Kade Neely is the next in line to lead the team and he is averaging 13 ppg and has stepped up in Brooksí absence. There are a variety of other role players that could play a part as there is a consistent rotation of these players. It is imperative that some of these guys step up in big ways if the Cardinals are going to move on to the finals.

Carlisle County (20-10)

The Comets had a strong finish to the regular season winning 11 of their last 13 games, with losses coming to McCracken County and Murray. The teams they faced were at the bottom of the region, although they did have a nice win against Graves County. The biggest win Carlisle has is against Paducah Tilghman in the first game of the season. However they will be significant underdogs this time versus the Blue Tornado.
Carlisle is led by the tandem of Reese Anderson (15.6 ppg) and Elder Blake (14 ppg). They average 60 points a game on the season and donít have any big strengths or glaring weaknesses in their stats or gameplay. The fact they will be the less talented team on the floor will be the biggest contributing factor to their success or lack thereof.

Fulton County (14-15)

Fulton County is coming out of one of the weakest districts in the state of Kentucky, and the closest game played against the remaining teams was a 9 point loss to Carlisle County in the district title game. They do not have much of a chance against Mayfield, as they lost big two times to the Cardinals in the last 3 weeks. They will be a major underdog in this first round game.
The Pilots are led by Hayden Murphy (11 ppg) and Dylan Hammond (11.5 ppg). Colton Henderson and Jequan Warren also contribute 10 ppg for the Fulton.