Friday, January 30, 2009

Sweet 16 draws

Normally, drawing the Sixth Region in the boys' state tournament is cause to expect a short stay in Lexington. But the western half of Louisville is as weak as it's ever been, and that gives teams like Paducah Tilghman and Marshall County some reasons for optimism.

The boys' and girls' Sweet 16 draws were conducted Friday in Lexington, and in both cases, the First Region got winnable first-round games.

We'll discuss the girls' draw in a moment.

In the Sixth Region, six teams appear to have a legitimate chance — Bullitt East, Pleasure Ridge Park, Fairdale, Central, Iroquois and Shawnee.

Central is the defending regional champion and lost a close game to Marshall County at the Toyota of Hopkinsville tournament just before Christmas, but that was when the Yellowjackets didn't have several football players that had just won the state championship.

Shawnee, which beat Murray handily in the All A Classic, looms as a darkhorse. Pleasure Ridge Park and Fairdale are the traditional powers, but PRP isn't nearly as talented as some of its prime-time teams of the past and Fairdale's club — which may have the best talent — has yet to jell.

The quarterfinal matchup will be much tougher. The Seventh Region might be the deepest and strongest in the state, with Jeffersontown, Eastern and Ballard each among the state's top half-dozen teams. Even the second-tier contenders (Seneca, Male, Trinity, Manual, Moore, St. Xavier) might have a shot to advance to the finals.

Their first-round opponent figures to be either Corbin and South Laurel, the clear favorites in the 13th Region.

On the girls' side, the First Region drew the Second Region, which probably forecasts a rematch of some sort.

Henderson County is the favorite and has lost to both Marshall County and Calloway County, both games coming on the Lakers' home court. Webster County has beaten Calloway handily and Christian County beat Marshall on a neutral court just after Christmas.

It's a winnable game for the First Region, as could be the quarterfinal. Marshall has beaten 13th Region favorite Clay County and lost to South Laurel at the Laurel County Hoop Fest, just after Clay County edged Calloway by two points.

Ohio County is the Third Region favorite and could be a potential quarterfinal opponent.

Here are the pairings for both state tournaments and the favorites in the respective regions:

March 11-14
(at Western Kentucky University)

Region 6 (Iroquois, Butler, Bullitt East) vs. Region 4 (Franklin-Simpson, Bowling Green, Warren East)

Region 7 (Manual, Mercy, Sacred Heart, Christian Academy of Louisville) vs. Region 10 (Montgomery County)

Region 14 (Breathitt County, Letcher Central) vs. Region 8 (Simon Kenton, Anderson County)

Region 12 (Rockcastle County, Lincoln County, Casey County) vs. Region 15 (Johnson Central)

Region 11 (Lexington Christian, Dunbar, Tates Creek, Lafayette, Lexington Catholic) vs. Region 5 (North Hardin, Elizabethtown, Nelson County, Marion County)

Region 9 (Fort Thomas Highlands, Newport Catholic, Boone County) vs. Region 16 (Rowan County)

Region 3 (Ohio County) vs. Region 13 (Clay County, South Laurel)

Region 1 (Calloway County, Marshall County) vs. Region 2 (Henderson County, Webster County, Christian County)

March 18-21
(at Rupp Arena)

Region 12 (West Jessamine, McCreary Central, Lincoln County) vs. Region 14 (Hazard, Perry Central, Knott Central)

Region 3 (Muhlenberg North, Grayson County, Owensboro) vs. Region 5 (North Hardin, John Hardin, Adair County, Taylor County)

Region 1 (Paducah Tilghman, Marshall County, Calloway County, Murray) vs. Region 6 (Bullitt East, Pleasure Ridge Park, Fairdale, Central)

Region 7 (Eastern, Ballard, Jeffersontown, Seneca, Male, Trinity) vs. Region 13 (Corbin, South Laurel)

Region 11 (Scott County, Bryan Station, Lexington Catholic, Dunbar) vs. Region 4 (Warren Central, Bowling Green)

Region 9 (Covington Holmes, Boone County, Fort Thomas Highlands) vs. Region 2 (Christian County, Henderson County)

Region 10 (Mason County, Clark County) vs. Region 15 (Shelby Valley)

Region 8 (Anderson County, North Oldham, Shelby County) vs. Region 16 (Elliott County)


Louisville Shawnee 67, Murray 54

RICHMOND, Ky. — By the end of the first half, Cole Hurt was dragging, and it wasn't just because of the flu bug that he's been battling.

Much of it was because of Louisville Shawnee's backcourt, the quickest and deepest the Tigers have faced this season, and eventually it took a toll as the Tigers fell 67-54 on Friday afternoon at the All A Classic at Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena.

"They just wore us down," Hurt said. "I was tired late in the second quarter, and even (point guard) Blake Darnall had to come out. We had faced Paducah Tilghman earlier this year, and they're pretty quick, but (Shawnee) is a little quicker."

The turnovers started to mount, and Shawnee (10-10) seized control of the game with a 17-0 run in the first six minutes of the second half. Murray was 0-for-7 from the field and committed four turnovers in that time frame, not denting the scoreboard until a Chastin Sheppard putback cut the Golden Eagles' lead to 48-31 with 2:06 left in the third period.

"Not to make excuses, but we only had one good day to really work on their press," Murray coach Ron Greene said. "We needed about three more."

Shawnee's quick hands also caused some problems for Murray's inside tandem of Sheppard and forward Aaron Jones. The senior duo combined for 25 points and 18 rebounds, but they also had three turnovers apiece.

"We just didn't handle it very well," Jones said.

Hurt tossed in 15 of his game-high 21 points in the first half to keep the Tigers (13-5) in the hunt, but he also had the unenviable task of defending Shawnee star Cory Jackson, who is rated as one of the top players in Louisville.

Jackson finished with 19 points and handed out five assists, going 5-for-6 from the foul line in the fourth quarter to seal the win. All of those came after Hurt put up 3-point plays on drives to the basket on back-to-back possessions to cut the Shawnee lead to 53-45 at the 4:41 mark.

Shawnee also got 16 points from guard Kendal Holt, including back-to-back 3-pointers that were backbreakers in its decisive run.

Murray's halfcourt defense, something Greene expressed concern about even while the Tigers were winning the All A Classic regional tournament last week, was again and issue. Shawnee's guards, particularly Cory Jackson and reserves Donald Jackson and Kyle McClain, were able to get to the basket much too easy for Greene's liking.

"We're not stopping penetration, we're not cutting off the baseline and we're not blocking out on the boards as much as we should," Greene said. "I've said before that we've regressed with our defense since the early part of the season, and it's something we need to work on."

Louisville Shawnee (10-10) ... 20 31 51 67
Murray (13-5) ... 17 29 35 54

LOUISVILLE SHAWNEE — C. Jackson 19, Mason 4, Harraway 6, Holt 16, Thompson 7, D. Jackson 9, McClain 6, Newsome, Ponder, Green.

Field goals 25/47. 3-pointers 4/12 (Holt 3, Thompson). Free throws 13/20. Rebounds 24. Fouls 16.

MURRAY — Hurt 21, Jones 12, Sheppard 13, Langford, Darnall 8, Benton, Foster, Fields.

Field goals 23/51. 3-pointers 1/13 (Hurt). Free throws 7/13. Rebounds 33. Fouls 16.

Edmonson County 68, Lyon County 50

RICHMOND, Ky. — They were teammates briefly this summer, but Lyon County center Ramsey Walker had no clue that Edmonson County star Cody Rich would do anything like this.

Rich torched the Lyons for 31 points and grabbed 15 rebounds as Edmonson pasted Lyon 68-50 in Friday morning's opening round of the All A Classic state tournament at Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena.

"I knew he was a good player, but he didn't shoot the ball like that this summer," said Walker, who played with Rich on a team of Kentucky high school players in a tournament in Hawaii. "He's definitely gotten better in the last few months."

Rich, a 6-foot-4 junior forward, was 5-for-10 from 3-point range as Edmonson notched a win in its first state tournament appearance since the school made a surprising state-title run during the 1976 Sweet 16. He also showed the ability to knock down the pull-up jumper off the dribble and was 11-for-19 from the field.

Edmonson will take on Bardstown, a 54-48 winner over Lexington Christian, in Saturday morning's quarterfinals.

Rich had a simple explanation for the contrast between his performance this summer and his play this season, one in which he totes a 22-point scoring average and shoots 38 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

"I had just taken the cast off my foot when I went to Hawaii," Rich said. "I had been on crutches before that, so I wasn't playing real well then, not like I'm playing now."

Told that Walker had said he would rather have seen Rich shoot that well this summer instead of now, Rich smiled and responded "Yeah, I wish I would have shot like that in Hawaii, too."

It wasn't just Rich's perimeter marksmanship that did in the Lyons — his teammates got in on the fun, too. Four different Wildcats buried 3-pointers against Lyon's 1-3-1 zone in the first quarter.

A switch to a halfcourt trap brought Lyon back, and the score was tied at halftime. But Edmonson's Aaron Duncan buried a three on the first possession of the second half, and Rich drilled three from long range over the next six minutes.

"We never saw a film on them because we left so early," said Lyon coach Jeff Embrey, who brought his team to Richmond on Monday to avoid the oncoming winter storm, "and really, what we heard on them wasn't quite what we saw. And we didn't know that Rich would light us up like that."

Meanwhile, the Wildcats' sagging man-to-man defense and constant double-teaming of the 6-7, 235-pound Walker forced Lyon to try and win the game from the perimeter. But the Lyons (15-4) hit just 1 of 16 shots from 3-point range.

"They were bringing the double team from all different directions," said Walker, who had 14 points and eight rebounds. "You can handle it pretty well when you know where the double is coming from, but they kept switching it up."

Edmonson coach Darryl Travis, a Lyon alumnus, credited 6-1 forward Mike Wallace for most of the work on Walker. "He really got in him every time he touched the ball, and didn't let him go forward," Travis said. "He had to go side-to-side, and when he had to dribble we always had someone there helping on him."

Point guard Timmy Perdue was able to take the ball to the basket and was 6-for-8 from the field while scoring 13 points with three assists, but the rest of the Lyons were unable to consistently knock down the jumper.

Afterwards, Travis admitted he didn't particularly enjoy his team's first assignment.

"I went to school with parents of three of their starters," Travis said. "Yeah, I would much rather have played someone else."

As it turned out, so would have Embrey.

"As badly as we feel about the way we played, we know the people back home have had it a lot worse," Embrey said. "We might just keep them up here for a couple of more days because the way things are back home. A lot of these guys haven't been able to talk to their parents for a couple of days.

"The way things are, we don't know how long it will be before we can play another game."

Lyon County (15-4) ... 8 30 41 50
Edmonson County (12-7) ... 16 30 48 68

LYON COUNTY — Peeler 2, Corley 6, Walker 14, Gray 11, Perdue 13, Houk 3, Kinnis, Crady, Polk, Fraliex, Ringstaff 1, Sutton.

Field goals 22/54. 3-pointers 1/16 (Houk). Free throws 5/11. Rebounds 22. Fouls 11.

EDMONSON COUNTY — Wallace 12, Massey 7, Rich 31, Duncan 11, Clemmons 7, Cowles, Wells, Cook, Caudill, Milam, Booth.

Field goals 24/44. 3-pointers 10/21 (Rich 5, Duncan 3, Clemmons, Massey). Free throws 10/12. Rebounds 36. Fouls 9.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Green County 57, Ballard Memorial 33

RICHMOND, Ky. — This wasn't the kind of history Ballard Memorial wanted to repeat.

A year after the Lady Bombers were thumped in the quarterfinals of the All A Classic state tournament, they can be forgiven if they felt they were following the same tired and depressing script.

The return visit to Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena resulted in Thursday's 57-33 loss to Green County, giving Ballard coach Kevin Estes an eerie, sinking feeling.

"It's eerie how it worked out," Estes said. "It started with the same bus driver we had last year when we came up here. Last year, we beat a blue-and-white team in the first round and scored 56 points, then got beat by a green-and-(gold) team.

"Both games went kind of the same way, too. We missed a bunch of shots early, layups and free throws, and we lost a lot of confidence."

Following in the footsteps of last season's 53-37 loss to Cumberland County, the Lady Bombers (16-6) were out of the game by the middle of the second quarter. Green (17-3) started the game with an 11-0 run, then put it away with a 19-0 run that took up most of the second quarter.

Ballard missed 16 of their first 17 shots from the field and was 3-for-13 from the foul line in the first half — with less than two minutes remaining before the break, Ballard had committed 14 turnovers and trailed 36-6.

"That's about as well as we can play," Green coach Chris Blaydes said about his team's first-half performance. We shot 55 percent from the field, forced them into some turnovers and our big girls got out and ran the floor and got us some easy baskets."

Green moved on into Thursday night's semifinals against Sheldon Clark, a 66-47 winner over Gallatin County. Lexington Christian and Newport Catholic collide in the first semifinal, and the championship game is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Estes was also impressed by Green's offensive prowess. Freshman guard Micah Jones, who had 27 points and 14 rebounds in a first-round win over Elliott County, led the Lady Dragons with 14 points and four assists, going 5-for-7 from the field, and center Kelsey Mitchell chipped in with 13 points.

Candace Bryant, battling some illness, led Ballard with 14 points, and Abby Shelley had seven points and 10 rebounds.

"My goodness, they have more firepower than I thought they did," Estes said. "I think they're going to be in the finals, and I think they could give (tournament favorite Lexington Christian) a pretty good battle."

Ballard also could have used a little more time off after Wednesday night's 56-53 win over Monticello that ended well after midnight local time. The tournament schedule has been revised considerably because of the winter storm that has hit most of the state.

Under the original schedule, Thursday would have been an off-day for Ballard, with its quarterfinal contest played on Friday afternoon.

"We could have used the extra day," Estes said, "and instead, we had to play two games in a little over 12 hours. Candace felt better, but she could have used the rest, too. We were a little flat and we didn't come out with the aggressiveness we needed."

Ballard Memorial (16-6) ... 6 14 25 33
Green County (17-3) ... 17 40 54 57

BALLARD MEMORIAL — Hatley 4, Rodgers, Shelley 7, Bryant 14, Ralph, Tubbs, Mitchell, Hudson 3, Polivick 1, Jones, Burgess, Draper 3, Denton, Naas, Dixon.

Field goals 13/46. 3-pointers 2/10 (Shelley, Draper). Free throws 5/18. Rebounds 40. Fouls 9.

GREEN COUNTY — Hartfield 7, M. Deaton 8, Mitchell 13, Jones 14, R. Deaton 7, Marr 7, Bush 1, Walker, Parrish, Shofner, Gettings, Stumph.

Field goals 22/45. 3-pointers 1/6 (R. Deaton). Free throws 12/17. Rebounds 26. Fouls 12.

Ballard Memorial 56, Monticello 53

RICHMOND, Ky. — Candace Bryant grabbed the defensive rebound and turned upcourt with that look in her eye.

With Ballard Memorial needing a basket to go ahead in the final 20 seconds of its opening-round game in the All A Classic state tournament, Bryant took the ball the length of the court, sliced her way through a pair of defenders and drove the lane for the go-ahead basket with 13 seconds remaining.

And after 12th Region champion Monticello missed a 10-foot jumper for the lead, Tiffani Hatley was fouled on the rebound and hit two free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining to seal an improbable 56-53 victory in a game that ended at nearly 1 a.m. (EST) at Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena.

"I had missed one the trip before and all I was thinking was 'Finish it, finish it.' I saw I could get through their defense and I had to go for it," said Bryant, who scored 12 of her game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter despite suffering with some flu-like symptoms.

"My throat feels kind of nasty," Bryant explained. "I just don't feel good all over."

Ballard (16-5) has little time to rest. Because of the winter storm that has prevented several of the boys' teams from getting to Richmond, the girls' quarterfinals and semifinals will be played on Thursday. Ballard will take on Green County, an 84-72 winner over Elliott County, in a 1:30 p.m. (CST) quarterfinal contest.

"We had three girls sick when we lost to Cumberland County in the quarterfinals," Ballard coach Kevin Estes said. "Just once, I would like to get to a state tournament with everybody healthy."

If the Lady Bombers win that one, they will meet either Sheldon Clark or Gallatin County in a 8 p.m. (CST) semifinal. The championship game is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

The frantic nature of the game reflected the Lady Bombers' experiences on their second trip to Richmond. They left on Monday, a day earlier than planned, to avoid the ice storm, then changed hotels on the day of the game after spending the night in a Richmond hotel that has lost electrical power.

Ballard finally found some shelter in a hotel on the northern edge of Lexington, some 40 minutes away from McBrayer Arena.

For a time, it appeared that turnovers would do in the Lady Bombers — 15 in the first half contributed mightily to a 23-21 deficit.

"We just get going too fast sometimes," said center Abby Shelley, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Or, as Bryant put it, "our bodies get ahead of our minds."

Ballard trailed by eight with two minutes left in the third quarter, then raced back into the game with a 10-0 run that gave it a 46-43 lead with 5:07 remaining. Reserve Shannon Tubbs hit an 18-foot jumper for the lead and Bryant hit a pair of free throws after drawing the fourth foul on Monticello point guard Cortney Morrow, who had five assists and six steals, establishing herself as a genuine pest on the defensive end.

After Monticello took the lead on a Jordan Hensley 3-pointer, Bryant picked off a pass and was fouled as she took the ball to the basket — it was Morrow's fifth personal.

"If she was in the game at the end, I don't know that (Bryant) takes the ball all the way down," Monticello coach Marla Kelsch said of Morrow's absence. "She wouldn't have let that happen, and she would have been taking some big free throws down the stretch. She hit six in a row in the regional final to get us here."

Ballard got a reprieve when Whitney Owens and Hensley missed front ends of bonus situations in the final 35 seconds. On Ballard's first possession, Bryant found Shelley in the post with a bounce pass but Shelley couldn't get the shot to fall.

"I was kind of at a bad angle," Shelley said, "I was almost right under the basket."

Bryant missed on a drive on the other end, but when she rebounded Hensley's miss from the line, she was on a mission to score.

Next up is Green County, which might be the closest thing to a favorite in what is generally considered a wide-open lower bracket. Green returns several players from the team that beat Marshall County 57-49 in Allen County's Lady of the South Invitational last season, and the Lady Dragons also own a win over the same Clay County club that has split two meetings with Marshall in the last month.

Monticello (14-8) ... 11 23 41 53
Ballard Memorial (16-5) ... 8 21 36 56

MONTICELLO — Alley 7, Brown 15, Frost 8, Owens 3, Morrow 6, Hensley 8, Crabtree 6, Casada, Anderson.

Field goals 19/59. 3-pointers 5/20 (Hensley 2, Crabtree, Owens, Alley). Free throws 10/17. Rebounds 31. Fouls 15.

BALLARD MEMORIAL — Hatley 6, Rodgers 10, Shelley 17, Bryant 18, Ralph 3, Mitchell, Tubbs, Hudson, Denton.

Field goals 20/44. 3-pointers 2/8 (Shelley 2). Free throws 14/17. Rebounds 40. Fouls 16.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Baseball's "Sweet 16"

Starting this spring, the First Region baseball champion will advance to the state tournament at Applebee's Park in Lexington.

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has been looking for ways to expand the tournament, but two aspects of the plan raise some questions.

For starters, the regional tournament format will change dramatically. The KHSAA wants to play first-round games on Memorial Day, a trend the First Region started in the late 1990s that has become standard operating procedure across the state, then play the semifinals on Thursday and the championship game early the following week.

That works to the advantage of a team that one or two outstanding pitchers and little depth behind them. Frankly, most baseball people I know like the three-games-in-as-many-days format, for it rewards pitching depth and requires coaches to exercise some strategy in juggling with their starting rotation.

Also, the state tournament would begin on Monday and go on all week, and that could be disastrous if Lexington gets two or three days of rain in that time. Applebee's Park's primary tenant is the Lexington Legends, a Houston Astros' Low-Class A farm club, and several days of rain could cause a conflict with the Legends' South Atlantic League schedule.

The rain could also compress the format into a three-or-four-day schedule. And frankly, most high school pitching staffs don't have the depth to survive that kind of grind.

It seems the move stems from a desire to give just as many baseball teams the "state tournament experience" that basketball and softball regional champions enjoy.

That's fine and admirable, but how feasible is it? Basketball can be played every day without affecting the integrity of the game. Softball pitchers face much less risk than their baseball counterparts, which are limited by pitching rules designed to reduce wear and tear on arms and lessen the potential for injuries.

As a high-ranking KHSAA official once told me, comparing different sports are like "apples and oranges." Unfortunately, the KHSAA has gone away from that approach in recent years, allowing more than 85 percent of football teams into the playoffs with a six-class, four-teams-per-district format and now changing the way it does baseball's postseason.

It's all part of the "make everybody happy" approach. Well, as a sports purist of sorts, it sure smacks of pandering.

Indications are that this spring is an experiment of sorts ... well, we will see how it works out.

Sheldon Clark 55, Caldwell County 41

RICHMOND, Ky. — You name it, Caldwell County's performance in the All A Classic state tournament had a little bit of everything.

It was the kind of checklist the Lady Tigers didn't want.

Turnovers. Missed layups. Bad decisions that led to turnovers, and there was some sloppy defense, too.

Throw in some poor rebounding, which resulted in several second chance baskets for Sheldon Clark, and you have the recipe for a 55-41 drumming of the Lady Tigers in Thursday's first-round action at Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena.

Sheldon Clark (12-7) will advance to today's quarterfinals against Gallatin County, which defeated Whitefield Academy 50-39.

Because of the inclement weather throughout the state that has made it tough for some of the participating boys' teams to get to Richmond, the tournament schedule was altered so that the girls' quarterfinals and semifinals will be played today. The boys' first-round games, originally scheduled for today, will be played on Thursday.

"We're better than what we showed here," Caldwell coach Stephanie Crick said. "I'm sure some nerves at being in a state tournament, and being in this atmosphere, was probably part of it, for all of us — the players and me, too."

Coincidence or not, Sheldon Clark's 14-point win was set up by a 14-0 run that allowed the Lady Cardinals to take control of the game. Six Caldwell turnovers contributed to the carnage, which Sheldon Clark coach Darrin Rice attributed to his team's 2-2-1 zone press.

"We gave them the same look, but did a lot of different things once they got the ball in," Rice said.

Caldwell coach Stephanie Crick credited the work of guards Carla Booth, Katelyn Newsome and Brittney Marcum, the latter of which had 13 points and three steals off the bench, including two big steals that resulted in baskets in the decisive second-quarter surge.

"The two guards out front really pressured us and forced us into some bad decisions," Crick said. "We've seen it before and handled it a lot better than that before."

Jayme Jackson, Caldwell's point guard and leading scorer, had an especially tough time, going 1-for-9 from the field and committing six first-half turnovers, contributing to the Lady Cardinals' 33-17 halftime advantage.

Caldwell also struggled from the perimeter, missing its first nine shots from 3-point range before Savannah Pepper hit one midway through the fourth period.

"She's normally our 'go' player," Crick said. "She didn't finish on some shots like she normally does, and it just wasn't one of her better games."

Booth, Sheldon Clark's star sophomore point guard, had 18 points, eight rebounds and a couple of assists. She also drew two quick fouls on Pepper, who admitted her "excitement" led her into trying to do a little too much too soon in the early moments of the game.

"We got into some foul trouble," Crick said, "and our help defense wasn't very good."

Pepper led the Lady Tigers with 17 points, 15 of them coming in the second half. Nevertheless, Caldwell (13-4) couldn't cut the deficit below 11 points in the final 16 minutes.

Caldwell County (13-4) ... 11 17 26 41
Sheldon Clark (12-7) ... 12 33 42 55

CALDWELL COUNTY — Peek, Meeks 5, C. Stone 9, Pepper 17, Jackson 6, Newby 2, Sindelar, J. Stone, Ames 2, Harper, Yates, Williams.

Field goals 15/43. 3-pointers 1/10 (Pepper). Free throws 10/14. Rebounds 26. Fouls 16.

SHELDON CLARK — Porter 6, Sumpter 7, Harless 3, Newsome 2, Car. Booth 18, Marcum 13, Jude 4, Burkett, Cas. Booth, B. Hatfield, W. Hatfield, Hammond 2, Evans.

Field goals 21/45. 3-pointers 1/6 (Sumpter). Free throws 12/20. Rebounds 37. Fouls 17. rankings ...

1. Covington Holmes
2. Scott County
3. Louisville Eastern
4. Jeffersontown
5. Elliott County
6. Louisville Ballard
7. Lexington Bryan Station
8. Mason County
9. Corbin
10. Seneca
11. Lexington Catholic
12. Shelby Valley
13. Lexington Dunbar
14. Clark County
15. Christian County
16. Louisville Trinity
17. Hazard
18. Warren Central
19. Franklin County
20. Anderson County

1. Louisville Iroquois
2. Louisville Manual
3. Franklin-Simpson
4. Montogomery County
5. North Hardin
6. Elizabethtown
7. Louisville Sacred Heart
8. Christian Academy of Louisville
9. Louisville Mercy
10. Lexington Christian
11. Lexington Dunbar
12. Lexington Catholic
13. Louisville Butler
14. Rowan County
15. Lincoln County
16. Fort Thomas Highlands
17. Ohio County
18. Rockcastle County
19. Casey County
20. Nelson County

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Basketball musings ...

Calloway County's 20-point rout of Marshall County sent some shockwaves through girls' basketball circles. It's also a confirmation that the First Region race no longer has a clear front-runner.

The shocker was the way the Lady Marshals melted down offensively without a perimeter threat and in the face of Calloway's decision to go with a box-and-one on Jessica Holder and a triangle-and-two set on Holder and guard Jordan Gilland.

Laken Tabor's transfer to Crittenden County took away Marshall's top perimeter threat, and it was clear that the Lady Lakers were content to let guards Margaret Thomas and Tory Fehrenbacher shoot the three. Even center Hannah Ellis gave it a try.

The result? Marshall was 1-for-15 from beyond the arc, and First Region teams now have a few more defensive options.

Marshall assistant coach Aaron Beth admits his team will have to make some adjustments. He sees part of that as getting an infusion of confidence for the Lady Marshals' backcourt.

"We were really hesitant to shoot it," Beth said. "I've seen Margaret knock down seven in a row in practice. I've seen Tory hit four or five in a row. And we had 20 offensive rebounds. If we take a few more shots instead of passing it around because we're hesitant to shoot, that may have been a few more opportunities for us."

• No word yet on Laken Tabor's status at Crittenden County, but sources said that Marshall County's administration declined to contest the move. Indications are the KHSAA will investigate the circumstances of the move and render a decision sometime in the next week or so.

• Murray expects to have point guard Blake Darnall on the floor when the Tigers play in the All A Classic regional semifinals on Friday night. Darnall has begun shooting and some light ballhandling work and could be cleared to play later this week.

"I don't know how effective he will be," Murray coach Ron Greene said, "but I sure want to get him out there and find out."

• Ron Greene spent more than a decade as a Division I coach at Mississippi State, Murray State and Indiana State, so I wanted his take on Fulton County sophomore Leonard Smith, who had 26 points, 17 rebounds and three assists in the Pilots' overtime loss to Murray in the All A Classic.

"I always say that guys are suspects before they become prospects," Greene said. "He's got two years to develop. We will see how big he gets, but physically, he's already strong enough. He's a heck of a suspect. He's a person of interest."

• It went largely unnoticed, but Massac County's girls made a surprising showing against powerful Louisville Manual on Saturday at Muhlenberg North's shootout. Manual is a consensus top-five team that had taken over the No. 1 ranking in some corners after beating Louisville Iroquois.

Massac fell 61-44, trailing by just 10 points going into the fourth quarter. That's a good sign that new coach Keith Shelton is starting to develop a team that could once again be a threat to make the Class 2A state tournament.

• If the seedings hold, Friday night's semifinals at the Superman Classic could be a must-see doubleheader. Massac County will go for a 20-0 mark against Carbondale and the other semifinal could match up Paducah Tilghman and Belleville Althoff.

Tilghman does have a potentially tough opener on Tuesday. Murphysboro recently got eligibility rulings on two transfers from Carbondale, and both are averaging in double figures.

Football realignment ... more six-class problems

Muhlenberg County's consolidation has shaken up the football district alignment in far western Kentucky. Muhlenberg County will play in Class 6A with Graves County, Marshall County, Henderson County, Daviess County and Apollo and two other districts have lost a team.

In Class 3A, Muhlenberg South is gone, leaving just four teams in the district — Paducah Tilghman, Union County, Webster County and McLean County.

The real interesting setup is in Class 4A, where Muhlenberg North's departure leaves just three teams in the district in 2009 — Lone Oak, Calloway County and Hopkins Central. That means the the district champion in District 2 (most likely Allen County) will receive a first-round bye in the playoffs.

In 2010, Greenwood and South Warren will join the district for one season only. Greenwood, now in 6A, is overcrowded, and South Warren is being built to handle the overflow. Both will have enrollments in the 4A range. In 2011, there will likely be some sweeping realignment — look for Franklin-Simpson to possibly be moved west.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but this is another problem with the Kentucky High School Athletic Association's decision to go from four to six classes in 2007. The field is diluted so much that many districts contain just four teams, which gives the KHSAA less flexibility to make changes to react to moves such as Muhlenberg County's consolidation.

Thursday, January 15, 2009 rankings ...


1. Covington Holmes
2. Lexington Bryan Station
3. Jeffersontown
4. Scott County
5. Elliott County
6. Lexington Dunbar
7. Louisville Eastern
8. Louisville Ballard
9. Christian County
10. Corbin
11. Shelby Valley
12. Louisville Male
13. Lexington Catholic
14. Mason County
15. Clark County
16. Anderson County
17. Louisville Manual
18. Louisville Seneca
19. Louisville Trinity
20. Madison Central


1. Louisville Manual
2. Louisville Iroquois
3. Elizabethtown
4. Franklin-Simpson
5. Christian Academy of Louisville
6. Montgomery County
7. North Hardin
8. Lexington Christian
9. Louisville Mercy
10. Lexington Dunbar
11. Lexington Catholic
12. Louisville Sacred Heart
13. Louisville Butler
14. Fort Thomas Highlands
15. Henderson County
16. Lincoln County
17. Rowan County
18. Marshall County
19. Simon Kenton
20. Southwestern

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pioli knows Paducah ...

Scott Pioli, one of the architects of the New England Patriots' run as the NFL's best franchise of the decade, will be named the Kansas City Chiefs' new general manager today.

He's been Bill Belichick's right-hand man since they took over the Patriots in 2000. He's also Bill Parcells' son-in-law. He's also a former assistant coach at ... of all places, Murray State.

Pioli was with the Racers in 1990 and 1991, working on Mike Mahoney's staff as an offensive and defensive line coach. He left Murray to join the Cleveland Browns as a scout, thanks to a connection he already had with Belichick. Pioli told Mahoney that the move could put him on a career path that could make him the GM of an NFL team.

Mahoney felt Pioli was squandering a promising coaching career.

Pioli made the move, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I tried my best to talk him out of it,” Mahoney told the Kansas City Star. “His mind was pretty much made up. That was the path he wanted to go. But there was no doubt: He was starting at the bottom.”

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jordan's red card rescinded ...

Heath soccer player Brock Jordan, whose controversial red card left the Pirates playing a man down for much of the second half of their loss to Henderson County in the state quarterfinals, will not have to serve the mandatory one-game suspension that accompanies the card.

The Kentucky High School Association, according to Heath coach Mark Madison, ruled that the call was in error and that Jordan will not to have to miss the first match of next season.

We explained Jordan's situation back in October and included a link to a video of the play in question that was posted on YouTube. The video clearly showed that Jordan was thrown to the ground by a Henderson player, yet Jordan was the only player assessed a card.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

All A Classic seedings ... Ballard girls #1

Defending champion Ballard Memorial will be the top seed in the All A Classic First Region girls' tournament, which starts on Jan. 17 at Graves County's Eagles' Nest. Ballard returns every player from the team that reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament last season.

Murray is the No. 2 seed, followed by Community Christian and Mayfield.

Here are the seedings, as determined by the Louisville Courier-Journal's Litkenhous Ratings. The ratings were released on Thursday:

1. Ballard Memorial ... 73.5
2. Murray ... 71.2
3. Community Christian ... 64.1
4. Mayfield ... 59.4
5. Heath ... 57.2
6. Hickman County ... 57.2
7. St. Mary ... 51.8
8. Fulton County ... 48.5
9. Carlisle County ... 44.8
10. Reidland ... 42.2
11. Fulton City ... 18.0

Wednesday, January 7, 2009 basketball rankings ...

Boys Top 20

1. Covington Holmes
2. Jeffersontown
3. Scott County
4. Lexington Bryan Station
5. Elliott County
6. Lexington Dunbar
7. Louisville Ballard
8. Christian County
9. Louisville Eastern
10. Shelby Valley
11. Corbin
12. Lexington Catholic
13. Clark County
14. Louisville Trinity
15. Louisville Male
16. Hazard
17. Anderson County
18. Louisville Manual
19. Louisville Seneca
20. Boone County

Girls Top 20

1. Louisville Iroquois
2. Louisville Manual
3. Elizabethtown
4. Franklin-Simpson
5. Christian Academy of Louisville
6. Lexington Dunbar
7. North Hardin
8. Montgomery County
9. Lexington Christian
10. Louisville Mercy
11. Lexington Catholic
12. Louisville Butler
13. Fort Thomas Highlands
14. Simon Kenton
15. Lincoln County
16. Henderson County
17. Marshall County
18. Southwestern
19. Nelson County
20. Rowan County

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tabor to Crittenden ...

Marshall County guard Laken Tabor, perhaps the First Region's best 3-point shooter, is no longer a Lady Marshal. Sources have confirmed that she has enrolled at Crittenden County.

Tabor, a sophomore, will attempt to play for the Lady Rockets this season, although she may have to wait some time to receive an eligibility ruling from the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.

Monday, January 5, 2009

All A Classic seedings ... Murray #1

This week's Litkenhous Ratings are being used to determine the seedings for the All A Classic First Region tournaments, and the boys' seedings were revealed today when the Louisville Courier-Journal released them on their Web site:

1. Murray ... 68.0
2. Carlisle County ... 67.7
3. Mayfield ... 62.2
4. St. Mary ... 57.3
5. Ballard Memorial ... 57.1
6. Heath ... 56.9
7. Fulton City ... 53.7
8. Fulton County ... 49.2
9. Community Christian ... 37.4
10. Hickman County ... 36.3
11. Reidland ... 26.5

Community Christian coach B.B. Kendrick, the First Region representative on the All A Classic's governing board since its inception, said the girls' Litratings released later this week will seed that tournament.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Darnall injury ... Murray holds its breath

Murray point guard Blake Darnall's wrist injury, originally thought to be a break, may not be nearly as severe. Two different x-rays haven't found a break, but the jury is still out because something else could be revealed once the swelling diminishes. If it's merely a severe sprain or bruise, he could be back in action within a couple of weeks, just in time for the All A Classic regional tournament.

Darnall hurt the wrist in the second half of Monday's game with Mercer County in the first round of the First Southern Bank/Roy's BBQ Classic at Russellville. The Tigers held a double-digit lead when Darnall went down, but fell 65-59 to Mercer. The injury may have cost the Tigers the tournament — Murray won its two consolation bracket games rather easily and Mercer was beaten by Russellville on a last-second shot in the finals.

He isn't their most talented player, but Darnall is the Tigers' most indispensable one because of their lack of experience in the back court, and especially at the point.

Bailey, Kester unsure about college ...

Zach Kester and Byron Bailey, Massac County's lethal quarterback-wide receiver connection, are still trying to figure out where they will be next year.

Kester knows where he wants to be — Southern Illinois. But he has yet to receive an offer from the Salukis. In the meantime, he's also gotten interest from Illinois State and Kentucky State.

Bailey said he would prefer to play college basketball — at least that's his stance at the moment. "If you asked me during football, I might have told you it was football," Bailey said earlier this week en route to earning MVP honors in leading the Patriots to the championship of the Eldorado Holiday Tournament.

He has drawn some interest from one Division I school — Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, which is in the process of moving up from Division II and joining Murray State, Southeast Missouri and Tennessee-Martin in the Ohio Valley Conference. It seems sure that Bailey would have more offers in football, but he admits he's not paying much attention to the process because his mind is on basketball.