Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Beefing up Tilghman's schedule ...

New Paducah Tilghman football coach Randy Wyatt is taking an old-school Big Blue approach to the Tornado's future schedules. He's loading up the non-district slate for 2009 and 2010 with big-name programs, even one or two from out-of-state.

Next year's slate features Mayfield and Fort Campbell as well as North Hardin (a solid Class 6A program) and a visit to traditional Indiana power Evansville Reitz. The 7,000-seat Reitz Bowl is considered one off the Hoosier State's top venues.

And the best may be yet to come ...

"I've got a call out to (Tennessee power) Brentwood Academy, Lexington Catholic and the three best programs in Louisville — Trinity, St. Xavier and Male," Wyatt said. "I would love to play one of them. Probably just one of them."

Wyatt was a quarterback, running back and wide receiver at Tilghman in the late 1980s under then-coach Allan Cox, who was never shy about big-game hunting when it came to scheduling, The Tornado's schedule in that span included opponents like Trinity, Fort Thomas Highlands, Brentwood Academy and Nashville Whites Creek.

"I want to get back to playing that kind of schedule," Wyatt said. "That's what prepared us for the postseason."

In a sense, the Tornado is taking a cue from defending Class 3A state champion Louisville Central, which beat Tilghman 17-14 on a last-second field goal in the state semifinals last season. Central was 5-5 during the regular season that included losses to Highlands (the 5A state champion), St. Xavier (the 6A runner-up) and ranked big-class teams such as Male, Louisville Manual and Johnson Central.

Not coincidentally, Central figures to be Tilghman's traditional semifinal-round foe in the new playoff format.

"We know they're going to be ready for us, with the schedule they play," Wyatt said. "We need to be ready for them, too."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Updated Hoop Fest pairings ...

Marshall County's Hoop Fest founder Steve Woodward has had to make some subtle changes to next year's Hoop Fest. Here is the updated list of games:

Thursday, Dec. 4
Calloway County vs. Harrisburg, 6 p.m.
Oak Hill Academy vs. Duncanville (Texas), 8 p.m. (nationally televised)
Graves County vs. Massac County, 9:30 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 5
Girls: Marshall County vs. Obion Central (Tenn.), 5:30 p.m.
Marshall County vs. Obion Central, 7 p.m.
Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's vs. Jackson (Miss.) Provine, 8:30 p.m.
Memphis Briarcrest vs. Homewood-Flossmoor (Ill.), 10 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 6
Girls: Marshall County vs. Madisonville, 9 a.m.
Paducah Tilghman vs. Lexington Catholic, 10:30 a.m.
South Laurel vs. Lafayette (Mo.), noon
Memphis White Station vs. Columbus (Ohio) Northland, 1:30 p.m.
Marshall County vs. Madisonville, 3:30 p.m.
Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler vs. Jackson (Miss.) Callaway, 5 p.m.
Scott County vs. Duncanville (Texas), 6:30 p.m.
Oak Hill Academy vs. Chicago Simeon, 8 p.m.
Chicago Whitney Young vs. Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's, 9:30 p.m.
Monteverde (Fla.) Academy vs. Findlay Prep (Nev.), 11 p.m.

Also, both Marshall County teams and Calloway County's girls will play in the Laurel County Hoop Fest at South Laurel. Calloway's girls will meet Clay County on Jan. 22 with Marshall's girls taking on South Laurel the same night.

Marshall's boys will play two games at South Laurel, against North Laurel on Jan. 23 and perennial power Pleasure Ridge Park on the morning of Jan. 24.

Summer basketball news ...

NASCAR calls it the "silly season," when drivers and crew chiefs hop around from team to team. Basketball has its own, too, and the latest rider on the merry-go-round is former Hickman County coach Billie Prince.

Out of coaching last year after being relieved of his duties as the Falcons' boys' coach, Prince will return to coaching next season as the top assistant to Ballard Memorial girls' coach Kevin Estes. Prince replaces Lisa McClain, who left to take a coaching position at Fulton City, closer to her home in Fulton, said Ballard principal Donald Shively.

Prince's son Tye, who will be a sophomore, may be coming with him to Ballard. Tye Prince plays basketball and baseball, and he could give a boost to the Bombers' baseball team, which looks to be a top regional contender next season. Of course, his eligibility still has to be determined by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, but the case looks to be nearly identical to that of former Ballard boys' coach Rob Anderson, who left last summer to become the top boys' assistant at Graves County.

Anderson's daughter, Whitney, was a starter for the Ballard girls' team and was eventually granted eligibility at Graves.

• Marshall County gets the nod as the First Region boys' favorite, but Paducah Tilghman showed it will be a threat to make a run at its third consecutive regional title. Tilghman was the runner-up at the Mid-America Summer Hoops Classic tournament last week, losing 45-43 to Second Region power Christian County in the championship game, and won Graves County's summer event in June.

Tilghman knocked off a couple of solid Missouri teams earlier in the tournament in California and Scott County Central, the latter a Class A semifinalist last season. Guard Josh Forrest, who is starting to gain some attention as one of the state's top sophomores, will be an impact player in the region next year. He's bigger and stronger and, as Tilghman's new point guard, is willing to assert himself on the offensive end.

• All indications are that Kaylin Goins, Graves County's starting center last season, will transfer to Marshall County for family reasons. Goins would give Marshall another post player, freeing Murray State commitment Jessica Holder to spend more time on the wing, where she is most comfortable.

Goins was one of four returning starters for the Lady Eagles, who have a new coach in James Forthman (formerly of Massac County) and lost guard Brittany Young, who led the state in scoring with a 34-point average.

• Massac County may be close to hiring a new girls' coach, and it appears the top two choices are former girls' coach Jim Prevallet and former boys' assistant Keith Shelton.

Prevallet led Massac to back-to-back state runner-up finishes in 1986 and 1987 and had kept the Lady Patriots among southern Illinois' elite programs until he stepped down a few years ago after a dispute with the school's administration. He has coached the junior high school's boys' team the last couple of years.

Shelton was an assistant under Joe Hosman in the 1990s and the early part of this decade.

Mid-America moves to June ...

The Mid-America Summer Hoops Classic has been able to secure three dates in June 2009. Event coordinator Dan Hudson said next year's event will be June 17-19 at Murray State University's Regional Special Events Center, which will give some area basketball junkies a nice mid-June fix — Murray State's boys' basketball team camp will be June 20-21, which will mean five consecutive days of high-level high school hoops for the locals.

"Murray State has been really cooperative," Hudson said. "(Men's coach Billy) Kennedy has been a big help, and we were able to get some dates we can work with."

The hope is that the Mid-America, now seven years old, can return to the number of teams and the quality of play that was a staple of its early existence. In the early part of the decade, the event was able to land teams from Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri. Hudson hopes the mid-June dates can restore the numbers to their previous levels and even help the Mid-America make some inroads into Indiana.

But it's nearly impossible to put on such an event in July. Most of the nation's top players are on the AAU circuit then, since July is the prime evaluation period for coaches at NCAA Division I institutions. Starting next year, Kentucky joins Tennessee in making July a "dead period" for basketball.