Sunday, January 30, 2011

Massac girls get acquainted with Herrin

Massac County's girls currently sit atop the River-to-River Conference race with an 8-0 mark, one game ahead of Herrin with two left to play, and the Lady Patriots can clinch the conference title with a win at Herrin on Tuesday night. Otherwise, Massac and Herrin will likely be co-champions.

Regardless of the outcome, don't be surprised if the two teams meet again a week later, this time in the Illinois Class 2A regional semifinals at Carterville.

Massac (15-10) is the No. 2 seed at Carterville, with Herrin (19-8) in the No. 3 position and facing an eminently winnable first-round game with league rival Murphysboro on Feb. 7, one day before a potential rematch with the Lady Patriots.

Vienna is the No. 1 seed and sports a 23-5 record, although one of its losses came against Massac, a 39-38 decision way back on Nov. 29 at Metropolis. Vienna is also ranked second in the southern Illinois rankings issued by the Carbondale-based newspaper, The Southern Illinoisan.

One suspects the Lady Patriots' record played a role in the seedings, apparently one more so than the head-to-head result. Five of the Lady Patriots' losses are to out-of-state schools, including Marshall County twice and single games with Calloway County and six-time defending Second Region champion Henderson County.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sweet 16 draw ... boys

Whichever teams takes home the First Region boys' title also has a nice extra present, a winnable first-round game in Rupp Arena.

In fact, the regional draw is one of our best in several years, in the lower bracket and away from most of the state's heavyweight programs.

Paducah Tilghman remains on the fringes of the state's top 20, earning a No. 20 ranking in this week's rankings. Marshall County owns a win over the Tornado and visits Tilghman tonight, while Graves County has split two games with Marshall and led the Tornado by double digits before falling 90-81.

The 13th Region awaits the winner. Clay County is the favorite there, with Corbin and Bell County as the primary challengers. Bell whacked Corbin 69-40 on Thursday night, but Clay remains the slight favorite, having beaten Bell 52-50 on Tuesday night.

Clay is a solid team but hasn't fared too well against good competition outside the region, with double-digit losses to Lexington teams Henry Clay, Tates Creek and Lexington Catholic and a 20-point loss to Scott County in Corbin's Christmas tournament.

Just 10 days ago, the Tigers fell 45-40 to Perry Central, which is coached by former Graves and Marshall mentor Allan Hatcher and is favored to win the 14th Region.

The quarterfinal-round opponent could be a tough one, depending on who wins the Sixth Region on the western side of Louisville. Western has 6-8 senior Ryan Taylor, who moved in from Indianapolis after committing to play for Rick Pitino at the University of Louisville. Bullitt East has a pair of solid seniors and a player on the rise in 6-8 sophomore xxx.

Central, which usually starts slow because of its football team's postseason run, played in the state chanpionship game in 2009 and looks to be making another late-season charge, and Pleasure Ridge Park and Iroquois are solid contenders.

The upper bracket is where the power is. That starts with the absolutely loaded Louisville-based Seventh Region, which has a field that includes what may be the top three teams in the state in Eastern, Jeffersontown and Ballard and perhaps six or seven of the state's top 20 teams.

Clark County is a top-five team and the 10th Region favorite, and Christian County is the clear Second Region favorite. Also in the top half of the draw is the 11th Region, which includes Scott County, Madison Central and several good Lexington schools such as Tates Creek, Lexington Catholic, Henry Clay and Bryan Station.

Boys' Sweet 16
(at Rupp Arena)

March 16
Region 10 (Clark County, Scott, Mason County) vs. Region 8 (South Oldham, North Oldham, Oldham County, Simon Kenton), 11 a.m.
Region 4 (Bowling Green, Warren Central, Glasgow) vs. Region 7 (Louisville Eastern, Jeffersontown, Louisville Ballard, Louisville Trinity), 12:30 p.m.
Region 2 (Christian County, Henderson County) vs. Region 15 (Johnson Central, Betsy Layne, Pikeville), 5:30 p.m.
Region 11 (Lexington Tates Creek, Scott County, Lexington Catholic, Lexington Henry Clay) vs. Region 9 (Dixie Heights, Newport Catholic, Covington Holmes, Covington Catholic), 7 p.m.

March 17
Region 16 (Ashland, Rowan County, West Carter) vs. Region 3 (Muhlenberg County, Daviess County, Owensboro), 11 a.m.
Region 12 () vs. Region 14 (Perry Central, Buckhorn, Hazard), 12:30 p.m.
Region 6 (Louisville Western, Bullitt East, Pleasure Ridge Park, Louisville Central, Louisville Iroquois) vs. Region 5 (John Hardin, North Hardin, Elizabethtown, Bardstown), 5:30 p.m.
Region 1 (Paducah Tilghman, Marshall County, Graves County) vs. Region 13 (Clay County, Bell County, Corbin), 7 p.m. rankings ...


1. Louisville Eastern
2. Jeffersontown
3. Louisville Ballard
4. Clark County
5. Lexington Tates Creek
6. Scott County
7. Christian County
8. Louisville Trinity
9. Louisville Moore
10. Lexington Henry Clay
11. Louisville Western
12. Lexington Catholic
13. Bowling Green
14. Warren Central
15. Louisville Seneca
16. Bullitt East
17. Pleasure Ridge Park
18. Madison Central
19. Lexington Bryan Station
20. Paducah Tilghman


1. Louuisville Manual
2. Rockcastle County
3. Louisville Mercy
4. Louisville Sacred Heart
5. Boone County
6. Marion County
7. Scott County
8. Bowling Green
9. Perry Central
10. Ryle
11. Calloway County
12. Elizabethtown
13. Louisville Butler
14. Greenwood
15. Bryan Station
16. Newport Catholic
17. Madison Central
18. Clay County
19. Ohio County
20. Grayson County

Sweet 16 draw ... girls

There could be some real star power on the floor if Calloway County matches up with Boone County in the first round of the girls' Sweet 16.

Calloway boasts West Virginia signee Averee Fields, perhaps the most talented and versatile girl that the First Region has ever produced. Boone touts 5-11 junior forward Sydney Moss, a Division I prospect and the daughter of well-traveled NFL star Randy Moss.

Both teams will have to navigate their respective regions, of course, to make that matchup occur on March 10 at Western Kentucky University's Diddle Arena, but both are favored to do so.

The Lady Lakers could be challenged by the likes of Murray, Marshall County and Ballard Memorial. Boone has plenty of potential potholes in its path, starting with neighboring Ryle, not to mention St. Henry, Covington Notre Dame, Fort Thomas Highlands and the Newport Catholic club that is favored to repeat as All A Classic state champions next week.

If the First Region winner survives the opening round, there is a very winnable quarterfinal game against the winner of the game between Regions 15 and 16. Sheldon Clark, which meets Ballard Memorial in the opening round of the All A Classic, is one of the 15th Region's top contenders.

Here is the complete draw, with the potential favorites in each region:

Girls' Sweet 16
(at Western Kentucky University)

March 9
Region 8 (South Oldham, Walton-Verona, Anderson County) vs. Region 4 (Bowling Green, Monrow County, Franklin-Simpson, Greenwood), noon
Region 7 (Louisville Manual, Louisville Mercy, Louisville Sacred Heart, Jeffersontown) vs. Region 2 (Henderson County, Union County, Hopkinsville), 1:30 p.m.
Region 6 (Louisville Butler, Bullitt East, Bullitt Central) vs. Region 14 (Perry Central, Letcher Central), 6:30 p.m.
Region 5 (Elizabethtown, Marion County) vs. Region 10 (Clark County, Montgomery County), 8 p.m.

March 10
Region 15 (Magoffin County, Sheldon Clark, Shelby Valley) vs. Region 16 (Ashland, Fleming County, Rowan County, Boyd County), noon
Region 1 (Calloway County, Murray, Marshall County) vs. Region 9 (Boone County, Ryle, Newport Catholic), 1:30 p.m.
Region 11 (Scott County, Lexington Bryan Station, Madison Central, Lexington Catholic) vs. Region 12 (Rockcastle County, Lincoln County), 6:30 p.m.
Region 13 (Clay County, Harlan County, North Laurel, South Laurel) vs. Region 3 (Owensboro Catholic, Ohio County, Grayson County), 8 p.m.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Basketball doings ...

Friday night's schedule brings us two marquee matchups, one each on the boys' and girls' sides.

Paducah Tilghman's boys, which fell 51-47 at Marshall County less than two weeks ago, hosts the rematch at refurbished Otis Dinning Gym with a chance of re-establishing itself as the First Region favorite.

And Calloway County's girls, who thumped crosstown rival Murray 54-38 two weeks ago, get a chance to take one more step towards clinching the top seed in the Fourth District tournament.

It was at the start of February a year ago that Tilghman began to round into the form that eventually delivered the Tornado's third regional title in four seasons, starting an 11-game winning streak that didn't end until the state tournament loss to eventual champion Shelby Valley.

Those that saw the championship game of Massac County's Superman Classic on Saturday night saw it, with the Tornado blowing out No. 2 seed Carbondale and turning the fourth quarter into a fast-break dunkfest.

But the Tornado's last regular-season loss in 2010 came to Marshall on this date on the schedule, a week after the Superman Classic. Marshall scorched the nets from the perimeter in a 91-76 win on its home court.

Marshall held serve at home against Tilghman, and now it's the Tornado's turn to host. In fact, Tilghman doesn't leave McCracken County in the final four weeks — Brad Stieg's club's only road games in that span are at Lone Oak and St. Mary.

When Murray visits Calloway, Rechelle Turner's team finds itself in a position in which it never expected to be — the Lady Tigers were thumped in the first meeting and now find themselves with only the district race and postseason on its radar. Murray expected to be preparing for the All A Classic state tournament, but that went by the wayside in a 64-58 loss to Ballard Memorial in which it blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead.

Ballard stunned Murray with a 22-1 run, a surge fueled in part by the Lady Tigers' turnovers and mistakes. Turner sees leadership as an issue, noting that no one her team was able to take care of the basketball and stabilize things when the game got hectic.

• Missing pieces: Ballard Memorial's boys, who were beaten by Heath in the All A Classic regional final, has apparently parted ways with a couple of guards. Chris Jones, who was starting at the point but not necessarily playing starters' minutes, left the team early this week. Reserve guard Manny Yarbro, who provided some scoring punch early this season but whose playing time has dwindled lately, reportedly quit after Saturday's championship game.

• Mea culpa: I've taken a little heat for my list of the region's top-10 players in The Cats' Pause preseason magazine, having omitted Carlisle County guard Blake Rutherford, who was a Paducah Sun All-Purchase Team pick last year.

Rutherford belongs on the list, as evidenced by his 37-point performance in a losing effort against Fulton County and a 21-point showing when Carlisle avenged that loss, beating the Pilots in the All A Classic quarterfinals.

Likewise, Heath's Drew Robinson might merit inclusion on the list, too. Robinson, a 6-6 forward that can play on the wing, averaged 15.3 points as the Pirates won the All A Classic, then put up 17 points and 10 rebounds as Heath won at Graves County on Tuesday night.

Also, Heath is 7-1 on the Eagles' Nest floor this season — the only loss was to Marshall County in Graves' TimePiece Photography Roundball Classic in mid-December when point guard Damien Bolen was out with the flu. That prompted Heath center Jacob Jett to suggest that the Pirates lobby for the regional tournament be moved to the Eagles' Nest.

Why I love the All A Classic ...

The All A Classic is played in January, but the atmosphere for the boys' and girls' regional championship games is a little slice of March Madness.

Heath's two-minute rally to beat defending champion Ballard Memorial was the stuff of legend, a moment that will be remembered long after the Pirates' program shuts down in a couple of years, snuffed out by McCracken County's pending consolidation.

On the girls' side, Ballard Memorial's amazing 22-1 run that dethroned Murray was fueled in part by the pressure of the moment, the knowledge of what was at stake, with a Murray club that seemed to feel the heat of the expectation of repeating as regional champions and making another state tournament run.

There are some basketball people around the state that downplay the All A Classic. They say that the small-school state tournament doesn't compare to the Sweet 16, both in terms of quality of play and public and media attention.

No argument there, but there is also no question that, for the players, coaches and fans of the participating teams, it's an event that highlights their regular-season schedules.

On more than one occasion last week, I saw a senior from a team that just lost a game walking off the court in tears, knowing that their dream of reaching the state tournament was dashed. You just don't see that level of emotion for a regular-season game or tournament.

The All A Classic is in its 22nd year as a statewide event. I've been lucky to cover all or part of 21 of the 22 regional tournaments, and next week's state tournament will be the 21st I've covered. I would feel my basketball season was incomplete without it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Defending Jay Cutler ...

I once had a conversation with another sportswriter when we discovered that we had a mutual friend.

"The thing about (name deleted)," the writer said, "is that trouble always seems to follow him around."

And so it goes with Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. He suffered a knee injury in the first half of Sunday's NFC championship game against the Green Bay Packers, was ineffective and was taken out of the game early in the second half with the Bears trailing 14-0.

Third-stringer Caleb Hanie, inserted into the lineup when backup Todd Collins was injured, rallied the Bears to a pair of second-half touchdowns. The Bears lost 21-14 when Hanie was picked off deep in Green Bay territory in the final minute.

Hanie actually threw for three scores — unfortunately for the Bears, one of them was an interception that was run back for a touchdown by Green Bay defensive tackle B.J. Raji.

Even before the game ended, however, players and fans alike were ripping Cutler, essentially calling him gutless. Most surprising was that some of the criticism came from NFL players, mostly via their Twitter accounts.

Cutler's reputation isn't the best in the league, and he obviously has a way of ticking off guys around the NFL.

But reports came today that Cutler has at least a partially torn MCL, which is far from a minor injury. Teammates have rushed to his defense, as did coach Lovie Smith in a press conference earlier today. And the Bears' medical staff, it turns out, made the final call on Cutler's availability to play.

Cutler isn't a sympathetic figure, but he doesn't deserve this kind of treatment, especially from players around the NFL who live with the idea that a catastrophic injury can essentially end their careers at any time.

The criticism of Cutler, frankly, seems based more on his being unlikeable than anything else.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Olive ... a Racer, perhaps?

Murray's Robert Olive, a two-way standout at offensive and defensive tackle and one of far western Kentucky's top players, may end up deciding between Murray State, Austin Peay and a preferred walk-on invitation at Kentucky.

Steve Duncan, Murray's coach, feels that Olive might be leaning towards Murray. Olive, a 6-foot-3, 303-pound tackle, is being recruited as an offensive lineman.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gunner's Magic Train Shootout schedule ...

Marshall County is hosting the Gunner's Magic Train Shootout on Friday and Saturday nights, with both of the host school's teams playing two games.

The schedule was only finalized this week, with St. Mary taking on Madisonville on Friday night. South Laurel pulled out of the shootout in the fall, and Marshall was left scrambling to fill the void.

After the All A Classic seedings were set, Marshall worked out an agreement for the loser of Wednesday night's Mayfield-St. Mary game to play Madisonville, since a first-round loss for either team would leave it able to fit an extra game on its schedule.

The Marshals and Lady Marshals will each play two out-of-state teams, Arnold from Panama City, Fla., and Harding Academy of Searcy, Ark.

Both of Marshall's teams played in Arnold's Christmas tournament last month, and both of the Marlins' boys' and girls' teams have records around the .500 mark. Harding Academy is a small, private school that plays in Class 3A in Arkansas. The Wildcats' boys' team is currently 9-3 while the girls' squad has a 5-5 mark.

Here is the schedule:

Girls: Marshall County vs. Panama City Arnold (Fla.), 5 p.m.
St. Mary vs. Madisonville, 6:30 p.m.
Marshall County vs. Panama City Arnold, 8 p.m.

Girls: Massac County vs. Panama City Arnold, 3 p.m.
Madisonville vs. Panama City Arnold, 4:30 p.m.
Marshall County vs. Harding Academy (Ark.), 6 p.m.
Girls: Marshall County vs. Harding Academy, 7:30 p.m.

All A Classic amended schedules ...

Snow has wreaked havoc on the All A Classic, postponing tonight's games in both the First Region and Second Region tournaments. Both regionals are down to the semifinals in both boys' and girls' play.

Here are the revised schedules:

First Region
(at Graves County)

Ballard Memorial vs. Mayfield, 10:30 a.m.
Heath vs. Carlisle County, noon
Championship, 8 p.m.

Ballard Memorial vs. Community Christian, 6 p.m.
Murray vs. Heath, 7:45 p.m.
Championship, 6 p.m.

Second Region
(at Crittenden County)

Lyon County vs. Livingston Central, 6 p.m.
Caldwell County vs. University Heights, 7:30 p.m.
Championship, 8 p.m.

Lyon County vs. Dawson Springs, 6 p.m.
Crittenden County vs. Livingston Central, 7:30 p.m.
Championship, 6 p.m.

Amended Superman Classic schedule ...

Superman Classic play at Massac County has been postponed for tonight. Friday's schedule will proceed as planned, with the Paducah Tilghman-Massac County semifinal highlighting the two-game session. The Carbondale-Martin Westview (Tenn.) semifinal set for Saturday at 11 a.m., with the winner playing for the championship that night.

Because St. Louis Sumner couldn't guarantee it could play on Friday, for travel reasons, Sumner's game with Calloway County is likely cancelled. However, Sumner will play on Saturday.

Here is the revised schedule:

Madison vs. Vienna, 6:30 p.m.
Paducah Tilghman vs. Massac County, 8 p.m.

Carbondale vs. Martin Westview, 11 a.m.
Calloway County vs. Vienna, 1 p.m.
Madison vs. St. Louis Sumner, 2:30 p.m.
Third-place game, 6:30 p.m.
Championship, 8 p.m.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eight locals make football team ...

Far western Kentucky was well-represented on the football team, which was released today.

Robert Olive of Murray and Jay Cain of Lone Oak were named as offensive linemen and Josh Forrest of Paducah Tilghman was named at defenisve back. Murray's Carson Greifenkamp was selected as the kicker and Mayfield's Marc Wynstra was chosen at punter.

Three other players, all two-way stars — Mayfield's Jonathan Jackson, Caldwell County's Brandon Sigler and Christian County's Marcoreyon Tandy — were named to the "athletes" team, which "recognizes 12 players whose versatility and all-around contributions on offense, defense and special teams embody the spirit of high school football."

Here is the complete team:


QB - Demarcus Smith, Louisville Seneca
RB - J.J. Jude, Johnson Central
RB - Anthony Wales, Louisville Central
WR - Jordan Gilbert, Mason County
WR - Devante Parker, Louisville Ballard
WR - James Quick, Louisville Trinity
OL - Jamon Brown, Louisville Fern Creek
OL - Jay Cain, Lone Oak
OL - Tyler Combs, Lawrence County
OL - Robert Olive, Murray
OL - Zach West, Lexington Christian
K - Carson Greifenkamp, Murray


DL - Paul Megilligan, Boyle County
DL - Darrian Miller, Lexington Bryan Station
DL - Channing Smith, Sheldon Clark
LB - Lamar Dawson, Boyle County
LB - Flo Hardin, Louisville Ballard
LB - Josh Harris, Mason County
LB - John Dudley Hilton, Bell County
DB - Austin Abner, Fort Thomas Highlands
DB - Josh Forrest, Paducah Tilghman
DB - Daylen Hall, Louisville St. Xavier
DB - Leon Melvin, Louisville Western
P - Marc Wynstra, Mayfield


ATH - Alex Abner, Pulaski County
ATH - Cortez Barber, Warren Central
ATH - Brandon Boards, Allen County
ATH - Darrell Cross, Rowan County
ATH - Cory Davenport, Bell County
ATH - Jalen Harrington, Louisville Fern Creek
ATH - Jonathan Jackson, Mayfield
ATH - Chris Kelly, Newport Catholic
ATH - Chad Lawrence, Simon Kenton
ATH - Cory Lyle, Greenup County
ATH - Brandon Sigler, Caldwell County
ATH - Marcoreyon Tandy, Christian County

PLAYER OF THE YEAR - Lamar Dawson, Boyle County
COACH OF THE YEAR - Brad Hood, Allen County

Alex Mallory narrows college choices ...

Ballard Memorial quarterback Alex Mallory said he is awaiting potential offers from Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky. Eastern may offer a partial scholarship, while an invite to Western would likely include an offer to grayshirt, which is what former Lone Oak quarterback Corey Robinson did at Sun Belt Conference rival Troy.

Mallory, who threw for nearly 5,000 yards with 53 touchdowns and 25 interceptions over the last two seasons, said he is likely to go the NAIA route if talks with Eastern and Western fall through.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Superman Classic preview ...

A few years ago, Massac County athletic director Kelly Glass decided to conduct a seeding meeting to set the pairings for the Superman Classic, guaranteeing the participating teams that the Patriots wouldn't set up the bracket to give themselves an easy bracket in which to make a run to the championship game.

But when you have teams from three (and sometimes four) different states and participating schools spread out from Tennessee to the St. Louis area, and sometimes beyond, it's difficult to nail down a logical pecking order.

Last year was a prime example, when Madison won the tournament as the No. 5 seed and had its toughest game in the opening round, staging a furious comeback to knock off fourth seed Paducah Tilghman.

This year, the seedings looks a little more true to form. Tilghman is the top seed, although the team that earned the seeding may not take the floor this week, as it appears that point guard Josh Forrest will miss a game or two, or possibly the entire tournament, if he opts to take an official football visit to Central Florida. Carbondale is the No. 2 seed, followed by Martin Westview, Massac and Madison.

If it was my seeding, I would probably go with a slightly different order, with Massac at No.3, followed by Madison and Westview. As it stands, the Massac-Madison game will draw some attention since it matches two strong small-school teams — both teams have made it to the state tournament in one the last two seasons — from opposite ends of what much of the state considers southern Illinois.

In any case, a semifinal matching Tilghman and either the Patriots or Madison could be a fun game to watch, and expect Carbondale to be awaiting the winner in Saturday night's final.

Big three, round three ...

So ... the midseason round-robin between First Region heavyweights Paducah Tilghman, Marshall County and Graves County ended in a draw.

Friday night's third installment may have been the best game of the three, a contest full of drama that went right down to the final second, when Graves reserve Travis Beck tipped in a missed shot by backup point guard Mason Beale to give the Eagles a 56-54 win.

Note the key words ... reserves. Graves' bench, which has been woefully thin for much of the year, made its biggest contribution yet in a tight game. Beck hit two 3-pointers in the first half and scored 10 points, and Beale was handed the ballhandling responsibilities as Graves set up the game-winning shot without point guard Jesse Anderson, who was held scoreless in the first half and had fouled out with just five points, his season-low total.

Beck, a 6-3 junior who is more of a face-the-basket player, transferred in from Joppa in mid-December and was pushed into some brief action almost before he had a chance to practice with the Eagles, which meant he had precious little time to learn the team's extensive array of offensive sets. Beale, a sophomore, is the first guard off the bench and the heir apparent at the point when Anderson graduates this spring.

What else did we learn about Graves? As good as Anderson is, he might not be the Eagles' most indispensible player. That might fall on athletic 6-4 center Aaron Cooper, Graves' only true post player. With Cooper on the bench with four fouls and Graves holding a seven-point lead with less than two minutes remaining, Marshall attacked the basket at will, scoring two baskets and five points in two possessions.

Combined with a turnover, Marshall made it seven points in three trips and tied the score when guard Blake Clark drew Anderson's fifth foul and sank two free throws with less than a minute remaining.

As for Marshall ... it appears that Gus Gillespie's crew has the size and bulk that enables it to match up with Tilghman a little better than the Eagles. Drew Williams and Casey White, who had big putbacks in both games last week, provide some inside depth and enable Marshall to use a lot of fouls in the paint. That, in turn, exposes one of the Tornado's glaring flaws, its free throw shooting.

What did we learn over the past week or so? Tilghman is still the favorite, in my estimation, probably because it appears to have the most upside. I'm sticking with Marshall second and Graves third — the teams have split two games this season — but, as someone from the Eagles' camp noted on Friday night, the gap between No. 1 and No. 3 might have narrowed a bit.

Stay tuned for the second round-robin, coming soon — the Tornado hosts Marshall and Graves in back-to-back games on Jan. 28 and Feb. 1, and then the Marshals host Graves on Feb. 4.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Forrest reaffirms commitment to Kentucky ...

There were reports earlier this week that Paducah Tilghman football star Josh Forrest might be wavering on his commitment to the University of Kentucky, but Forrest seems to have nixed those by issuing invitations to his national letter-of-intent signing on Feb. 5. The invite said that Forrest will indeed sign with the Wildcats.

Still, there are indications that Forrest will take a visit to Central Florida this weekend.

Tilghman coach Randy Wyatt told that Central Florida isn't a threat to Forrest's commitment to Kentucky. "My understanding is it's more like a vacation for him," Wyatt was quoted as saying. "He wants to go to Disney World. That's all I'm going to say about it. He's Kentucky-bound."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Murray-Calloway ... round one

Murray and Calloway County, as schools, are separated by a little over a mile.

In the various state girls' basketball rankings, they're even closer.

Murray is the defending First Region champion. Calloway, which fell to Murray in overtime in last year's regional final, has a Division I signee, returns a bit more on paper and is, at least in some quarters, the regional favorite.

So ... who wins tonight's game at Murray's Tiger Gym, the first of two regular-season showdowns between the two teams?

Does it really matter, given that conventional wisdom has them meeting four times this year, including the district and regional finals?

You bet it does.

"This year, it's even more important to get the number one seed (for the district tournament)," Calloway coach Scott Sivills said. "You don't want to be the two-seed and have to play Marshall County on their court in the first round of the district."

Sivills also makes another point that it is arguably the First Region's biggest regular-season game in years, perhaps even close to two decades. For the first time in recent memory, the region has two teams ranked in the state's top 20 in the Cantrall and Litkenhous ratings.

So ... how big is it?

"It's a big game, but it's not the end of the season," Sivills said. "I think sometimes you can make this out to be too big and your players play tight.

"Our players are excited about it, because it's Murray and because it's the first time we've played them since the regional finals. But they're not as jacked up as the media and the parents and the fans."

Murray coach Rechelle Turner's answer to the question was laced with a little humor.

"Everybody gets real excited about it, and I'm not sure why," Turner said with a smile."These two teams gave everybody four classic match-ups last year, and this is the first time we've seen them this year."

Could we see another foursome this season?

"If that means we're both in the regional finals, I'll take it," Turner said. "I'm not sure I would necessarily pick them as the team I would want to play four times."

On paper, it's a tough game to call. After battling through some sickness and injuries early in the season, Murray hit its stride just before Christmas, going 3-1 in Lexington Catholic's Republic Bank Holiday Classic and later winning its own Lady Tiger Classic, beating a strong Grayson County team in the championship game.

Two of the Lady Tigers' three losses are to defending state champions. Guard Haley Armstrong and point guard Janssen Starks lead the way, and 6-foot-3 Sian House is a strong defensive presence in the paint. In recent weeks, Murray has gotten more offensive production from forward Shelby Crouch and defensive whiz Amanda Winchester lately.

Calloway's Averee Fields, a West Virginia signee and the returning Paducah Sun All-Purchase Player of the Year, is her usual self, averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds per game. Point guard Taylor Futrell is averaging 11 points per game, and guards Abby Futrell and Karlee Wilson have made significant strides. Forward Alyssa Cunningham, sidelined by mononucleosis in the postseason, provides solid work in the post..

"My uncle, who has coached for 40 years, told me after the regional final last year that we would be much when our sophomores became juniors," Sivills said. "And he was right. We're seeing that on the floor."

The Lady Lakers' only loss was to a team from Connecticut in a post-Christmas tournament in Orlando, Fla., and Calloway owns two wins over a Martin Westview squad that's been in the Tennessee Class 2A final four the last two years.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Big three, round two ...

It wasn't so shocking that Marshall County beat Paducah Tilghman, but how the Marshals did it.

Marshall didn't shoot the ball well from the perimeter, as it was thought it would need to — the Marshals hit just 2 of 14 tries from 3-point range in Tuesday night's 51-47 win. And they outrebounded a bigger, stronger Tilghman squad by a considerable margin.

They did it with defense, too, keeping Josh Forrest out of the lane for much of the night and not letting the Tornado shooters go wild from the perimeter, and their depth was clearly the equal of Tilghman's, with reserves Chase Clark, Peter Northcutt and Drew Williams providing quality minutes.

Stephen Atkinson had 24 points and 14 rebounds, is averaging a double-double and has put himself in the conversation for The Paducah Sun Purchase Player of the Year award. Guards Chase York and Cole Nelson were able to provide board support.

As for Tilghman — well, the Tornado missed a chance to possibly put the game away late in the first half, when Cody Schultz tried an alley-oop pass to Josh Forrest on the break with Tilghman up 29-18 and threatening to blow open the game. The move backfired, and the Marshals scored twice late in the half to cut the deficit to seven.

Was the Tornado a bit fatigued from a tough stretch of three games against solid opposition — district rival Heath, Graves County and Marshall — in a span of five days? Perhaps, especially since Tilghman was beaten back down the floor two or three times for Marshall baskets in transition in the fourth quarter.

And, of course, there is Tilghman's Achilles' Heel — the free throw line. The Tornado was 8-for-18 from the line, with Forrest going 3-for-12. In a close game, foul shooting is always going to give the Tornado's opponent a chance to sneak off with a win.

BCS musings ...

Five consecutive "national champions" from four different schools.

Without question, the Southeastern Conference has again proven itself as college football's league without peer.

Auburn is certainly a deserving champion, having beaten three top-20 opponents within the SEC and containing an Oregon offense that was considered the nation's most explosive, holding it to well under half its typical point total.

And, given that Oregon took the Tigers to the wire, scoring the game-tying touchdown before falling on a last-second field goal, it's safe to declare the quacky Ducks as the nation's No. 2 team, right?

Well, maybe not.

The voters went with Texas Christian, the nation's only other undefeated squad, as the runner-up, but the vote here is for Oregon. I like the Horned Frogs, but remember that they barely escaped the Rose Bowl with a win over Wisconsin. And frankly, Oregon's close call with Auburn looks like the more impressive bowl performance.

• The play was officiated correctly, but Auburn freshman Michael Dyer's run after he was dragged down by a defender on the Tigers' game-winning final drive is an example of a rule that, while properly enforced, needs to be changed.

Why is it that a runner can be tackled and totally prone on top of a defender, but he isn't considered down because his knee isn't touching the ground? He's no longer in position to gain yardage, and he would be on the ground if not for the defender below him.

Oregon's defense certainly thought Dyer was down, and rightfully so. And while players are told to go until they hear the whistle, sometimes a player doesn't necessarily hear it. And in that case, it's understandable why one would be afraid to hit a running back who gets back to his feet and off a prone defender — if he makes considerable contact with such a running back, and the whistle had actually blown, he would surely be flagged for a personal foul, a 15-yard penalty.

• Who is the nation's second-best team? My vote goes to Alabama — yes, the same Crimson Tide that lost three games during the regular season.

Alabama fell at South Carolina a week after pummeling Florida while the Gamecocks had an off-week, then lost a close game at LSU and a one-point decision to Auburn, the eventual national champion.

If the Tide played Auburn right now, on a neutral field, I would take Alabama. And if we had a real national championship tournament, Alabama would be just as much a threat to win the title as anyone — Auburn, Oregon, TCU included.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Big three, round one ...

In a stretch of seven days, the First Region's top three teams are squaring off in what amounts to a midseason round-robin — Paducah Tilghman came from behind to beat Graves County 90-81 on Saturday night and visits Marshall County on Tuesday night. The Eagles, who have already lost to Marshall once this season, host the rematch on Friday night.

Some observations after round one:

Tilghman coach Brad Stieg seems to have settled on a starting lineup that includes three guards, with Cody Schultz and Trevonte Cole (who combined to go 10-for-20 from 3-point range) flanking point guard Josh Forrest and versatile forward Darrius Brown in a sixth-man role. Earlier in the season, Brown was in the first five, with Schultz coming off the bench.

"In the First Region, teams are going to pack it on us with that lineup," Stieg said. "This gives us two shooters to spread the defense, and I like all the things that Darrius does for us coming off the bench."

DeShawn Jackson has turned in some solid work as the top guard reserve, and Tilghman can still call on DeCarida Key as a swingman and two bigs off the bench in 6-4 Chavion Harper and 6-7 Devin Wilson.

Tilghman's ferocious fourth-quarter run shows that the Tornado's "A" game is the region's best, but there are still some defensive issues to address.

As for Graves, it's been a pair of really frustrating losses in the region, the first one to Marshall in the championship game of Graves' TimePiece Holiday Classic in mid-December. In both games, the Eagles held double-digit leads in the first half on their home court, fueled for the most part by dead-eye perimeter shooting.

Graves was 9-for-16 from beyond the arc in regulation against Marshall, then went 0-for-7 from long range in the overtime, falling 63-57 after being outscored 8-2 in the extra four minutes.

The Eagles held a 15-point lead on Marshall early in the second quarter and had Tilghman down 38-24 with less than three minutes left in the first half — at the time, Graves had hit seven of its 12 3-point attempts.

Is there a moral to the story? Perhaps, in that as long as the Eagles' four-guard lineup is shooting the ball well from the perimeter, Graves is a dangerous team, not to mention that athletic center Aaron Cooper is having a splendid season — he had 23 points and 17 rebounds against Tilghman's big front line.

And the depth issue is something with which the Eagles will have to contend. Guard Mason Beale and forward Travis Beck are the best bets off the bench, but they may not be ready to handle major minutes just yet against the likes of Tilghman.

Stieg has taken to calling his team "a work in progress" and, in a sense, the Eagles' bench brigade is, too.

Cardinals reaching a bit ...

Check out the St. Louis Cardinals' projected everyday lineup, and there is a discernible pattern.

Ryan Theriot at shortstop?

Skip Schumaker at second base?

Lance Berkman at an outfield corner?

If I'm on the pitching staff, I'm filing a grievance with the players' union.

Defense appears to be optional next season for the Cardinals, who have apparently decided that fortifying the offense was the most important mission of the offseason. Whether that has been accomplished is still in doubt.

First, let's look at the infield. The trade for Theriot wasn't necessarily a bad thing — Blake Hawksworth is your run-of-the-mill middle reliever and spot starter — but the decision to play him at shortstop and trade defensive whiz Brendan Ryan reeks of spite and desperation.

Theriot is the kind of hustler Cardinals fans love, but his actual performance isn't one that you should fall in love with. Theriot came up to the Cubs as a second baseman that had shown the ability to get on base, and while he had a couple of decent years after being moved to shortstop, his defense is better suited for the right side of the bag.

Now 31, he has precious little time left as a regular, and the Cardinals are gambling that Theriot will rediscover the batting eye he showed in 2008 and 2009.

If Theriot was playing second, the move would make more sense. He could provide a solid glove and would certainly be a defensive upgrade on Schumaker, the converted outfielder who plays second like ... well, a converted outfielder. Like Theriot, Schumaker took a nosedive offensively last season, and his downturn was as big a reason as any for St. Louis' disappointing season.

Theriot at second and Ryan at shortstop was a middle infield the Cardinals could live with, but Tony LaRussa seemed bent on getting rid of Ryan, whose bat died a predictable death in 2010. Ryan hit over his head in 2009, but he's better than he showed in 2010 — his true level of ability is somewhere in the middle, and his glove is among the best in the game.

So why the trade to Seattle? It seems more about personality than performance. Ryan had some run-ins with teammates, star pitcher Chris Carpenter in particular, but I'm betting that Carpenter wishes he had Ryan's glove behind him by May.

Bottom line — Ryan and Theriot up the middle make much more sense than Theriot and Schumaker. Throw in the uncertainty at third base, where David Freese was one red-hot weekend away from being thoroughly mediocre, and the Cardinals still don't have enough bats to back up Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus and give a fine pitching staff the run support it needs.

That is why the Cardinals added Berkman, whose bat looked noticeable slower last year. That could have been because of his age (Berkman turns 35 next month) and it could have been due to some early-season knee problems. Berkman claims his knee is better and says he's lost some weight, which could save the knee some wear and tear.

But Berkman is a first baseman, which means in St. Louis he has to move to the outfield. Berkman hasn't played in the outfield since 2007, and he needs to be platooned at this point. He's always been a much better hitter against right-handed pitching, but his work against lefties has deteriorated to the point that he needs a partner, a role that Allen Craig might fill.

Again, these moves are an indictment of the Cardinals' farm system, which has deteriorated to the point that they couldn't provide a prospect of enough quality to get Jake Westbrook from Cleveland at the trade deadline last season — instead, they had to pony up Ryan Ludwick to the Padres.

There are no position players on the horizon that appear ready to contribute in the next 2-3 years, and the Cardinals have had to resort to taking chances on aging veterans like Theriot and Berkman.

Part of coaching and building a successful team in any sport is putting players in positions best suited for their skills, giving them the best chance to make a solid contribution. It's hard to see that the Cardinals have done that as spring training approaches.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Murray State-Austin Peay ... under further review?

It will be interesting to see if there are any repercussions from the controversial flagrant foul called on Murray State guard Isacc Miles in Saturday's ESPNU-televised Ohio Valley Conference rival Austin Peay, and the manner in which the officials arrived at the call.

This is the scenario which led up to the call: Murray had cut a 15-point Austin Peay lead to three and had possession of the ball with less than two minutes remaining. Miles caught pass from a teammate and, defended closely by Austin Peay's Josh Terry, held the ball over his head and turned into him in an effort to clear some space.

Terry fell back as if he had taken an elbow to the face, although television replays were inconclusive as to the extent of the contact. An official blew the whistle to stop play, but the play was later ruled an inadvertent whistle and a media timeout was called.

During the timeout, according to ESPNU announcer Mark Adams, a former college coach, he called an official to him to ask for an interpretation of the call — not an uncommon action among media types. I've done it myself on occasion.

According to Adams, the official then asked him if there was contact on the play, and Adams replied that there was and then asked the official "The call is reviewable, correct?"

Sometime, in the aftermath of the discussion, the officials decided to review the call. Miles was later assessed the foul, his fifth of the game, and Austin Peay was awarded two free throws and possession of the ball, standard procedure for an intentional or flagrant foul.

Did Adams' query intitate the review? Judging solely by his comments — Adams told the story three or four times during the ESPNU broadcast — it appears that may have been the case.

Adams isn't out of bounds for doing what he did — after all, he's simply doing his job. I wonder, however, if the OVC and perhaps the NCAA might review the situation and issue a clarification on the proper procedures for reviewing the call.

In these situations, my mantra is consistent — as long as the officials get the call right, nothing else matters. But I'm not sure that there was actual contact, and Miles' action seemed rather innocuous. Regardless of whether or not that is a point of emphasis for officials this season, as Adams maintained, Miles' actions certainly didn't appear to have any intent.

Murray coach Billy Kennedy was gracious in his postgame comments, refusing to blame the officials for the loss, and I'm not making that claim, either. But there is little doubt that the events changed the game on three levels — instead of Murray having possession of the ball and trailing by just three points, Austin Peay was shooting free throws and had possession.

Miles, who was 6-for-8 from the field and had 14 points and three assists, was done for the day, and the call also sapped any momentum the Racers may have garnered during its run.

Strange things often happen when the Governors and Racers get together, and this one just adds another chapter to the story.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cubs still chasing ...

The Chicago Cubs traded five players, including a pair of high-profile prospects, to Tampa Bay for pitcher Matt Garza, continuing general manager Jim Hendry's ongoing charade of attempting to steer the team into contention.

Garza has been a good pitcher for the Rays for three seasons, going 34-31 with a sub-4.00 ERA each year and helping Tampa win two divisional titles. He was especially good in the ALCS in 2008, beating Boston twice and holding the Red Sox to two runs in 13 innings.

Still just 27, he's still three years away from free agency, although he is likely to get a little pricey in arbitration if the Cubs don't work out a long-term deal with him.

But — and you knew there would be a "but" here — is this really the kind of deal the Cubs need to be making?

The Cubs gave up Chris Archer, a pitcher that was part of the Mark DeRosa deal and blossomed last season, going 15-3 with a 2.35 ERA in high-A and Double-A. Hu-Jak Lee is a 19-year-old shortstop with a good looking bat and defensive tools and Brandon Guyer looks like a decent fourth outfielder, a right-handed hitter than can play all three spots with speed and a little pop.

Hendry seems to feel the Cubs, who went 75-87 last season and finished 16 games behind division champion Cincinnati, are a legitimate contender. That seems to be the reason behind the signing of former Tampa first baseman Carlos Pena to a one-year, $10 million contract, and the push to trade some high-level prospects for Garza.

Garza should help the Cubs — he's a reliable guy that can make 30-plus starts and work around 200 innings a season. And with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Tom Gorzelanny and possibly a push from rookie Casey Coleman, the Cubs have plenty of rotation depth.

Kerry Wood's amazingly cheap signing helps back Carlos Marmol and lefty Sean Marshall in the bullpen, but more help is needed — perhaps top prospect Andrew Cashner fits in there for the time being.

But are the Cubs really a contender of any stripe? Milwaukee has improved immensely, fortifying a shaky rotation with trades for Zack Greinke and Shawn Marcum — the Brewers now have as good a top four as anyone in the division. St. Louis has some questions (we'll deal with those later this weekend) and the Reds' young pitching only figures to get better.

The offense still has plenty of question marks, and Pena probably isn't going to fill the need for a reliable lefty bat. Pena had two good seasons with the Rays, but you have to be scared of a slugger that, at age 32, slumped to .196 and 28 homers after averaging 39 in the previous three seasons. Pena isn't getting any younger, and his bat isn't picking up any speed, either.

St. Louis signed Lance Berkman for $8 million, but the Cubs paid more for Pena. Both need platoon partners to face left-handers, and frankly, I would much rather see the Cubs move Aramia Ramirez across the diamond or Alfonso Soriano to first base and try to put together a representative defense.

Instead, Hendry is acting like he has a team on the verge of contention. All the indicators, trending downward as they are, seem to differ.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

All A Classic girls seedings ...

No surprise that Murray and Ballard Memorial are the top two seeds in the All A Classic girls' First Region basketball tournament, which is Jan. 17-22 at Graves County's Eagles' Nest.

Heath's double-digit win over St. Mary wasn't enough to leapfrog the Lady Pirates into the No. 3 spot, but it might have pushed Heath over Mayfield, Community Christian and Carlisle County into the fourth slot — only 2.5 points separate the three teams in the Louisville Courier-Journal's Litkenhous Ratings, which are used to determine the seedings.

One other interesting note: the Litratings have Murray as the state's No. 15 team, with Calloway County at No. 20.

Here are the seedings:

1. Murray
2. Ballard Memorial
3. St. Mary
4. Heath
5. Mayfield
6. Community Christian
7. Carlisle County
8. Hickman County
9. Reidland
10. Fulton County
11. Fulton City

Seeding doesn't matter ...

Ballard Memorial proved the point a year ago, knocking off three higher-seeded teams en route to the school's first All A Classic regional title.

This year, the shoe could be on the other foot.

A little over 24 hours after the Bombers were awarded the top seed in this year's small-school meet, the Bombers were beaten 59-49 at Carlisle County, which had dropped to the No. 7 seed after a disastrous three-game visit to Allen County's Christmas tournament.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we dropped a spot with every loss," said Carlisle coach Brian O'Neill, whose club went into the tournament with a 6-2 record and shot less than 30 percent in losses to the host school, Christian Academy of Louisville and Gallatin County "Going up there, I thought we had a chance at being either three or four, and on the way back, I knew we could be anywhere down to seven."

Ballard, Fulton County and Heath are the top three seeds and considered nearly equals, but Carlisle's win is an indication that one of the middle-tier clubs could rise up and knock off a top-tier team in a couple of weeks.

Mayfield is starting to get healthy, with guard William Higginson and forward Jonathan Jackson recovering from football injuries. St. Mary, which took Heath to the wire on Tuesday night, plays solid defense but has problems putting points on the board.

There will be a few more key matchups to watch in the week leading up to the All A Classic. Mayfield takes on district rivals Ballard and St. Mary next week and Carlisle hosts Fulton County on Thursday.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Superman Classic pairings ...

Seedings and pairings for the Superman Classic were determined today. The tournament is Jan. 17-22 at Massac County. Madison, which finished third in the Illinois Class A state tournament a year ago, is the defending champion.

There is a slight change in the tournament format, the first since it became an eight-team bracket tournament in 1988. Because certain teams can only play on certain nights for travel reasons and potential scheduling conflicts, one semifinal will be played on Thursday night and another on Friday night instead of both being played in the Friday session.

These are the seedings, with each team's record (as of today) in parentheses:

1. Paducah Tilghman (9-3)
2. Carbondale (8-5)
3. Martin Westview, Tenn. (12-3)
4. Massac County (10-6)
5. Madison (8-4)
6. Calloway County (5-7)
7. St. Louis Sumner (3-7)
8. Vienna (6-6)

This is the schedule:

Jan. 17
Game 1: Carbondale vs. St. Louis Sumner, 6:30 p.m.
Game 2: Calloway County vs. Martin Westview, 8 p.m.

Jan. 18
Game 3: Paducah Tilghman vs. Vienna, 6:30 p.m.
Game 4: Massac County vs. Madison, 8 p.m.

Jan. 20
Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 6:30 p.m.
Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 8 p.m.

Jan. 21
Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 6:30 p.m.
Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 8 p.m.

Jan. 22
Seventh-place game, 1 p.m.
Fifth-place game, 2:30 p.m.
Third-place game, 6:30 p.m.
Championship, 8 p.m.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 basketball rankings ...

Paducah Tilghman checks in at No. 16 in the rankings. All three of the Tornado's losses are to ranked teams — No. 3 Louisville Ballard, fifth-ranked Christian County and 12th-ranked Warren Central.

On the girls' side, I believe it's the first time in the nine-year history of BGP's rankings that two First Region schools have cracked the top 20.


1. Jeffersontown
2. Louisville Eastern
3. Louisville Ballard
4. Clark County
5. Christian County
6. Scott County
7. Lexington Catholic
8. Lexington Tates Creek
9. Bowling Green
10. Louisville Trinity
11. Louisville Moore
12. Warren Central
13. Louisville Western
14. Bullitt East
15. Pleasure Ridge Park
16. Paducah Tilghman
17. Dixie Heights
18. Covington Catholic
19. Louisville Seneca
20. Simon Kenton


1. Louisville Mercy
2. Rockcastle County
3. Louisville Manual
4. Louisville Sacred Heart
5. Boone County
6. Marion County
7. Scott County
8. Madison Central
9. Bowling Green
10. Perry Central
11. Ryle
12. Elizabethtown
13. Calloway County
14. Anderson County
15. Franklin-Simpson
16. Franklin County
17. Grayson County
18. Monroe County
19. Clay County
20. Murray

Monday, January 3, 2011

All A Classic boys seedings ...

Ballard Memorial, which won its first All A Classic regional boys' basketball title after being seeded sixth, is the No. 1 seed for this year's event, which begins Jan. 15 at Graves County's Eagles' Nest.

The seedings are determined by the Litkenhous Ratings, which were released on the Louisville Courier-Journal's website on Monday afternoon.

Fulton County and Heath, as expected, round out the top three seeds. Fulton City is the No. 6 seed, which sets up a potentially very interesting quarterfinal-round game between the Bulldogs, coached by Jimmy Long, and his former Heath squad, coached by longtime assistant Burlin Brower.

Here are the seedings:

1. Ballard Memorial
2. Fulton County
3. Heath
4. Mayfield
5. St. Mary
6. Fulton City
7. Carlisle County
8. Hickman County
9. Murray
10. Community Christian
11. Reidland

Basketball happenings ...

The first Cantrall ratings of the season were published in Monday's Lexington Herald-Leader, and there were a couple of surprises on the girls' side. Calloway County is ranked ninth and Murray is ranked 17th, the first time in several years — perhaps a decade or longer — that the First Region has had two schools ranked in the top 20.

The Cantralls don't count out-of-state games, so Murray's two early-season hiccups against two Tennesee clubs — nearby Henry County and defending private-school state champion Ensworth — don't figure into the equation. Neither does Calloway's two wins over Martin Westview (a final four team in Tennessee Class 2A a year ago) and the solid 2-1 performance at a tournament in Orlando last week.

Murray and Calloway meet for the first time on Jan. 14, which could be the first of four meetings this season.

Paducah Tilghman was the First Region's top team in the rankings and tied for 32nd overall with Louisville Western.

• Marshall County point guard Margaret Thomas is expected to make her debut on Tuesday night against Lone Oak and potentially see major minutes when the Lady Marshals host Calloway County on Friday night.

Thomas, a Paducah Sun All-Purchase selection a year ago, originally opted not to play this season, reportedly because she was upset that Marshall assistant Aaron Beth didn't get the head coaching job this summer after the retirement of his father, Howard Beth.

She changed her mind after the Lady Marshals played their first two games in Marshall County's Hoop Fest, but Marshall coach Joseph Simmons decreed that Thomas would have to practice with the team for a few weeks before being eligible to play.

• As one All-Purchase player rejoins the regional ranks, another of the area's most dynamic guards is sidelined for the rest of the season. Paducah Tilghman playmaker Chelsey Shumpert, a sophomore who had a chance to become a four-time All-Purchase pick, has a torn ACL in her right knee and is out for the remainder of the season.

Shumpert will do some rehabilitation work and have surgery within a few weeks. She originally tweaked the knee while playing AAU ball this summer, but the injury was diagnosed at the time as a strained ligament. She went down in the second quarter of Tilghman's Dec. 18 game with Lone Oak, but the torn ACL wasn't diagnosed until nearly a week later, after the Lady Tornado returned from playing in the Kenton County Classic in northern Kentucky.

• The All A Classic First Region tournament will be seeded via the first batch of Litkenhous Ratings, which will be released this week in the Louisville Courier-Journal. The boys' ratings will be published on Tuesday with the girls' ratings set for release on Friday.

The Big Ten's meltdown ...

Ohio State University president Dr. Gordon Gee ruffled a few feathers a while back with his comments that football programs such as Texas Christian and Boise State didn't deserve to be considered for Bowl Championship Series honors because of their supposedly weak conference affiliations.

Even worse was his characterization of the Buckeyes' Big Ten schedule as a "Murderers' Row."

On New Year's Day, the murderers were ... well, murdered.

Northwestern lost to Texas Tech in the Ticketcity Bowl, whatever that is. Penn State gave up 20 unanswered points in the last 18 minutes to fall to Florida in the Outback Bowl.

And it got worse. Wisconsin, the Big Ten champion, was beaten by undeserving TCU in the Rose Bowl. Michigan was utterly humiliated by Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, outscored 42-0 in the final three quarters.

To top it off, Big Ten co-champion Michigan State was bombed, battered and blasted by Alabama, outgained 3-1 and held to minus-48 yards rushing in a 49-7 rout in the Capital One Bowl. But the Spartans did make it respectable, right, by scoring an "oh, by the way" touchdown after falling behind 49-0?

Dr. Gee might want to stick to running his university and refrain from future smug and pretentious comments about the Big Ten, whose reputation has taken a beating in recent years. Maybe the league should spend more time working to modernize and upgrade its football programs instead of gerrymandering its divisions and choosing haughty division names like "Leaders" and "Legends."

Oh, and the Buckeyes still have to play their bowl game, with several players whose suspensions have been delayed until next season so they can "preserve the integrity" of Tuesday night's Sugar Bowl. I suspect there are a lot of college football fans who will be yelling "Wooo, pig sooie" for Arkansas' Razorbacks.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

All A Classic state tournament pairings ...

It's a new year, and it's time to get back on the blogging thing.

To start 2011, let's discuss the All A Classic state tournament pairings, which were released on the small-school state tournament's website this week.

The state tournament is Feb. 2-6 at Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena and was pushed back a week this year because of a scheduling conflict with Eastern and the Ohio Valley Conference. The regional championship games are on Jan. 22 at Graves County's Eagles' Nest, so each regional champions will have about 10 days to prepare for the state tournament.

On the girls' side, the First Region champion will take on the 15th Region winner — a very winnable contest if, say, Murray or Ballard Memorial wins the regional title. Shelby Valley, Paintsville and Sheldon Clark are the 15th Region favorites, but all three would likely be an underdog against Murray or Ballard.

The Fourth Region representative, potentially Glasgow or Monroe County, could be a tough quarterfinal-round opponent. Murray beat Glasgow in the first round of the state tournament a year ago before losing to eventual champion Newport Catholic in the semifinals. Newport Catholic could be waiting in the semifinals this year, too.

Crittenden County is the Second Region favorite, with Livingston Central looming as the top challenger, but either is likely to be an underdog against Lexington Christian, the likely 11th Region champion.

The boys' First Region race appears to be wide open, with Fulton County, defending champion Ballard Memorial and Heath among the favorites. The first-round opponent in Richmond is the 13th Region winner, which is likely to be Barbourville. Potential second-round opponents include Glasgow, Russellville and Danville.

University Heights is the Second Region favorite and will be among the state favorites. The Second Region drew the 14th Region, where Hazard and Buckhorn are the favorites. Newport Catholic would make for a very tough quarterfinal-round foe.