Saturday, February 27, 2010

Boys' regional pairings ...

These are the pairings and schedule for the First Region boys' basketball tournament, which will be played at Murray State University's Regional Special Events Center:

Marshall County (21-8) vs. Ballard Memorial (16-14), 6 p.m.
Paducah Tilghman (24-6) vs. Fulton City (6-18), 7:45 p.m.

Graves County (26-4) vs. Calloway County (15-14), 6 p.m.
Fulton County (15-9) vs. Heath (18-11), 7:45 p.m.

March 8
Semifinals, 6 p.m.

March 9
Championship, 7 p.m.

For the second consecutive year, Graves County reaps the benefits of the best draw. Assuming the Eagles do their part and advance to the final, they will likely get to watch Paducah Tilghman and Marshall County slug it out in the semifinals.

Girls' regional pairings ...

These are the pairings and schedule for the First Region girls' basketball tournament, scheduled for first-round play at Murray State University's Racer Arena on Monday and Tuesday and the semifinals and finals at the Regional Special Events Center:

(at Racer Arena)
Hickman County (12-13) vs. Heath (16-14), 6 p.m.
Murray (27-4) vs. Graves County (16-13), 7:45 p.m.

(at Racer Arena)
Paducah Tilghman (23-8) vs. Carlisle County (9-16), 6 p.m.
Ballard Memorial (24-6) vs. Calloway County (19-10), 7:45 p.m.

(at RSEC)
Semifinals, 6 p.m.

(at RSEC)
Championship, 7 p.m.

All eyes will be on Tuesday's matchup between Calloway County and Ballard Memorial. The teams have split two meetings during the regular season. The biggest beneficiary of the draw is Murray, which sees the region's other top three contenders in the opposite bracket.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Kibbles and bits ...

A few notes and observations:

• Calloway County's Averee Fields may end up as the most recruited girls' basketball player in First Region history. In recent weeks, Fields has had coaches from Big East (Villanova, West Virginia, Seton Hall) and Big Ten (Michigan) schools make the trip to western Kentucky to evaluate her.

Of course, Murray State long ago made Fields a scholarship offer. She's also getting looks from the likes of Marquette, Western Kentucky and Tennessee State.

• Fulton City's Jacquise Lockett may turn out to be a recruiting find for Kentucky State, which plays on the NCAA Division II level. Lockett, a sturdy 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, signed with the Thorobreds and was one of the better unknown players in the state. As an underclassman, he was a key contributor on a couple of Fulton City squads that were among the best the school had produced in the last three decades.

• Massac County's Jarelle Johnson is a two-sport star who is a better football prospect, as evidenced by his inclusion on Old Spice Red Zone's 50 state players of the year list.

Johnson was a fine tailback and quarterback for the Patriots, but he's also contemplating a basketball future. Johnson was a starting guard on Massac's state runner-up squad last season and is the point guard for the team that begins regional play this week.

Kelly Glass, Massac's football coach and athletic director, said that Murray State's previous coaching staff wanted Johnson to attend a prep school with an eye toward improving his academics and coming to Murray in the fall of 2011. Johnson has also drawn some hoops interest from small-college and junior-college programs.

Some football program would do well to make overtures toward Johnson and Byron Bailey, the Patriots' two-sport star that graduated last year. Bailey had signed with Kaskaskia's juco basketball program, but left school during the first semester.

• Everybody wants to know who I'm picking to win the First Region basketball titles. I've already gone on the record with Mike Mallory in a pregame interview on WGKY-FM last week, so here goes:

My boys' pick is Graves County, although I think the loss of key reserve Rex Coleman makes the Eagles a bit more vulnerable than they were a month ago. Coleman started earlier this season, was replaced in the lineup by swingman Brock Morris and left the team a few weeks ago.

Coleman gave the Eagles some size off the bench, something that will be missed if big men Ryan Vogt and Aaron Cooper run into foul trouble.

Paducah Tilghman has its well-documented free-throw issues, but remains the region's scariest and most athletic team. Marshall County has been solid all season, but has lived and died with the 3-point shot lately, and that usually doesn't translate well into extended postseason runs.

My girls' pick was Calloway County, and I'll stay with it, but the uncertainty surrounding Alyssa Cunningham's availability makes it a little tougher on the Lady Lakers. If Cunningham remains sidelined with mononucleosis, that means Averee Fields has to spend more time in the post.

That means that Fields may not be able to go out on the floor and defend guards and swing players such as Murray's Haley Armstrong or Ballard Memorial's duo of Abby Shelley and Candace Bryant.

If Murray and Calloway match up in the postseason, that could be enough to give the Lady Tigers the edge — the crosstown rivals have split a pair of regular-season matchups.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Not your father's regional tournament ...

I debuted this a year ago, and once again, I want to demonstrate a proposal to revamp regional tournaments all across the state.

The premise is that district tournaments have almost become obsolete. They're generally money-makers for the participating schools, but there are times they conspire to keep the best eight teams from making the regional tournament.

Case in point: the Fourth District, which has four of the top six girls' teams in the First Region. We've known all season that two of them will automatically fail to reach the regional tournament, simply because of geography.

I realize that fans of smaller schools will argue that my proposal favors the larger schools, and in some ways it possibly does. Still, as a basketball fan, I would rather have a system that sees the best eight teams make it to the regional tournament, or at least get as close to that as we possibly can.

And this proposal also features some safeguards to help the smaller schools.

This is how I would propose it would work for the First Region, which has four four-team districts, all of which are seeded based on regular-season results.

To reward the top seeds in each district, the four No. 1 seeds will be seeded 1-4 in for the regional tournament. Likewise, the four No. 2 seeds will be ranked in the 5-8 spots. The rest of the field is seeded 9-16.

I would propose that the seedings be made via a vote of the region's coaches, although Travis Turner, who hosts a daily sports show on WOFC-AM in Murray and has myself as a regular weekly guest, has offered the services of he and I to be the seeding committee.

Yeah, like I don't have enough headaches.

Here's how the seedings would look on the boys' side. These aren't necessarily my rankings, but a guess on how the process would play out:

1. Paducah Tilghman
2. Graves County
3. Marshall County
4. Fulton County
5. Carlisle County
6. Heath
7. Calloway County
8. Mayfield
9. Ballard Memorial
10. Murray
11. St. Mary
12. Lone Oak
13. Fulton City
14. Hickman County
15. Community Christian
16. Reidland

The top seeds would serve as "district tournament" hosts. First-round winners would qualify for the regional tournament. The second-round games would effectively serve as "district championships," with the "district champions" guaranteed to meet a "district runner-up" in the first round of the regional tournament.

That gives us these matchups:
• at Fulton County — Fulton County vs. Fulton City, Carlisle County vs. Lone Oak
• at Paducah Tilghman — Paducah Tilghman vs. Reidland, Mayfield vs. Ballard Memorial
• at Graves County — Graves County vs. Community Christian, Calloway County vs. Murray
• at Marshall County — Marshall County vs. Hickman County, Heath vs. St. Mary

Once the first two rounds are played, the regional tournament pairings are determined by blind draw, with teams that played in the "district championship games" placed in opposite brackets.

For example, let's say Marshall County and Heath played in the "district title game" ... those two teams would be placed in opposite brackets to ensure they wouldn't meet each other again so soon.

On the girls' side, the seedings look something like this:

1. Calloway County
2. Heath
3. Graves County
4. Hickman County
5. Murray
6. Ballard Memorial
7. Paducah Tilghman
8. Fulton County
9. Community Christian
10. Marshall County
11. St. Mary
12. Lone Oak
13. Carlisle County
14. Mayfield
15. Reidland
16. Fulton City

And the first-round matchups:
• at Hickman County — Hickman County vs. Carlisle County, Murray vs. Lone Oak
• at Heath — Heath vs. Reidland, Paducah Tilghman vs. Marshall County
• at Graves County — Graves County vs. Mayfield, Ballard Memorial vs. St. Mary
• at Calloway County — Calloway County vs. Fulton City, Fulton County vs. Community Christian

Not every region has the same setup, and it would be up to each region to determine how its teams are seeded.

Comments, anyone?

Five locals make East-West all-star game ...

Chayton Thacker, a linebacker for Lone Oak's Class 4A state runner-up squad, heads the list of five area players selected for the West team in the Best of the Bluegrass all-star game at Western Kentucky University's Smith Stadium on June 18.

Two players from Class 2A power Murray, offensive lineman Lonnie Martin and running back-linebacker Brandon Wicks, made the team, as did defensive back Tra Tharp of Heath and Calloway County offensive lineman Grant Williams. Wicks, Tharp and Williams are Murray State signees.

Notable by their absence were Mayfield receiver Xavier Shelton and Calloway linebacker-running back Tyrrell Willis.

The West team is coached by Fort Campbell's Shawn Berner and Owensboro's Joe Prince, a former Mayfield star.

Each player is likely to be selected for the all-Western Kentucky Conference squad in the annual all-star matchup with the best players from southern Illinois — that game will be played on June 11.

Monday, February 1, 2010

All A Classic leftovers ...

The All A Classic state tournament will stay at Eastern Kentucky University throughout 2013, but the small-school tournament received bids from three other cities — Frankfort, Corbin and Pikeville. The latter two were eliminated based on geography and lack of hotel rooms for teams and fans, but Frankfort's bid received serious consideration.

Community Christian boys' coach and athletic director B.B. Kendrick, the First Region's representative on the All A Classic board, said the state tournament will move back a week next year to accommodate Eastern, which has two home games scheduled during the last week of January next year.

The regional tournament will keep its customary place on the schedule, the third full week of January. Regional champions will have a week or more of preparation time for next year's state tournament instead of hastily arranging transportation and scrambling for scouting reports.

• Two Murray Lady Tigers, forward Haley Armstrong and point guard Janssen Starks, made the all-tournament team. Because they're so young (Armstrong is a sophomore and Starks is a freshman), they could become fixtures on the all-tournament team if Murray is able to make return trips in 2011 and 2012.