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8th Region Week 12 Review: A Look Ahead at Four Toss-Up Districts
By Colonelmike

The top 7 in the Boys’ 8th Region had quite a week, as teams 1-7 went 13-2. Though there’s no real change in the top 9, there is some movement in the bottom half of this week’s rankings, the final rankings of the regular season.

On to this week’s rankings….

1 – Oldham County (26-3) Last week: #1 state ranking: #13 The regions’ top team bounced back with convincing victories to end the season, 87-54 over Bullitt Central and 69-43 over Great Crossings. The Colonels shot over 50% in both games – 57.1% against Bullitt Central – and Doug Oak continued his late season surge, scoring 28 against Bullitt Central, when he hit 8 of 8 from beyond the arc. Oldham finishes the regular season with four players averaging in double digits, all juniors – Oak 15.1 ppg, Tyler Slone 13.1 ppg, Sam Campbell 11.6 ppg, and Xander Wagner-Rose 10.2 ppg. Wagner-Rose (57.9% FG) and Slone (55.7%) are shooting well above 50% from the floor overall. In this wide-open field, the role of “favorite” is lukewarm at best, but Oldham has cemented their claim to the top-ranked spot, winning 17 of their final 18 games of the season, a stretch that included victories over some solid competition, including Beechwood, top 20 Collins, North Bullitt, South Oldham (ranked in the top 20 at the time), North Oldham, Tates Creek, Simon Kenton, top 20 LaRue County, and Pleasure Ridge Park.

2A – Collins (22-7) Last week: #2 state ranking: #15 The Titans have lost a little love of late, in part due to some losses – albeit to some pretty good teams – and in part due to the reported loss of starters Caleb Hawley (quit the team?) and Tyson Turner (rumor of a broken wrist).

Collins wasn’t the deepest team in the region to begin with, and now some of the subs will have to take larger roles. I’m not sure it changes the fact that Collins is a supremely talented team that is well-coached and has defeated or competed admirably against one of the state’s toughest schedules all year. As a result, this team is still one of the top contenders in my opinion.

Collins may have stumbled a bit, but we’ve seen this team do just this in previous seasons, only to right the ship come tournament time.

The Titans won their last two, including a significant 75-67 win over North Oldham, and they head into the tourney on a three game winning streak.

Congratulation to the Titans’ Dayvion McKnight, who won the 8th Region Player of the Year Award. McKnight averaged 20.3 ppg / 7.5 rebounds this season.

2B – South Oldham (21-8) Last week: #3 South moves “up” to “2B” this week, from #3 last week.

The Dragons began the season ranked #2, and have loitered in the “3” spot most of the year. The Dragons, however, have won 8 of their last 10 games, and have played well during that stretch. And it’s increasingly difficult to forget how South outplayed Collins earlier in the year, only to lose by 1 point in a game in which Caleb Hawley and Tyson Turner – two Titans now apparently gone for the year – played significant roles. In the current world, these two teams look like a complete toss-up.

South slammed Walton-Verona, 86-55, shooting 60.9% from the field, before rallying against Henry County to win a close one in New Castle, 83-76. South played the Henry game without 8th Region Player of the Year runner-up Luke Morrison.

South hit 27 of 55 threes in the two games, for just a tick under 50% and 28 of 31 free throws. One of the best shooting teams in the region / state, the Dragons seem to have their shooting eye locked in now.

Seth Johnson had 48 combined points in the two games.

4 – Simon Kenton (20-9) Last week: #4 The Pioneers ride into the post-season winners of five straight and 12 of their last 15 games. For the first time since 2011-12, SK has won 20 or more games.

Simon won their last two games to reach the twenty win plateau, pounding Woodford County, 87-64 before edging Holmes, 77-71.

SK shot over 55% in both games, and the Jeremy Davis / Kelly Niece combo at guard was potent. Both players scored over 20 points in each game, with Davis going for 27 against Woodford and 26 against Holmes; Niece tallied 23 against the Jackets and 22 against the Bulldogs.

Davis was at the top of his game beyond the arc, hitting 15 of 26 (!!!) threes combined in the two games. In the last three games, Davis is averaging 26 ppg and has hit a combined 22 of 36 threes (61.1%).

In the Hunt… The differences between the teams in Tier Two are razor-thin. All have question marks that must be answered – but if those questions are resolved, these teams can make big runs, perhaps all the way to Rupp Arena.

5 – North Oldham (16-13) Last week: #5 North actually had a so-so week last week, but they played a set of three very strong opponents.

The Mustangs began the week against the Collins Titans, and dropped a very close 75-67 decision. North then went on the road to Montgomery County, only to lose in a lopsided game, 81-68. But just when it appeared the Mustangs would limp into the post-season, the team pulled off a trick that both Collins and South Oldham had failed to do – they beat the DeSales Colts.

North had three different players lead them in scoring last week, with “Rico” Carr-Cole scoring 20 points against Collins, Dallas Roberts tallying 27 against Montgomery, and Tyler Higdon tying Carr-Cole for scoring honors against DeSales with 21 points.

Carr-Cole continues his incredible run through the second half of the season. The sophomore scored over 20 points in each game last week (20 vs Collins, 25 vs. Montgomery, and 21 vs. DeSales) and hit 14 of 29 from beyond the arc. His scoring average has risen steadily, and he is now the third leading scorer on the team at 12.5 ppg.

North’s biggest issue appears to be consistency now. When playing “their” game, the Mustangs are competitive with just about anyone on their schedule. But since star point guard Justin Powell went out with an injury in December, the Mustangs have yet to win more than three games in a row.

6 – Spencer County (21-7) Last week: #6 Spencer stays at #6 this week after winning over Bethlehem by 11 last week and Thomas Nelson by 23.

Sam Conley was particularly devastating against Behlehem, scoring 27 points on 12 of 19 shooting.

The Bears’ schedule has lightened considerably over the final month, and Spencer has taken advantage. The Bears have won a region-best ten consecutive games.

Like Oldham County, Spencer heads into the post-season with 4 starters averaging in double figures: Sam Conley 22.1 ppg, Gage Mabry 14.6 ppg, Lucas Hornback 12 ppg, and Jake Whitlock 10.4 ppg.

Spencer’s a steady, blue-collar team that plays with a lot of energy. Shooting concerns – they’ve shot over 50% only twice this year – and an extremely short bench top the challenges this team will need to overcome to win the region.

7 – Grant County (20-9) Last week: #7 Grant County hasn’t won 20 or more games since the 2012-13 season. They also haven’t been to the region tournament since 2015. One streak is gone; the Braves now intend to end the other.

Grant won two games this week, beating Owen County, 75-62, and blasting Bracken County, 89-65.

Senior center Luke Dawalt was a beast, scoring 32 points and grabbing 10 rebounds against Owen, in a game Grant outrebounded the Rebels, 36-10. He followed that up with a 27 point, 9 rebound performance against Bracken.

Freshman Dylan Hammonds, one of the great up-and-coming freshman in region 8, had 24 points against Bracken County on 11 of 11 shooting.

Like the other six teams ranked in the top 7, Grant arrives at the post-season on a big run, having won 11 of their last 13 games.

The “Wild Cards”….on any given night, these teams can take down anyone. Can they get to New Castle and make a three-game run?

8 – Woodford County (16-14) Last week: #8 Woodford dropped their only game last week, 87-64, to Simon Kenton.

After a promising first half of the season, the Yellowjackets have stumbled in the second half.

An injury to all-region center Hunter Penn seemed to be the primary reason, but the Jackets are still looking for answers now that Penn has returned.

Once the region’s top-shooting team, Woodford has seen its overall shooting percentage fall to 46.5%. At the line, the Yellowjackets are below average at 62.6%.

Penn leads this team in scoring and rebounding at 13.5 ppg and 8.4 rebounds. Anthony Tabor can be explosive, but needs to be explosive every night. He’s averaging 11.6 ppg.

9 – Anderson County (18-9) Last week: #9 Hard to believe I have an 18-win team ranked in the middle of the pack, but the Bearcats struggles when they got to the meat of their schedule dictates the lower-than-perhaps-expected rating.

Anderson split two last week, losing, 45-42, to Lexington Christian before ending the season on a bright note in a 55-33 win over Franklin County.

Anderson was oh-so-close against Lexington Christian, but 38.5% shooting (15 of 39), just seven free throw attempts (they made 4), and a mere 18 rebounds doomed the effort. Another rebound or two, a couple of more shot attempts….the Bearcats were that close.

Still, Anderson has won 4 of 5 heading into the post-season, and they have momentum and confidence, especially after the narrow upset of top-ranked Oldham County. Defense will keep you in games, and nobody in February has reached 50 points against the state’s top-ranked scoring defense. The last team to reach 50 – Somerset – scored just 52. Even Oldham County, with the region’s third-best scoring offense, scored just 46.

This might not be the team you want to meet in an elimination game.

10 – Henry County (17-13) Last week: #12 The Wildcats are starting to jell in New Castle; they want a third straight trip to the regional dance. Only they expect to go as a district champion this year after two years as the district 31 runner-ups.

Henry went 2-1 last week, defeating Walden by 6, and Trimble County by 9, before succumbing at home to South Oldham, 83-76.

Senior center Trevor Hardin had three consecutive double-doubles last week and has had 7 straight games with a double-double now. He tallied 25 points / 10 rebound against Walden, 30 / 15 against Trimble, and 20 points / 12 rebounds against South Oldham.

Impressively, the Wildcats played a pace that they don’t normally prefer to play at – a super-fast, uptempo game that South Oldham prefers – and still shot 63.6% against the Dragons.

Henry has won five of their last seven games and really has come a long way since December. They move up two slots this week to the top 10 for the first time this year.

11 – Gallatin County (15-14) Last Week: #10 Gallatin lost their only game last week, a surprising 70-68 loss to Shelby County in which the Warsaw Cats shot just 35.8%.
The Cats come into the post-season having lost 7 of their last 11 games and fall one spot in the rankings.

Jarin Rassman was the usual bright spot for Gallatin, scoring 26 points and 10 rebounds. Rassman, who once was just so-so at the free throw line, hit 14 of 16 freebies in the ballgame.

For that matter, Gallatin as a team excelled at the line, hitting 24 of 27 shots for 88.9%.
Rassman leads Gallatin heading into the post-season, as expected, averaging 19.3 ppg / 7.1 rebounds.

Gallatin will look to four-peat as the District 31 champs, playing on their home floor in Warsaw.

12 – Walton-Verona (13-17) Last week: #11 Walton has lost five of six heading into the post-season, but split two games last week.

South Oldham defeated the Bearcats, 86-55, but W-V rebounded to take an 81-73 victory over Carroll County to close out the season.

Brant Smithers had two superb outings last week, tallying 21 points against South and exploding for 30 points and 9 rebounds in the Carroll County game.

Walton-Verona falls one spot to #12.

The Long Shots…

13 – Shelby County (7-21) Last week: #14 I’m very impressed by the late season rally by the Shelby County Rockets. As a result, Shelby moves up one spot.

The Rockets won two in a row last week and head into the post-season as winners of 3 of their last 4 games. Prior to that, Shelby had won just 4 of 17.

Shelby showed some moxie in winning two nail-biter games last week, topping Frankfort, 73-71, and beating Gallatin, 70-68. Both wins were upset victories.

The Rockets, despite their overall record, are 4-3 in one-possession games this season.

The Rockets, who have struggled to shoot the ball straight this year, hit 52.9% against Frankfort, and were led by Trenton Burchfield’s monster 30 point outing. Kaden Dugle added a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 boards.

Shelby has only scored 70 points or more five times this year, but the Rockets have turned the trick three times in the last five games. And – in a season in which the Rockets have averaged just 54.6 ppg – Shelby has exploded for 66.7 ppg over the last five contests.

Anderson County had best not overlook this Shelby County squad in the first round of the District 30 tournament.

14 – Carroll County (10-18) Last week: #13 Carroll scored their highest point total since scoring 76 against Eminence on January 25th – 73 points – but it wasn’t quite enough as the Panthers fell to Walton-Verona, 81-73.

Carroll falls one spot this week.

Keishaun Mumphrey – who, despite an outstanding season, has often labored in the shadow of Wyatt Supplee’s prolific scoring – took his turn in the spotlight, scoring 30 points and seizing 13 rebounds in the game. Mumphrey hit 14 of 21 shots from the floor.

Carroll County, once considered a strong contender for the 31st district crown, is now considered a bit of a dark horse. The Panthers have been competitive, but they’ve now lost 10 of their last 12 games heading into the post-season.

15 – Trimble County (7-21) Last week: #16 Trimble has been playing much better of late. The Raiders rise to #15 this week, after going 1-2 last week, and looking solid in all three games.

Trimble scored the most points they have scored all season – 84 points – in a week-opening 84-59 win over Bellevue.

Though the Raiders followed that up with two losses, they were competitive losses, 66-57 to Henry County and 63-62 to Lloyd Memorial.

Trimble seems to be playing with the blue-collar grit and determination that once characterized the squad from Bedford, and this week builds upon the solid play from the week before.

Junior Ryan Long really put together a solid week last week, scoring in double figures in all three games. Long, who’s averaging just 5.8 ppg for the season, is averaging 12.4 ppg over the last five contests and has given Trimble another offensive weapon.

16 – Owen County (7-23) Last week: #17 Owen picks up one spot this week after going 1-2 last week.

Faced with a battle against powerful Grant County to start the week, Owen put up a good fight in losing, 75-62. Teagan Moore, back in the lineup, led the way with 16 points, but

Owen managed just 10 rebounds in the game.

The Rebels rebounded to defeat Williamstown, 59-47 behind Brandon Lewis’ 18, before falling in a heartbreaker, 68-62, to Thomas Nelson. Lewis led the way in the Thomas Nelson game with 23; Isaac Wash had 16.

It was quite a week for Lewis, who averaged 18.3 ppg over the three games and scored in double figures in each, about twice his average.

Owen County will head into the post-season favored to beat Eminence in the first round of the 31st district tournament, and they hope to use that game as a springboard after having lost 9 of their last 11 games.

17 – Williamstown (14-16) Last week: #16 With the loss to Owen County, Williamstown falls to #17 this week.

Ironically, despite the ranking, it hasn’t been a bad year at all for the Demons. After winning just 9 games last year, and 2 the year before that, Williamstown has won more than both seasons combined this season, and just missed finishing the regular season at the .500 mark.

Last week, the Demons took care of business in some games they were favored to win, defeating Powell County, 62-39, Frankfort Christian, 74-23, and Eminence, 40-38.

Only the loss to Owen County (59-47) prevented the Demons from finishing at the .500 mark.
Williamstown has now won 6 of its last 8 games.

Caleb Tritschler led the way against Powell County, scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 boards. He followed that with another double-double against Owen, scoring 19 points and getting 10 rebounds.

On the season, Tritschler leads the Demons in scoring and rebounding at 14.6 ppg and 7.4 rebounds.

18 – Eminence (4-25) Last week: #18 Eminence came oh-so-close to wrapping up a difficult season with a win, losing to Williamstown by just two points in a 40-38 nail-biter.
The Warriors had lost to Williamstown by 26 on January 7th, and by eight points on January 30th.

It was the eleventh time this season that Eminence was held under 40 points.

District 29 Preview
At Trimble County HS, Bedford, KY

Defending champs: South Oldham won last year, 60-55, over Oldham County

Prior to last year, Oldham County had won 8 consecutive District 29 titles (2011-2018).

Since the districts were “re-districted” in 2006, Trimble County has never advanced to the 8th Region tourney. The last time the Raiders made it to New Castle was in 2000, when they were in the old 31st District.

Tuesday, 2/25/2020 7:30 pm – Oldham County (26-3) vs. Trimble County (7-21) The Colonels won the regular season meeting, 88-28. That was all the way back in early December, and the Raiders have improved dramatically since then, with Reece Webster full recovered from a pre-season injury. Trimble also gets to play at home in the old Trimble County gym, which is smaller and has a wonderful old-school ambiance about it. That said, it should also be noted that Oldham County is also a much better team than it was in December, when it was a bunch of juniors who started on last year’s OCHS JV squad trying to fit together and jell as a varsity unit.

Bottom-line, Oldham simply has too much firepower to lose this one. Deaton Oak is playing “lights-out” right now for Oldham, and the Colonels should control the glass in this one. The Colonels boast the #3 scoring offense and the #2 scoring defense in the region, and they play at a pace that the Raiders don’t like much. Don’t miss this one, though; it will likely be the final game for Trimble County’s all-time scoring leader, one of the top guards in the 8th Region, senior Reece Webster.

Wednesday, 2/26/2020 7:30 pm – South Oldham (21-8) vs. North Oldham (16-13) This should be one of the best first round games in the four districts comprising the 8th Region. It’s too bad – one of the two teams ranked in the Top Five of the region won’t make it to New Castle.

The Mustangs won the regular season game by six on a night when South managed to hit just 4 threes. “Rico” Carr-Cole was in the middle of emerging as a scoring threat for North, and tallied 25 points while hitting 6 of 9 threes for North. North hit over 54% in the game and had an unusually stellar night at the line, hitting 22 of 26 free throws.

But Carr-Cole won’t be a surprise this time around, and the Mustangs will have to prove that they can shoot 85% at the stripe again if they get the opportunity – North shot just 65% at the line all season. And I don’t expect South to be so generous again from beyond the arc, where they normally make about 11 shots a game. Look for this game to be a toss-up, with the outcome in doubt until the final minute. If South shoots their normal percentage from beyond the arc, and can hold their own on the glass, the Dragons just might get revenge for the regular season loss.

Friday, 2/28/2020 – finals 8 pm Oldham County is a lukewarm favorite in a district that has three teams capable of winning the district – and the region. Considering those three teams are all county rivals, anything is possible in this district given the three teams’ in-depth knowledge of each other, and the emotional factor that could help – or hurt – each team’s chances. Oldham’s defense and depth could tilt things the Colonels’ way; South’s three-point shooting could win it for the Dragons; North prospers pretty much anytime they are able to get the ball in the paint to Tyler Higdon as few teams have the interior defense to keep him and his brother Ian Higdon from scoring when they get the ball in the post.

30th District Preview
At Anderson County HS, Lawrenceburg, KY

Defending champs: Collins won the district last year, defeating Spencer County, 69-56.
Collins has advanced out of the region 9 straight seasons. The Titans have never, in the history of the school, been eliminated in the district.

Shelby County is riding the longest streak without making it out of the district. The Rockets last advanced to the 8th Region tourney in 2015, when they lost in the district finals to Collins by 1.

Woodford County is competing in the 30th district tournament for the first time.

The 30th district is a five-team district; action begins on Monday with a “play-in” game.

Monday, 2/24/2020 7:30 pm – Anderson County (18-9) vs. Shelby County (7-21) This game matches two old rivals. Anderson won the regular season game by 16 points, 63-47, a rare outing in which the Bearcats scored over 60 points. But Shelby has improved dramatically over the past two weeks, with an upset win over Gallatin County and narrow losses to Henry County and Spencer County. On the other hand, Anderson has renewed confidence after ending a long losing streak with a stunning upset of the region’s top ranked team, Oldham County. Both teams have gotten by without a true superstar this year, but
Anderson has probably gotten more contribution from more players on the offensive end. Moreover, though Shelby has averaged nearly 67 ppg over the last five games, the Rockets’ weakness – scoring (the Rockets average less than 55 ppg) – will be matched against the Bearcats’ strength (Anderson leads the state in scoring defense). The pick here is the Bearcats, but probably in a closer finish than the last meeting.

Tuesday, 2/25/2020 7:30 pm -Anderson County / Shelby County winner vs. Collins. Collins will come into this game more vulnerable than at any time this season. Starters Caleb Hawley and Tyson Turner will apparently both be out – Hawley has left the team according to the most recent information, and Turner is out with a reported injury. Collins dominated Shelby this year, but barely outlasted Anderson in the closing seconds during the regular season. If matched against the Cats, Collins could find their suddenly very short bench a real liability against an Anderson squad that likes to mix it up, physically. Collins should win – but Dayvion McKnight and Marcellus Vail need to stay out of foul difficulty.
If Collins faces Shelby, the matchups favor Collins. If Anderson faces Collins – on the Bearcats’ home floor – all bets are off. The odds still favor the Titans, though – no other Region 8 team features two Division 1 level players on their roster.

Wednesday, 2/26/2020 7:30 pm – Spencer County (21-7) vs. Woodford County (16-14) - Spencer County doesn’t consistently shoot the ball well and the Bears have one of the region’s shortest benches. But the Spencer starters are as good as any starting unit in the region, and the Bears have a reputation for playing hard for 32 minutes. In addition, the Bears are riding the region’s longest winning streak (10 games).

Woodford County appeared to be a legitimate 8th Region contender prior to 1/20/2020, when star center Hunter Penn was injured against Walton-Verona. During his absence, the Yellowjackets struggled, and Woodford hasn’t really righted the ship since.

If Penn stays out of foul trouble, the Jackets will be able to capitalize on the inside game, and
could make this a competitive game by getting a lot of high-percentage shots. If Spencer can dictate tempo, though, the game favors the Bears.’

Friday, 2/28/2020 7:30 pm - finals Despite the loss of Hawley and Turner, the Titans remain the favorites. A likely championship game will feature Collins against Spencer County; McKnight had a banner game against Spencer in the regular season and Collins won big. A shorthanded Collins team might not be able to duplicate that feat, but Collins remains the favorite, albeit in a closer game than before.

31st District Tournament
At Gallatin County HS, Warsaw, KY

Defending Champs: Gallatin County won last year, 76-55, over Henry County

Gallatin County has won the past three District 31 titles; Henry has been the runner-up the last two years.

Carroll County has had the longest absence from the 8th Region; the Panthers last made it to the 8th Region tournament in 2006.

Monday, 2/24/2020 7:30 pm Owen County (7-23) vs. Eminence (4-25) These two played a very competitive game on January 28th, with Owen eking out a 41-37 victory. But that game also was the game in which freshman sensation Teagan Moore was injured and saw very limited action for the Rebels. Moore is now back, and brings his 20+ ppg average back with him.

Both teams have improved since then, but it will be interesting to see how this inexperienced Warrior team approaches the game. Will Eminence, losers of ten straight games, simply be looking to wind up this disappointing season and move on? Owen County, on the other hand, with some pretty talented young players, such as star freshman Teagan Moore, will look to make some noise in a district that is very much open to some upsets. Owen should win this one on talent alone, but it would seem that the emotional motivations of the game will likely favor the Rebels as well.

Wednesday, 2/26/2020 6:00 pm Owen / Eminence winner vs. Gallatin County (15-14). Gallatin is looking for their fourth straight district title, but the Wildcats are hardly the overwhelming favorite that they have been in the recent past. Gallatin County is actually on bit of a downturn heading into the postseason. That said, neither Owen or Eminence has been able to get within 20 points of the Cats, so Gallatin would look to be a pretty solid bet to advance to the district finals again.

Wednesday, 2/26/2020 7:30 pm Like all four districts, the #2 vs. #3 seed game on Wednesday looks to be the marquee event. Henry County (17-13) and Carroll County (10-18) clash for the third time this season, with Carroll having won over Henry, 51-50, in December, and Henry County returning the favor by a 56-50 count in January.

These two teams are headed in different directions, though. Henry has won 5 of 7; Carroll has dropped 10 of 12. And the Wildcats’ loss in December came when star center Trevor Hardin was out with an ankle injury.

Hardin is healthy now, and he’s spearheading a late season surge by the Cats. In the past seven games, Hardin is averaging over 22 ppg and has had five double-doubles. While both teams have a “Big Two” – Ethan Lankford (19.1 ppg) and Hardin (19.5 ppg / 8.8 rebounds) for Henry County and Wyatt Supplee and Keishaun Mumphrey for Carroll – the Wildcats appear to have the more potent supporting cast, getting solid contributions from Kevin Wix, Ryan Phillips, and Sam Royalty.

Carroll may not be the favorite, but the Panthers feature two of the most exciting players in the 8th Region this year in Wyatt Supplee and Keishaun Mumphrey. Supplee actually led the state in scoring for much of the year, before an injury slowed him in mid-season. He still leads the region in scoring at 24.1 ppg. Mumphrey averages at double-double at 15.2 ppg / 10.2 rebounds.

Though a Panther victory would hardly be a shock, the solid pick here would seem to be Henry County.

Saturday, 2/29/2020 7:30 pm Finals. A Gallatin County – Henry County final would be a rematch of last year’s final, but the results would likely be much closer. Gallatin defeated Henry by 17 in December – with Hardin out – but with Hardin back in the Henry County Wildcats’ lineup, the New Castle Cats outrebounded Gallatin, 38-19, and defeated the Warsaw Cats in January by a dozen, the only defeat Gallatin suffered at the hands of a District 31 rival this season. Keeping in mind that the game will be played in Gallatin, this game will likely be closer than the previous two contests. The pick here is Henry County by a couple of possessions.

District 32 Tournament
At Grant County HS, Dry Ridge, KY

Defending champs: Walton-Verona beat Simon Kenton last year, 62-52, to win the 32nd district.

Walton-Verona has won the last three titles, defeating Simon Kenton in 2019 and 2018, and Williamstown in 2017. The Bearcats were runner-ups to SK in 2016.

Grant County is on the longest streak without a region 8 tournament appearance. The Braves, seeded #1 this season, last made the region tournament in 2015, when they won the 32nd District over SK.

Monday, 2/24/2020 6:00 pm – Grant County (20-9) vs. Williamstown (14-16). The top-seeded Braves went 3-0 against District competition this year, including a 71-41 win over the Demons. Both teams have had bounceback seasons; the Braves have won 20 or more games for the first time since the 2012-13 squad won 24 games. Williamstown won just 9 games last season and two the year before. The last Demons team to attain double-digit wins was the 2017 team, which went 17-16.

The Braves, however, simply have too many offensive weapons. Grant gives up a lot of points, but the Williamstown offense hasn’t exactly been overpowering this year and likely simply won’t keep up with the array of shooters the Braves can throw at them. Senior center Luke Dawalt will be a matchup problem for the Demons, and Dawalt is particularly hot right now, averaging nearly 30 points and 9.5 rebounds in the Braves’ last two games.

Tuesday, 2/25/2020 6:00 pm Simon Kenton (20-9) vs. Walton-Verona (13-17) Mike Hester has done a remarkable job at Walton-Verona, where the defending district 32 and region 8 champs graduated all five starters from last year. His reward is a first round district matchup against his alma mater, where he starred in the mid 2000s. Walton has played an uptempo, exciting brand of basketball and only South Oldham has made more three pointers in the region this year. Sophomore Brant Smithers has put together one of the more impressive stat lines in the region this year, and capped the regular season with a 30 point, 9 rebound effort against Carroll County.

Simon Kenton, on the other hand, has put together one of the more impressive seasons for the Pioneers in a while. SK last won 20 or more games in 2011-12, when the Pioneers went 23-8. Simon Kenton has done it with tremendous shooting, led by one of the best guard duos in the state in Kelly Niece (18.7 ppg) and Jeremy Davis (16.4 ppg). Niece is shooting 59.9% from the floor, an astounding number for a guard, and Davis has made more threes than many teams (116) while hitting an amazing 50% from beyond the arc, ranking him among the best three point shooters in the state. At the line, the Pioneers are tops in the region at 75.8%.

If the Pioneers have a weakness, it’s on the glass, but I don’t think Walton is the team that can take advantage of a vulnerability in that department. Although this is a “shooter’s game” – he who shoots the jumper best, wins this one – I think SK, who has won 12 of their last 15 games, is on a roll here and wins this one by 10-12. That said, if the Pioneers can’t find the range – and Walton can – this one certainly isn’t off the table as a possible upset special.

Friday, 2/28/2020 7:00 pm Like each of the other three districts in this region, the District 32 final figures to be a game that could go either way. If the favorites – Grant County and Simon Kenton – advance to the district final, look for tremendous offensive fireworks. It might take 80 points to earn the win. A key stat may well be the rebounding stat.