Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sigler, Morris, Duncan receive state honors ...

Caldwell County running back-safety Brandon Sigler was named the state's Class 2A player of the year by the Kentucky Football Coaches Association, and Mayfield's Joe Morris (Class A) and Murray's Steve Duncan (Class 2A) were named the coach of the year in their respective classes.

Other players named were quarterback Jon Combs of Hazard in Class A, tailback Anthony Wales of Louisville Central in Class 3A, linebacker Lamar Dawson of Boyle County in Class 4A, wide receiver-defensive back Marcoreyon Tandy of Christian County in Class 5A and quarterback Demarcus Smith of Louisville Seneca in Class 6A.

Other coaches of the year were Russellville's John Myers (a former Mayfield assistant) in Class 3A, Allen County's Brad Hood in Class 4A, Warren Central's Mike Rogers (formerly of Graves County) in Class 5A and Ryle's Bryson Warner in Class 6A.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fictional playoff ...

It's my yearly rite to post what a 16-team college football playoff would look like instead of the fiasco that is the Bowl Championship Series.

Here is how it works: seven conferences get automatic bids and another bid goes to the highest-ranked team (in the BCS standings) from the other Division I-A leagues. That gives us these automatic qualifiers:

Big East: Connecticut
ACC : Virginia Tech
SEC: Auburn
Big Ten: Wisconsin
Big 12: Oklahoma
Mountain West: TCU
Pac-10: Oregon
Others: Boise State

Now, we use the BCS rankings to give us eight at-large teams: Stanford, Ohio State, Arkansas, Michigan State, LSU, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Nevada

Very interesting is the omission of Alabama, the defending national champion. For the life of me, I can't fathom a system that says Alabama isn't one of the top 15 teams in the country, but the BCS rankings have the Crimson Tide at No. 16. As it turns out, Nevada — thanks to its win over Boise State — edged out the Tide for the last spot.

That gives us these first-round games, in bracket order:

Ohio State vs. Boise State
TCU vs. Oklahoma State
Oklahoma vs. LSU
Oregon vs. Nevada
Wisconsin vs. Missouri
Stanford vs. Virginia Tech
Arkansas vs. Michigan State
Auburn vs. Connecticut

Personally, I love the Ohio State-Boise State matchup, given the comments of Ohio State president Gordon Gee a couple of weeks ago. Just imagine that if Alabama had gotten in as the lowest seed, the Tide would meet Oregon in the first round.

My solution is this: Use the top six bowl games (Rose, Orange, Sugar, Cotton, Fiesta and whichever other one is your preference) to host the quarterfinals and semifinals on a rotating basis. Use eight other bowl sites to host first-round games on a rotation basis.

Then let the other 21 bowl games invite teams as they wish, and schedule those during the week where they won't conflict with the NCAA tournament games. That still lets fans of the participating teams and college football junkies to watch them — and let's face it, those are the only people who care for those games anyway.

Play out the bracket for yourself and see what later-round match-ups you get. Wouldn't this be much better than the system we have now?

BluegrassPreps.com preseason rankings ...

Note that Paducah Tilghman is 11th in the preseason poll, and the Tornado will face No. 13 Louisville Ballard in the opening round of Lexington Catholic's Republic Bank Classic after Christmas.

Calloway County's girls are ranked 18th.


1. Louisville Eastern
2. Jeffersontown
3. Clark County
4. Christian County
5. Louisville Seneca
6. Lexington Tates Creek
7. Bowling Green
8. Warren Central
9. Pleasure Ridge Park
10. Louisville Trinity
11. Paducah Tilghman
12. Louisville Iroquois
13. Louisville Ballard
14. Lexington Lafayette
15. Louisville Male
16. Louisville Moore
17. Lexington Catholic
18. Mason County
19. Scott County
20. Muhlenberg County

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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

BluegrassPreps.com rankings ...

Final rankings for the 2010 season:

Class A

1. Mayfield
2. Hazard
3. Beechwood
4. Louisville Holy Cross
5. Frankfort
6. Lexington Christian
7. Fairview
8. Crittenden County
9. Raceland
10. Kentucky Country Day

Class 2A

1. Newport Catholic
2. Owensboro Catholic
3. Louisville DeSales
4. Murray
5. Danville
6. Prestonsburg
7. Corbin
8. Christian Academy of Louisville
9. Glasgow
10. Green County

Class 3A

1. Somerset
2. Paducah Tilghman
3. Central
4. Mason County
5. Union County
6. Pike Central
7. Sheldon Clark
8. Belfry
9. Russellville
10. Breathitt County

Class 4A

1. Bell County
2. Boyle County
3. Allen County
4. Collins
5. Louisville Western
6. Covington Holmes
7. Knox Central
8. Lone Oak
9. Franklin-Simpson
10. Lexington Catholic

Class 5A

1. Fort Thomas Highlands
2. John Hardin
3. Christian County
4. Warren Central
5. Bowling Green
6. Johnson Central
7. Pulaski County
8. Covington Catholic
9. Dixie Heights
10. Harlan County

Class 6A

1. Louisville Trinity
2. Louisville St. Xavier
3. Ryle
4. Louisville Ballard
5. Simon Kenton
6. Louisville Male
7. Louisville Eastern
8. Lexington Henry Clay
9. Louisville Seneca
10. Pleasure Ridge Park

Monday, October 4, 2010

New football alignment ...

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association released its proposed district football alignment for the 2011-14 seasons, and there was a surprise or two in the western Kentucky districts:

Class A
District 1 ... Fulton City, Fulton County, Mayfield, Russellville
District 2 ... Bardstown Bethlehem, Caverna, Kentucky Country Day, Louisville Holy Cross

Class 2A
District 1 ... Ballard Memorial, Caldwell County, Crittenden County, Murray, Reidland
District 2 ... Hancock County, McLean County, Owensboro Catholic, Todd Central, Union County

Class 3A
District 1 ... Fort Campbell, Heath, Paducah Tilghman, Trigg County, Webster County
District 2 ... Adair County, Edmonson County, Hart County, Monroe County, South Warren

Class 4A
District 1 ... Calloway County, Hopkins Central, Lone Oak, Madisonville, Owensboro
District 2 ... Allen County, Breckinridge County, Franklin-Simpson, Warren East

Class 5A
District 1 ... Apollo, Christian County, Graves County, Hopkinsville, Ohio County
District 2 ... Barren County, Bowling Green, Greenwood, Logan County, Warren Central

Class 6A
District 1 ... Daviess County, Henderson County, Marshall County, Muhlenberg County
District 2 ... Central Hardin, Lexington Dunbar, Meade County, Nelson County

One mild surprise is Union County to District 2 in Class 2A. It was thought that the KHSAA would put Union in District 1 to allow the district to have five teams even after Reidland is dissolved in the pending McCracken County consolidation. There is increasing speculation, though, that construction delays could delay the consolidation until the fall of 2013, at which time the KHSAA could tweak the alignment at the end of the 2011-12 contract cycle.

The biggest shockwave in the state is the revelation that Louisville powers Trinity, St. Xavier, Male and Manual will play in the same district.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Corey Robinson ... he's back

Two years of rust has done little to slow down former Lone Oak quarterback Corey Robinson, who is off to a splendid start in his college football career.

Robinson is a redshirt freshman at Troy and has put up some impressive numbers in his first three games. Robinson has completed nearly 66 percent of his passes and has thrown for 928 yards in three games with six touchdowns and only two interceptions.

The national high school record holder with 91 touchdown passes in a season, set in 2007 while leading Lone Oak to a 14-1 record and a state runner-up finish, Robinson was picked off twice in his first start, a win at Bowling Green. He has thrown for five touchdowns in losses at Oklahoma State (41-30) and Alabama-Birmingham (34-33).

His biggest issue has been holding on to the ball. Robinson fumbled twice in the Oklahoma State game, including one on a run inside the Cowboys' 5-yard line, but that can be chalked up to a freshman making the adjustment to the speed and strength of Division I defenses.

At the very least, Troy appears to have found a standout quarterback for the next 3 1/2 seasons.

The Trojans host Arkansas State (and former Paducah Tilghman star Bryan Hall, who starts on the defensive line) this Saturday and will play Middle Tennessee on ESPN2 on Oct. 5, a rare Tuesday night game.

Bluegrass Preps rankings ... 9/20

Class A

1. Mayfield
2. Louisville Holy Cross
3. Hazard
4. Beechwood
5. Lexington Christian
6. Crittenden County
7. Frankfort
8. Raceland
9. Fairview
10. Bardstown Bethlehem

Class 2A

1. Newport Catholic
2. Monroe County
3. Louisville DeSales
4. Owensboro Catholic
5. Murray
6. Danville
7. Prestonsburg
8. Glasgow
9. Christian Academy of Louisville
10. Covington Holy Cross

Class 3A

1. Somerset
2. Louisville Central
3. Paducah Tilghman
4. Mason County
5. Sheldon Clark
6. Union County
7. Belfry
8. Pike Central
9. Breathitt County
10. Edmonson County

Class 4A

1. Bell County
2. Boyle County
3. Louisville Western
4. Covington Holmes
5. Lone Oak
6. Allen County
7. Knox Central
8. Marion County
9. Collins
10. Lawrence County v

Class 5A

1. Fort Thomas Highlands
2. Bowling Green
3. John Hardin
4. Christian County
5. Owensboro
6. Johnson Central
7. Pulaski County
8. Dixie Heights
9. Warren Central
10. Louisville Doss

Class 6A

1. Louisville Trinity
2. Louisville St. Xavier
3. Louisville Ballard
4. Ryle
5. Louisville Male
6. Louisville Manual
7. Louisville Eastern
8. Simon Kenton
9. Louisville Seneca
10. Lexington Tates Creek

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bluegrass Preps rankings ... 9/6

Class A

1. Mayfield
2. Hazard
3. Louisville Holy Cross
4. Beechwood
5. Lexington Christian
6. Raceland
7. Frankfort
8. Crittenden County
9. Fairview
10. Bellevue

Class 2A

1. Newport Catholic
2. Danville
3. Monroe County
4. Louisville DeSales
5. Murray
6. Owensboro Catholic
7. Prestonsburg
8. Fort Campbell
9. Glasgow
10. Christian Academy of Louisville

Class 3A

1. Louisville Central
2. Mason County
3. Paducah Tilghman
4. Somerset
5. Breathitt County
6. Union County
7. Belfry
8. Sheldon Clark
9. Edmonson County
10. Pike Central

Class 4A

1. Boyle County
2. Bell County
3. Louisville Western
4. Covington Holmes
5. Franklin-Simpson
6. Allen County
7. Lone Oak
8. Knox Central
9. Marion County
10. Lexington Catholic

Class 5A

1. Fort Thomas Highlands
2. Bowling Green
3. John Hardin
4. Johnson Central
5. Christian County
6. Owensboro
7. Pulaski County
8. Warren Central
9. Covington Catholic
10. Whitley County

Class 6A

1. Louisville Trinity
2. Louisville St. Xavier
3. Louisville Ballard
4. Ryle
5. Louisville Male
6. Louisville Manual
7. Louisville Eastern
8. Simon Kenton
9. Louisville Seneca
10. Boone County

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Minor league updates ...

The minor league season ended on Sunday, and a couple of local products finished their seasons at the Triple-A level.

Shawn Roof, a St. Mary graduate, hit .354 in 25 games with Toledo, the Detroit Tigers' top farm club. Roof, an infielder, began the season at Double-A Erie and for the year, hit .258 in 271 at-bats with 11 stolen bases.

Mike Broadway, a fourth-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 200x out of Pope County, ended the year at Triple-A Gwinnett, going 4-0 with a 5.73 ERA in 17 appearances. For the season, Broadway was 5-1 with a 4.39 ERA at Gwinnett and Double-A Mississippi, with 25 walks and 57 strikeouts in 53 innings.

Here is a rundown of the rest of the local pro contingent:

Catcher Eric Roof (St. Mary) split the season between Low-A West Michigan and short-season A Connecticut, putting up close to the same numbers at both places. His season stats: a .233 average with 2 home runs and 30 RBI in 245 at-bats.

Shortstop Jonathan Roof (St. Mary), the Texas Rangers' eighth-round pick in June, was promoted to Low-A Hickory in the South Atlantic League after getting off to a hot start at the rookie-league level. Between the two stops, Roof hit .266 with four stolen bases in 139 at-bats.

Wes Cunningham, who was drafted by San Diego after rewriting Murray State's hitters' record book, hit .290 with 5 homers and 32 RBI in 207 at-bats for Eugene in the rookie-level Northwest League. Cunningham also drew 41 walks for an impressive .415 on-base percentage.

On the pitching side, Brandon Braboy (Heath) spent most of the summer on the disabled list at High-A Tampa in the New York Yankees' chain. Braboy's numbers: a 3.57 ERA in 22 innings, allowing 31 hits with four walks and 17 strikeouts.

Former Heath teammates Clint Tilford and Daniel Webb spent most of the year at the rookie-league level. Tilford worked out of the bullpen for Tri-Cities (Wash.), the Colorado Rockies' Northwest League entry. Tilford was 3-3 with a 5.45 ERA, allowing 42 hits in 39 innings with an impressive 45-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Webb, who signed with Toronto a year ago, made his pro debut, going 1-7 with a 4.87 ERA after spending most of the season at Auburn in the New York-Penn League. He was promoted to Low-A Lansing of the Midwest League for two starts at the end of the season, going 1-1 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 2/3 innings.

Former Murray State ace left-hander Daniel Calhoun was a swingman for Quad Cities, the St. Louis Cardinals' team in the Midwest League. Calhoun was 10-0 with a 3.75 ERA, allowing 109 hits in 96 innings with 19 walks and 83 strikeouts.

Football classes set ...

Football coaches got the word late last week on the Kentucky High School Athletic Association's realignment for the 2011-14 seasons, and the western Kentucky alignment will see several changes.

Ballard Memorial and Crittenden County will move from Class A to Class 2A. Heath, Trigg County and Fort Campbell are moving up from Class 2A to Class 3A, with Union County dropping down to Class 2A.

Graves County and Apollo will drop from Class 6A to Class 5A, with Madisonville and Owensboro moving down from Class 5A to Class 4A.

The KHSAA decided to go with 32 teams in both Class A and Class 6A, with the other four classes around 40 schools apiece. Supporters of the move say that is being done because those are the two classes with the biggest enrollment disparity between the largest and smallest schools.

Here is an educated guess as to what the Region 1 picture will look like in all six classes for the 2011 season:

Class A
District 1 — Fulton City, Fulton County, Mayfield, Russellville
District 2 — Caverna, Bardstown Bethlehem, Louisville Holy Cross, Kentucky Country Day

Class 2A
District 1 — Ballard Memorial, Reidland, Murray, Caldwell County, Crittenden County, Union County
District 2 — Owensboro Catholic, McLean County, Todd Central, Butler County, Hancock County

Class 3A
District 1 — Paducah Tilghman, Heath, Trigg County, Fort Campbell, Webster County
District 2 — Monroe County, Hart County, Edmonson County, Adair County, South Warren

Class 4A
District 1 — Lone Oak, Calloway County, Madisonville, Hopkins Central, Owensboro
District 2 — Franklin-Simpson, Warren East, Allen County, Breckinridge County, Taylor County

Class 5A
District 1 — Graves County, Hopkinsville, Christian County, Apollo, Ohio County
District 2 — Bowling Green, Warren Central, Greenwood, Barren County, Grayson County, Logan County

Class 6A
District 1 — Marshall County, Muhlenberg County, Henderson County, Daviess County
District 2 — Meade County, Nelson County, Central Hardin, Pleasure Ridge Park

In Class 5A, Ohio County and Grayson County could be sent to Region 2, since there are only eight 5A teams in the Louisville area.

Things could change drastically in 2012, when McCracken County is scheduled to consolidate its three schools (Heath, Lone Oak and Reidland) and Nelson County is slated to split into two schools. McCracken County will compete in 6A. The two Nelson schools are expected to be in the 3A range, with perhaps the larger school in 4A.

That would require several schools to retool their schedules in the middle of a two-year contract cycle, which could end up being a dicey proposition.

Also, schools can request to play up in class, but those requests have to be made this month. The KHSAA will set the district alignments at its Board of Control meeting in mid-October.

Several of the state's top programs could be switching classes. Fort Thomas Highlands, which has won all three of the Class 5A state titles since the six-class format's inception, is slated to drop to Class 4A, as could 5A powers Covington Catholic and Johnson Central. Bell County, the Class 4A state champion in 2008, will drop to Class 3A.

Lexington Christian, which beat Mayfield for the Class A state championship last year, will move up to Class 2A. Somerset, which lost to Tilghman in the 3A final in December, was playing up in 3A and could be reassigned to 2A.

And, of course, there is Fort Campbell, which has won the last three Class 2A state titles and will move up a class.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Football classification ...

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association is looking at football realignment for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and several area schools could be switching classes, depending on how the KHSAA decides to set up the six-class format.

One proposal is to limit both Class A and Class 6A to 32 teams apiece, which would guarantee those schools a playoff berth, and evenly dividing the middle four classes into around 39-40 schools apiece.

If that is the case, look for Crittenden County to move up to Class 2A, perhaps with Ballard Memorial joining it. That could bump Heath and Caldwell County up to Class 3A, where it appears Trigg County and three-time 2A defending champion Fort Campbell are headed to compete in a district with defending 3A champ Paducah Tilghman.

Graves County could drop to 5A if the big-school class is limited to 32 teams.

There are still plenty of issues to be decided. The KHSAA usually uses two-year average enrollments to determine classification ... so will it use the 2008-09 and 2009-10 figures, which are already available, or wait until the 2010-11 numbers come out this fall.

And the KHSAA must decide what to do with A and 6A. One or both of them could be 32-team classes, or perhaps even 16-team classes because of the enrollment disparities there. The six classes could be evenly divided, as is currently the case. And the KHSAA must decide whether or not to let schools "play up" into a higher division.

If Class A goes to 32 schools, there is a good possibility that Russellville, geographically isolated in Class A, would opt to "play up" as it does now, primarily for travel reasons. If that's the case, does the KHSAA then move a team down to fill the gap?

There were 220 schools that played football last season, and that figure is now 221 as Collins High is formed by the split in Shelby County. That number becomes 222 next year when the new South Warren begins playing a varsity schedule, and 2012 could bring all sorts of changes.

McCracken County is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012, and that is the same year the new Thomas Nelson High is formed by the split of Nelson County. That falls right into the middle of two-year contract cycle, which could wreak havoc on scheduling.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shaw in Cape Cod League ...

Gabriel Shaw wasn't expecting to be pitching in the Cape Cod League this summer, but managed to find a spot in the league after not being picked in Major League Baseball's amateur draft last month.

Shaw, a St. Mary product and one of the top relief pitchers for the University of Louisville's nationally-ranked team, is pitching out of the bullpen for Yarmouth-Dennis — in three appearances, Shaw is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA and a save. In four innings, he has allowed six hits with no walks and two strikeouts.

Earlier this summer, Shaw made one start for the Marion Bobcats of the Kitty League to get in some work, allowing two runs in seven innings.

Wright makes Cape Cod all-star game ...

Heath product Chad Wright will play in the Cape Cod League all-star game on Wednesday night at Fenway Park in Boston.

Wright, a University of Kentucky star who is fifth in the league in hitting with a .296 batting average, was originally named as the starting center fielder for the West Division team, but Scott Woodward (who is fourth in the league with a .308 mark) was given the nod.

His performance has probably helped his draft status for next season — Wright, the starting left fielder for the Wildcats the last two seasons, could move to center field next year to replace the graduated Keenan Wiley.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Minor league updates ...

Former St. Mary shortstop Jonathan Roof spent a week with the Texas Rangers' rookie-level team in Arizona and was promoted to the Hickory (N.C.) Crawdads of the Low-A South Atlantic League. Roof could make his debut tonight at Applebee's Park in Lexington as Hickory is in town for a series with the Lexington Legends.

Roof hit .357 (5-for-14) in six games in Arizona after recovering from a broken rib suffered late in the spring when he was playing at Michigan State.

Both of his brothers are playing in the Detroit Tigers' organization. Infielder Shawn Roof is hitting .229 for Double-A Erie (Pa.) and catcher Eric Roof is now at Connecticut in the rookie-level New York-Penn League. Roof started the year at Low-A West Michigan, where he hit .233, and is now playing more regularly at Connecticut, where he is hitting .245 with a homer and nine RBI in 49 at-bats.

Former Murray State star Wes Cunningham, in the San Diego Padres' organization, is playing first base at Eugene (Ore.) in the rookie-level Northwest League. Cunningham is hitting .281 with two homers and 12 RBI in 64 at-bats.

The rest of the local pro contingent does its work on the mound. Former Pope County (Ill.) pitcher Mike Broadway is having a good year as a reliever for Mississippi, the Atlanta Braves' Double-A team. Broadway is 1-1 with a 3.07 ERA with 14 walks and 37 strikeouts in 29 innings.

Brandon Braboy, a Heath product, is on the disabled list at Tampa, the New York Yankees' high-A team. Braboy was 0-0 with a 3.57 ERA, allowing 31 hits in 22 innings.

Two of his former Heath teammates are pitching in short-season leagues. Daniel Webb, who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays last year, is 0-2 with a 5.32 ERA in the first five starts of his pro career for Auburn (N.Y.) in the New York-Penn League. Webb has allowed 27 hits in 23 innings with only six walks and 15 strikeouts.

Clint Tilford is 3-1 with a 7.43 ERA for Tri-Cities (Wash.) in the Colorado Rockies chain. Tilford has pitched 13 innings, all in relief, with five walks and 16 strikeouts.

Former Murray State ace left-hander Daniel Calhoun is with the St. Louis Cardinals' Low-A team in Quad Cities of the Midwest League. Calhoun has split time between the rotation and the bullpen, going 5-0 with a 4.18 ERA. He has allowed 72 hits in 60 innings with only 10 walks and 48 strikeouts.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Regional softball pairings ...

These are the pairings for the First Region softball tournament, which will be held at Ballard Memorial High School:

Ballard Memorial (26-5) vs. Marshall County (25-12), noon
Reidland (30-6) vs. Carlisle County (10-17), 2 p.m.
Calloway County (16-14) vs. Graves County (15-20), 4 p.m.
Hickman County (15-8) vs. Heath (26-11), 6 p.m.

Semifinals, 5:30 p.m.

Championship, 6 p.m.

Notes: The Ballard Memorial-Marshall County matchup is Monday's marquee game. Marshall is ranked 12th in the latest state coaches' poll, with the host Bombers checking in at No. 18. Reidland, ranked eighth, gives the upper bracket three of the top 20 teams in the rankings.

Heath, ranked 14th, is the lower-bracket favorite, but the Pirates beat Hickman County just 2-1 earlier this month and haven't met potential semifinal opponent Calloway County.

Regional baseball pairings ...

These are the pairings for the First Region baseball tournament, which will be held at Brooks Stadium:

Murray (22-14) vs. Hickman County (10-21), 10 a.m.
Heath (13-17) vs. Mayfield (8-13), 12:30 p.m.
Graves County (23-12) vs. Lone Oak (26-9), 3 p.m.
Carlisle County (15-16) vs. Marshall County (18-16), 5:30 p.m.

Semifinals, 5 p.m.

Championship, 6 p.m.

Notes: After three years of getting arguably the region's worst draw, Murray ends up in a bracket with three teams with sub-.500 records. The Tigers have had tough first-round games the last three years, each time losing one-run decisions — in 10 innings to Graves County in 2007, to eventual regional champion Heath in 2008 and Lone Oak last spring.

The Lone Oak-Graves matchup is the best of the first day. Don't be surprised if both teams are forced to start their respective aces — Lone Oak left-hander Lucas Englert, a freshman, and Graves lefty Andrew Shultz, who beat the Purple Flash 7-2 a couple of weeks ago. The Flash pitched Eric Winn in that contest, but expect Winn to be behind the plate on Monday.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Girls' basketball doings ...

Expect Ballard Memorial to name a new head coach sometime this week. The Lady Bombers' job figured to be an attractive one, with six of the top nine players returning, including two-time All-Purchase pick Abby Shelley, veteran Tiffani Hatley and a talented young backcourt of Brandi Jones and sisters Anna and Abby Denton.

Athletic director Kevin Estes has been fairly mum about the search to name his replacement, but there have been indications that one of Ballard's top choices is a retired coach that won more than 400 games in a 20-plus-year career in Tennessee.

Marshall County, of course, is open, as are Hickman County, Caldwell County and Livingston Central.

• Murray doesn't seem likely to repeat its 30-win dream season, thanks to a beefed-up schedule coach Rechelle Turner hopes will push her team to another sweep of First Region titles.

In December alone, Murray will play in Lexington Catholic's tournament, considered the state's best meet, and appear in a shootout at Martin Westview that matches up Kentucky and Tennessee squads. The Lady Tigers' opponent is Ensworth, a Nashville program that was 25-4 last season and won Tennessee's Class 2A private-school state championship.

Calloway County will also play in the event, taking on host Martin Westview, a perennial power that was 27-9 and reached the Class 2A semifinals.

Both squads also host tournaments around the Christmas holidays, and both will feature fine fields next season. Murray's Lady Tiger Classic consists of Murray and Ballard Memorial, as well as Fulton County and Tennessee entries Henry County (the defending champion) and Union City. The non-local contingent includes Clarksville Northeast, Grayson County and Clinton County.

Five of the participating teams — Murray, Ballard Memorial, Henry County, Clarksville Northeast and Grayson County — won at least 20 games last season.

Calloway will travel to Orlando over the Christmas break next year, and coach Scott Sivills' tournament is still looking to fill a couple of slots to go with the Lady Lakers, Henderson County, Graves County, Massac County and a pair of Tennessee squads, Covington and Clarksville Northwest.

Ballard's Lady Bomber Shootout will cut back from 16 teams to eight, but still maintains a solid field. The local entries are the Lady Bombers, Marshall County, Heath, Community Christian and Crittenden County. Lake County returns to the tournament after going 29-4 last season, and Dyersburg is traditionally strong in Tennessee. The eighth team is an unusual selection — Providence-St. Mel, a small Catholic school in Chicago.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Turner: I'm staying at Murray ...

Murray coach Rechelle Turner has quashed speculation that she would be a candidate for the Marshall County coaching position by announcing that she is staying with the Lady Tigers.

Turner, a former all-stater with the Lady Marshals, took to the airwaves on Monday to affirm her commitment to Murray, going on husband Travis Turner's radio show.

She was a natural candidate for the job, given her ties to Marshall and success at Murray, where she has won two First Region titles and established her program as the area's top small-school program with seven All A Classic regional titles.

In 14 seasons, Turner has a record of 262-137, and with the core of her team returning with Haley Armstrong, Shelby Crouch and Janssen Starks, it's admittedly tough to leave.

Turner cited her affinity for Murray's administration, staff and players in her decision. She's long maintained that Murray has treated her well throughout her tenure, dating back to when she was hired as a head coach at age 23.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tracking the baseball districts ...

The Third District race became a bit clearer last week, although not all of the seedings are settled just yet, and next week's showdown between fierce rivals Murray and Calloway County will settle the Fourth District pairings.

Let's take a look at the races that will make the biggest impact on the road to the regional tournament:

Lone Oak has the inside track on the top seed in the Second District, but needs to beat Heath on May 11 to nail it down. Paducah Tilghman is likely to finish fourth and face the Purple Flash in the semifinals, but can possibly avoid that fate by sweeping Reidland and Heath in its final two district games.

Graves County's sweep of Ballard Memorial and Mayfield's sweep of St. Mary means it's likely that the Eagles will take on St. Mary in the Third District's postseason opener. Graves has locked down the top seed, and the Vikings will have to sweep Ballard Memorial this week to work their way out of the cellar.

Even if that is the first-round contest, the potential pitching match up — St. Mary's Chris Hunt (assuming he's back from injury) against either Ryan Hayden or Andrew Shultz — makes it much more interesting than the usual 1-4 fare.

Murray needs to take one of two in its series with Calloway to lock down the top seed in the Fourth District, which would put the Lakers against a Marshall County team with which it split a pair this week. If Calloway gets the sweep, Murray would meet Marshall for a spot in the regional tournament.

• Under the new postseason format, the First Region champion goes directly into a 16-team state tournament at Applebee's Park in Lexington instead of competing in a best-of-three series against another regional winner.

Unfortunately, the First Region didn't get a palatable draw — the 11th Region champion awaits. Seven of the top 25 teams in the state coaches' poll will compete for that regional crown, including No. 1 Lexington Catholic and No. 2 Lexington Christian. Lexington Tates Creek is ranked fifth, followed by Frankfort-area schools Franklin County (13th) and Western Hills (15th), Lexington Lafayette (16th) and Lexington Dunbar (25th).

And you think your district is tough? The 43rd District has five ranked teams — Lexington Catholic, Lexington Christian, Tates Creek, Lafayette and Dunbar.

McClure to Southern Indiana ...

Former Paducah Tilghman basketball star Isaac McClure has signed with Division II power Southern Indiana after completing two seasons at Southeastern Illinois College.

McClure, a 6-6 sophomore, averaged 13 points and six rebounds as the starting power forward for SIC, which finished at 25-11 after going 2-2 at the national junior college tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. He had drawn some interest from some Division I schools — Austin Peay, Loyola-Chicago, Youngstown State and Charleston Southern — but opted to go with USI, which is located in Evansville and coached by former Southern Illinois assistant Rodney Watson.

USI was 24-3 last season and was ranked ninth in the Division II national poll, finishing second to fifth-ranked Kentucky Wesleyan in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. The Screaming Eagles were ineligible for postseason play, spending the season on probation because of NCAA rules violations committed the previous year.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tim Tebow ...

Say this about Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels — he certainly isn't afraid to put his stamp on the franchise.

Barely a year into his tenure, he's taken his second big chance at the quarterback position with the first-round selection of Florida's Tim Tebow in the NFL Draft.

There probably wasn't another team that considered Tebow worthy of a first-round pick, given his slow release and the incompatibility of the offensive scheme he ran at Florida with established NFL systems.

McDaniels apparently sees something that others don't, and it seems fair to say that he shares a few characteristics with his mentor, Bill Belichick — neither is lacking for confidence in their judgment nor their ability to tick people off.

Remember last year, when not long after the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator took the Denver job, McDaniels alienated quarterback Jay Cutler by expressing interest in Matt Cassel, who he had worked with in New England, and eventually traded him to Chicago.

Both are what I call "genius or idiot" decisions. If they work, McDaniels is a genius. If they don't, he might not be in Denver long.

That's the same tack I take on some of my high school football picks each fall. Thankfully, my job doesn't depend on my accuracy rate.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Henley to North Oldham ...

Carlisle County native David Henley, who led Covington Holmes to the state championship in 2009, has been named the new head basketball coach at North Oldham.

It's an interesting move with an interesting connection — North Oldham's principal is Lisa Jarrett, who was the principal at Marshall County when Henley was the runner-up to Gus Gillespie for the Marshall coaching job six years ago.

Henley, a starter on Carlisle's 1983 state runner-up squad, has been rumored as a prime candidate to be the coach at the consolidated McCracken County High School, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lone Oak bears watching ...

Spring break is over, and that is when high school baseball starts to get serious. The All A Classic regional tournament begins this week, and some of the bigger schools wade into district play.

Lone Oak meets Paducah Tilghman on Tuesday at Brooks Stadium after a nice trip to Florida that saw the Purple Flash beat one state-ranked team (No. 18 Glasgow) and two clubs (Glasgow and Somerset) that were undefeated before falling to Lone Oak.

The Flash (10-3) went 3-2 in Florida, also beating a team from Ohio, but the week ended on a slightly down note with losses to Russell County and North Bullitt.

"I think we found out that if we make plays," coach Geno Miller said, "we're capable of beating good teams. But we also found out that when we don't, we can lose to just about anybody on our schedule."

Lone Oak's young squad has plenty of long-term potential — the question is whether it will start to fulfill it this spring. Junior Eric Winn, who is also Lone Oak's catcher, was on the mound for the 7-1 win over Somerset. Freshman Lucas Englert worked five innings in the 3-1 win over Glasgow, getting relief help from senior Jesse Turner.

Englert is likely to draw the mound assignment against Tilghman, primarily because "it's his turn to pitch," Miller said.

Comparing scores in baseball is not a sound strategy, given the differences in pitching matchups, but Glasgow bombed First Region favorite Graves County 15-2 last week. Lone Oak also beat the Carroll (Ohio) team that beat Graves 6-4.

• There is no clear-cut favorite for the All A Classic, which begins on Tuesday at two sites, Murray and Mayfield. Murray hosts for the rest of the week and the two-time defending champion Tigers are again a top contender.

St. Mary is the No. 1 seed, followed by Murray, Ballard Memorial, Heath and Reidland.

We'll take a closer look at the tournament in Tuesday's Sun.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lone Oak-Male ... maybe not

Some overzealous Lone Oak fans took to the Internet this week to tell the state high school football community that the Purple Flash — Class 4A state runners-up in two of the last three seasons — had scheduled a regular-season game with traditional power Louisville Male for the upcoming season.

The reports were, shall we say, a bit premature. The game could happen, although it isn't likely at this point. Here's the situation:

Lone Oak is scheduled to play at Green County on Oct. 1, the return game in the two-year contract — the Flash pounded Green 52-20 last season.

Male has an open date the same week and is seeking to add a game since it lost the next week's date with Shelby County, a Class 6A school which is splitting into two schools in the fall. Male has been advertising the opening and had some discussions with Lone Oak.

The Flash, however, still is contractually bound to play Green County. Lone Oak could negotiate a buyout, but Green might choose to take a hard line because it would cost them a home gate.

Lone Oak would like to host Male next season in the ongoing effort to beef up its schedule — the Flash will also make the return visit to Lexington Catholic, which it beat 52-49 in overtime last season.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Willis to Coffeyville ... sound familiar?

The news that Calloway County football star Tyrrell Willis will play for Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College this fall brings back memories of Joe Casey, the all-state and all-American tailback from Paducah Tilghman.

Casey, who led the Tornado to the Class 3A semifinals in 2003, dropped out of school late in the first semester, a move that complicated the recruitment process. Casey eventually enrolled into a bridge program and was eligible to play at Coffeyville in the fall of 2004, but he opted not to return to Coffeyville for the start of preseason practice.

Willis has some academic issues, which is why he will enroll at Coffeyville. He isn't a qualifier for NCAA freshman eligibility under, so he will have to pick up his associate's degree before moving on to a Division I school in the fall of 2012.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Turley back in the coaching game ...

Curtis Turley, whose long list of previous coaching stops includes Lyon County and Graves County, will be back on the bench next season at the new Martha Layne Collins High.

Collins is the offspring of Shelby County, which is splitting in half at the end of this school year. Ironically, Shelby County is also one of Turley's previous coaching stops.

High school basketball fans should get a medal if they can name all of Turley's previous gigs, which include stops at Berea, Lyon County, Warren Central, Graves County, Henderson County, Greenwood, Shelby County, Lexington Catholic, Louisville Manual and Warren East.

He has been to the Sweet 16 with Warren Central, Henderson County and Greenwood.

One of Turley's first duties will be to try and keep his most talented player in the fold. Freshman guard Darryl Hicks, who tossed in 30 points in Shelby County's opening-round loss to eventual runner-up Louisville Ballard, lives in the Collins district. But there are rumors that he will transfer, with schools like Louisville Ballard, Louisville Eastern, Louisville Trinity and Scott County whispered as potential destinations.

• I was watching one of the Fox College Sports channels the other night and stumbled on the Class 3A state championship game in West Virginia, which was won by Logan over Wheeling Park.

Logan's coach is Mark Hatcher, the son of former Marshall County and Graves County coach Allan Hatcher. Mark Hatcher has won two state titles at Logan, which is also his father's hometown.

The elder Hatcher nearly got Perry Central to the Sweet 16 this year, but blew a late lead to Knott Central in the 14th Region finals. Hatcher has been the regional runner-up in each of the last two years — the Commodores were knocked out by archrival Hazard in 2009.

Minor league assignments ...

Former Heath teammates Clint Tilford and Daniel Webb, both of whom turned professional after being selected in Major League Basebal's amateur draft last summer, just completed their first spring training and are awaiting assignment to a minor league team.

Indications are that Tilford, drafted after pitching three seasons at Kentucky, will be assigned to the Colorado Rockies' short-season Class A team in Pasco, Wash. The Tri-City Dust Devils (love the nickname) will begin their season in June. Tilford pitched last season at Casper, Wyo. Until June, Tilford will likely continue to work out at the Rockies' minor league camp in Arizona.

Likewise, Webb will probably stay at the Toronto Blue Jays' camp in Florida for the next month or two. Webb signed just before the deadline last summer and has yet to throw an official professional pitch. Chances are he will pitch in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, which begins play after this year's draft.

Former Murray State pitcher Daniel Calhoun has been assigned to the St. Louis Cardinals' Quad Cities club, which plays in the Class A Midwest League. One of his potential opponents is St. Mary product Eric Roof, who was assigned to West Michigan, the Detroit Tigers' Midwest League entry.

Brandon Braboy, who also played at Heath, is with the New York Yankees' team in Charleston, S.C., in the South Atlantic League. Braboy pitched at Charleston last summer, moving his way into the starting rotation late in the season.

Two more area products will return to the Double-A level — infielder Shawn Roof (St. Mary) at Erie, Pa., in the Detroit system, and former Pope County pitcher Mike Broadway with Mississippi in the Southern League. Broadway struggled at the Class A level, but didn't allow an earned run in nine innings after being promoted to Mississippi late last season.

Roof, Wright swinging solid bats ...

Jonathan Roof might be playing his way into prospect status at Michigan State. Roof, the former St. Mary star with two older brothers in the minor leagues, is hitting .350 for the Spartans with two homers and 19 RBI in 24 games. Roof is tied for second on the team in runs scored and, perhaps most impressively, has made just two errors on the season.

Roof, the Spartans' starting shortstop since the first game of his freshman season, was also selected as the Big Ten player of the week in late February. He is a junior and eligible for Major League Baseball's amateur draft in June and heads the First Region contingent in the Division I ranks.

The same is true for Kentucky sophomore Chad Wright, who keeps putting up good numbers as the Wildcats' starting left fielder. Wright, a Heath product, is hitting .355 with two homers and 22 RBI and leads the team in hits.

Ballard Memorial graduate James Jones is 3-2 with a 4.09 ERA and has been Louisiana-Monroe's most durable starting pitcher, leading the staff in innings pitched this spring. Jones has allowed just 32 hits in 44 innings with 22 walks and 46 strikeouts.

Chad Edwards, who prepped at Reidland, is 4-1 with a 4.71 ERA for Middle Tennessee. Edwards has issued just seven walks and struck out 25 hitters in 36 innings.

Gabriel Shaw, a teammate of Roof at St. Mary, is putting together a strong season in the bullpen at Louisville. Shaw is 3-0 with an 0.98 ERA and a couple of saves, allowing just 14 hits with one walk and 15 strikeouts in 18 innings for the Cardinals.

Dunn undergoes Tommy John surgery ...

Former Carlisle County star Tim Dunn turned down overtures from the Cincinnati Reds last summer, opting to return for his senior season as the ace pitcher at Trevecca Nazarene University.

The gamble didn't pay off. Dunn suffered an elbow injury a couple of weeks ago, leaving a start in the second inning, and underwent Tommy John surgery last week.

Dunn's college career could be over, although Trevecca coach Jonathan Burton is hopeful the school can secure a medical redshirt for Dunn and enable him to pitch again next year.

In nine appearances this spring, Dunn was 4-2 with a 1.61 ERA on the heels of a remarkable 2009 season, in which he was 12-0 with a 1.81 ERA.

Friday, March 26, 2010

McClure headed to Division I?

Former Paducah Tilghman basketball star Isaac McClure is getting some interest from some lower-level Division I schools after helping Southeastern Illinois College reach the national junior college tournament.

McClure, a 6-6 sophomore, averaged 13 points and six rebounds for SIC, which finished at 25-11 after going 2-2 at the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. Austin Peay, Loyola-Chicago and Youngstown State have expressed some interest in McClure, and Tilghman coach Brad Stieg got a call this week from the coaching staff at Charleston Southern, which plays in the Big South Conference.

Edwards pitching well at Middle Tennessee ...

Chad Edwards is 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA for Middle Tennessee's baseball team, which is 14-6 going into this weekend's Sun Belt Conference series with Arkansas State. In 21 1/3 innings, Edwards had allowed 22 hits with four walks and 11 strikeouts. Edwards, a Reidland product, is averaging seven innings per start.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sweet 16 notes ... tourney observations

Someone in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association office should get a gold star for this display of genius.

Earlier in the week, the KHSAA recognized Edmonson County's surprise state championship team of 1976. As it turned out, Shelby Valley's run to the state title was reminiscent of the Wildcats' ascension to the throne.

Both teams were smaller schools from rural areas and have enrollments in the low 600s. And the general perception was that both benefitted from being in the easier of the two brackets — Christian County, which lost to Edmonson in the championship game, had to survive close games against Ashland, Louisville Shawnee and Lexington Henry Clay to get to the final, and Shelby Valley slugged its way through the lower bracket while Louisville Ballard, Scott County, Christian County and Warren Central fought up top.

In fact, there were a lot of people in Rupp Arena on Friday that felt that that day's afternoon quarterfinal session might be the real final four. Ballard blew a 20-point lead against Warren Central before winning on a last-second 3-pointer, and Scott County fought off massive foul trouble to come from behind and beat Christian County.

Shelby Valley spoiled that premise, however, with an exemplary display of basketball. With Louisville-bound point guard Elisha Justice leading the way, the Wildcats won their first three games by an average of nearly 20 points, then defeated Ballard 73-61.

• Justice's performance has some people re-evaluating their assessment of his game. Justice turned down some mid-major offers to take a walk-on slot for Rick Pitino at Louisville, and truth be told, there aren't many that see him as anything more than an extra body for the Cardinals.

He's a 5-10 point guard and not exceptionally quick and athletic by Division I standards, but Justice showed a better outside shot than many had given him credit for a week ago — in four games, he scored 97 points and, surprisingly, was 13-for-22 from 3-point range. The rest of his numbers (15 assists, nine steals, 10 turnovers) were equally impressive, and he was a remarkable 22-for-23 from the free throw line.

And while there is little doubt that last week's effort sealed his bid to become Kentucky's Mr. Basketball award winner, it's still hard to see Justice as little more than a practice player for Pitino. But, as a walk-on, he will be a nice player to push the Cardinals' other guards.

• Scott County's band of all-star transfers fell short of its bid for a state title, but several players that appeared with the Cardinals in the 2008 version of Marshall County's Hoop Fest will continue their careers on the Division I level.

Dakotah Euton, who had once given a verbal commitment to then-Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie, will play at Akron. Guard Chad Jackson — like Euton, he played in the Hoop Fest for both Scott County and Rose Hill Christian — has committed to James Madison.

Guard Ge'Lawn Guyn, who started his career at Lexington Henry Clay, had once committed to Charlotte but has since re-opened his recruitment.

Some consider West Jessamine guard Jarrod Polson, like Justice, to be a little too small for the high-Division I level, but apparently Polson (57 points and nine assists in two games) has one potential suitor in Mississippi State. Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury, a Meade County native, was on hand to watch Polson play on Thursday, a night after his team beat Jackson State in the opening round of the NIT.

Louisville Ballard's Keisten Jones, a 6-3 swingman, looks like a steal for Division II power Bellarmine. Christian County's Shaquille Wilson has some Division I interest, but he will have to first recover from his second concussion of the season, suffered on an accidental elbow from a Scott County player in the waning seconds of their quarterfinal clash.

Christian County point guard Anthony Hickey (46 points, six assists in two games) raised his stock at the Sweet 16, and Warren Central's junior duo of 6-7 George Fant and guard Jordan Shanklin played well.

The best prospect on hand, however, may have been Shelby County freshman Darryl Hicks, a 6-3 guard who was 6-for-11 from 3-point range and scored 30 points in a first-round loss to Louisville Ballard.

Hicks' destination for next season remains a bit of a mystery. Shelby County is splitting into two schools next year, and Hicks lives in the district for the new school, Martha Layne Collins High. But Hicks nearly transferred to North Oldham last fall and there is speculation that he could end up in Louisville, perhaps at Ballard, Eastern or Trinity.

According to Jody Demling, the Louisville Courier-Journal's well-informed recruiting guru, Hicks already has a scholarship offer from Indiana and could field offers from Kentucky and Louisville sometime this spring.

• Muhlenberg County coach Reggie Warford played at Kentucky, but never took the court in Rupp Arena. Warford was a senior in 1976, when the Wildcats won the NIT and played their final season in Memorial Coliseum.

Jack Givens, a UK teammate of Warford's, was on hand to watch the Mustangs' first-round loss to West Jessamine.

But Warford is getting support from the state's basketballl community for another reason. He was recently diagnosed with leukemia and started undergoing treatment a few weeks ago. Warford's doctors feel that they caught the disease in its early stages and that it is likely to be treated successfully.

Warford is a Muhlenberg native, having played at now-defunct Drakesboro in the early 1970s. He was coaching in Pittsburgh before returning home to coach Muhlenberg's first consolidated team, and he has two sons that start for him.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Oh, those Bobcats ...

Ohio University pulled off one of the big upsets of the NCAA tournament, beating #3 seed Georgetown 97-83 in the first round on Thursday.

The Bobcats' coach is Jon Groce, who actually was Murray State's first choice to replace Mick Cronin four years ago. Groce, who was Thad Matta's top assistant at Ohio State at the time, opted to stay in Columbus since the Buckeyes had a mega-star recruiting class that included Greg Oden and Mike Conley.

Ohio State made it to the national championship game the following season, losing to Florida.

Point guard D.J. Cooper is remembered, not necessarily fondly, by our neighbors to the north in Massac County. Cooper was straw that stirred the drink for the Seton Academy squad that blitzed the Patriots 83-63 in the Illinois Class 2A state championship game, handing out 12 assists. I'm still of the belief that Massac would have beaten Seton Academy, a Chicago-area Catholic school, had Cooper not been on the floor.

During the game, my seat on press row was next to that of a recruiting analyst. At halftime, as we went to the hospitality room to get a drink, I noted that "Cooper's probably a little better than Ohio U."

His response was succinct: "He'll be an impact player, probably the (Mid American Conference) freshman of the year."

I wish I remembered the guy's name — he told me he played college basketball at Virginia and was in Peoria that night to make an evaluation for recruiting guru Bob Gibbons. That's because he was on the money. Cooper, who averaged 13 points, six rebounds and five assists per game and led the league in assists, was named the MAC's top freshman.

Cooper torched Georgetown with 23 points, including a 5-for-8 performance from 3-point range, and eight assists.

Sweet 16 notes ... awards portion

The Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches hands out its annual awards at the boys' and girls' state tournaments, including those for the regional player and coach of the year.

• On the girls' side, Hickman County's Paige Barclay was the winner of the First Region player award that goes to each region's top senior and will receive an automatic invite to the Kentucky-Indiana all-star tryouts. Barclay also appeared in the East-West all-star game last week in Bowling Green.

Paducah Tilghman's Josh Barnett was named the First Region's top coach.

• Carlisle County's Caleb Hardy was the boys' First Region player honoree. Hardy, the Paducah Sun Purchase Player of the Year as a junior, is expected to win the honor again after finishing second in the state in scoring with a 29.3 average and leading the state in rebounding with 13.6 boards per game.

Hardy and Mayfield point guard Tyrese Murrell will represent the First Region in the East-West all-star game on Saturday, and Lyon County's Taylor Gray is one of the two Second Region representatives.

• Heath's Burlin Brower was the KABC coach of the year in the First Region, one of three Heath current and former Pirates' coaches to take center court this week.

Longtime coach Jimmy Long was named to the KABC Court of Honor in recognition of a 30-year career that produced over 500 wins at now-defunct Lowes and Heath.

Long led Lowes to the regional finals in 1981, falling 45-40 to a Mayfield squad that the Blue Devils had beaten in the district finals and eventually reached the state's final four. He also coached Heath to three All A Classic regional titles, reaching the state semifinals in 1994.

One other former Heath mentor was honored on Wednesday — Charlie Hopkins, who coached the Pirates in the late 1980s, was an assistant on Edmonson County's 1976 state championship team that was recognized this week.

• David Smithmier of Paducah was the First Region's top-rated girls' official this season and was selected to work the girls' Sweet 16. Kevin Driver of Benton and Ford Branch of Princeton represented the First and Second regions, respectively, at the boys' state tournament. Driver also worked the All A Classic state tournament earlier this season.

Driver and Hickman County native Will Jones, the Fourth Region representative, worked the Louisville Ballard-Scott County semifinal on Saturday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wright, Shaw off to hot starts ...

Heath product Chad Wright, one of the Kentucky baseball team's biggest surprises last spring, has maintained his level of performance early in his sophomore season. Wright, the everyday left fielder, was hitting .348 with a team-high 16 RBI in 16 game and led the team in total bases before the Wildcats' game with Wright State on Wednesday night.

Kentucky was ranked 20th nationally before Monday's 7-5 loss to Murray State and was 13-3 going into the Wright State contest.

Gabriel Shaw, a former St. Mary star, has given Louisville stellar bullpen work so far this season. Shaw is 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA in eight appearances and has a couple of saves. Shaw has pitched 11 innings, allowing 11 hits with a walk and 11 strikeouts.

Shaw appears to have recovered well from elbow surgery late last summer.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Jones pitching well down south ...

Ballard Memorial product James Jones, now pitching collegiately for Louisiana-Monroe, was named the pitcher of the week for the Sun Belt Conference and the state of Louisiana after tossing a two-hit shutout against Mississippi Valley State on March 6.

Jones, who is now 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA, followed up that outing with a strong performance at conference rival Middle Tennessee on Friday, in the opener of a weekend series. Jones worked eight innings, allowing three earned runs and getting a no-decision.

Drafted in June in the 45th round by the Cleveland Indians after spending two seasons at John A. Logan, Jones opted to pitch in the Northwoods League last summer (4-2 with a 3.52 ERA) and go to Louisiana-Monroe to up his draft stock. The Warhawks pay Western Kentucky a visit for a three-game series that begins on March 26.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Former Racer Fowler gets first head coaching job ...

Cary Fowler, who played at Murray State and later served as an assistant coach under Houston Nutt and Denver Johnson, has been named as the head coach at Tarleton State, a Division II program in Texas.

Fowler, a Hopkinsville native, has been the defensive coordinator at Tarleton the last two seasons after serving in the same capacity at in-state conference rival Midwestern State.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Baseball's "floating realignment" plan ...

Word was leaked this week of a potential Major League Baseball realignment proposal, one that reportedly has the endorsement of commissioner Bud Selig.

According to various reports, teams could change divisions, depending on geography and desire to contend.

For example, it has been reported that a team like Tampa Bay, with all of its fine young talent, could move to the AL Central in a given season if a team in that division wished to move to the East. The idea is that the Rays would benefit from not having to compete against the Yankees and Red Sox, both of which have exponentially higher payrolls and more financial resources with which to assemble a team.

The school of thought is that an AL Central team that isn't expected to contend might want to move to the East, given that more games against New York and Boston might result in increases in attendance and revenue.

In short, the idea stinks to high heaven. If Selig really wants to deal with the financial restraints facing some small-market teams, it's time to consider the institution of a salary cap.

Hayden, Downey, Richerson on state Top 50 list ...

Baseball season isn't far away, and three of the First Region's top players were named to the state coaches' association's preseason list of Kentucky's top 50 players.

Ryan Hayden, Graves County's No. 1 pitcher, heads the list. Hayden also played second base and shortstop for the Eagles last spring.

Two Murray players, left-handed pitcher and outfielder Brock Downey and catcher Tanner Richerson, are also on the list.

Fields' likely destination: West Virginia ...

Some of the buzz at the girls' Sweet 16 is that Calloway County star Averee Fields, who will announce her college basketball plans on Monday, has given West Virginia a verbal commitment.

West Virginia is currently 28-5 and finished second in the Big East Conference and reached the conference tournament's championship game, falling to top-ranked Connecticut in the final.

Fields was being courted by several other Big East schools, including Louisville, Marquette, Villanova and Seton Hall.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fields to commit to ... Murray State?

Lost in the hubbub surrounding Saturday night's dramatic girls' First Region final between Murray and Calloway County was the revelation that Calloway star Averee Fields, one of the state's top juniors, will announce her college choice on March 15.

The kicker is that the announcement and ceremony will be in the Murray Room at Murray State University's Regional Special Events Center, fueling speculation that Fields may spurn interest from bigger schools to stay at home and attend Murray State.

I asked Murray coach Rob Cross, who has been recruiting Fields hard for a couple of years, what he knew about it and got only a little smile as a reply. Really, the fact that the announcement will be made on campus makes you wonder.

Fields has had several Big East schools (Villanova, West Virginia, Seton Hall, Louisville and Marquette) check out her game in recent weeks, as have others such as Michigan, Western Kentucky, Tennessee State and Tennessee-Martin.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Boys' regional pairings ...

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

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

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

March 8
Semifinals, 6 p.m.

March 9
Championship, 7 p.m.

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

Girls' regional pairings ...

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

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

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

(at RSEC)
Semifinals, 6 p.m.

(at RSEC)
Championship, 7 p.m.

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

Monday, February 22, 2010

Kibbles and bits ...

A few notes and observations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 19, 2010

Not your father's regional tournament ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, like I don't have enough headaches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments, anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 1, 2010

All A Classic leftovers ...

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 29, 2010

Boys' Sweet 16 draw ...

This is the draw for the boys' Sweet 16, which will be at Rupp Arena:

Wednesday, March 17
Region 4 vs. Region 16
Region 7 vs. Region 8
Region 9 vs. Region 2
Region 11 vs. Region 13

Thursday, March 18
Region 12 vs. Region 3
Region 1 vs. Region 15
Region 10 vs. Region 5
Region 6 vs. Region 14

Ballard Memorial coach Nick Chaykowsky will be a popular guy in March. His Bombers fell to 15th Region champion Shelby Valley in the first round of the All A Classic, so he has a game film readily available for the First Region champion. Shelby Valley, led by all-state point guard Elisha Justice, is the prohibitive favorite to repeat in the 15th Region.

The toughest draw in the state goes to the Second Region champion, most likely Christian County. The Colonels could potentially have to beat defending state champion Covington Holmes (Christian lost to Holmes in overtime at Montgomery County two weeks ago) and Scott County's band of transfers just to get to Saturday morning's semifinals.

Sitting pretty are Clark County and Shelby Valley, the only legitimate top-10 caliber teams in the lower bracket.

Girls' Sweet 16 draw ...

First of all, the nuts and bolts of the draw for the girls' Sweet 16 at Western Kentucky University:

Wednesday, March 10
Region 6 vs. Region 2
Region 7 vs. Region 5
Region 16 vs. Region 14
Region 13 vs. Region 8

Thursday, March 11
Region 4 vs. Region 9
Region 11 vs. Region 15
Region 1 vs. Region 12
Region 10 vs. Region 3

For the First Region representative, it's a tough draw against the 12th Region champion. Lincoln County is currently 15-4 and ranked fifth statewide in the Cantrall Ratings, while Rockcastle County is 18-3 and ranked 10th by Cantrall.

Potentially, the monster matchup of the first round is the second game of Wednesday's afternoon session, which could be Marion County taking on Louisville Manual — many feel those are the best two teams in the state, and Marion has some star power in Makayla Epps, the daughter of former Kentucky point guard Anthony Epps. One of her teammates is the daughter of former Louisville player Tick Rogers.

Marion will have to get by Elizabethtown in the Fifth Region, and Manual could face challenges from Mercy Christian Academy of Louisville.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hoops talk ...

For Community Christian's girls, the road to Richmond is built for speed. To get to the All A Classic First Region championship game, the depth-starved Lady Warriors will have to get by a pair of much deeper, up-tempo teams in Hickman County and Ballard Memorial.

"In the past, it would have been more of a concern. We did it after Christmas and handled it pretty well," said CCA coach Mary Lee Evers, referring to games with Tennessee squads Henry County and Clarksville Northeast in a four-games-in-three-days stretch in Murray's Lady Tiger Classic. "We're in pretty good shape. Sometimes we get going a little too fast, but that's something we're working on."

In recent years, the All A Classic has become the showcase for CCA's improving program. The Lady Warriors made it to the regional finals in 2007 and 2008 and were beaten 55-52 by Murray in the semifinals last year. CCA is the No. 3 seed this week, but the consensus is that — behind the forward duo of Bonnie Durrett and Cari McMullen — they're a legitimate threat to win the tournament.

Ironically, one of the answers to CCA's depth issues was in attendance as it disposed of Hickman on Tuesday night. Guard Caitlin Rust, who started for CCA a year ago before going off to a military school last fall, was watching the game from the bleachers at Graves County's Eagles' Nest.

"She's already finished school and enrolled at Mid-Continent (University), and she is going to play there," Evers said. "Yeah, we could use her."

• Throughout the week, First Region officials — primarily at the All A Classic — are working with pink whistles as part of an effort to raise awareness of breast cancer and money for cancer research.

Each official is donating at least one game check to the Jimmy V Foundation. Cancer struck especially close to home last spring, when longtime official Randall Cruse was diagnosed with cancer in his mouth and throat. Cruse underwent surgery and extensive treatment, both radiation and chemotherapy, and returned to the court in December.

• How strong is Massac County's Superman Classic? Two of the First Region's top three teams, Paducah Tilghman and Marshall County, were beaten in the first round, as was a Calloway County club that is in the top half of the regional hierarchy. As it turns out, Tilghman is guaranteed to meet either Marshall or Calloway on Saturday in a consolation-bracket game.

The semifinals look like barnburners, with Murphysboro meeting Madison in a battle of teams ranked in their respective classes, and the host Patriots — back at full strength as Cory Ayala returns from a foot injury — meeting Carbondale in a rematch of a semifinal contest last year that went into overtime.

• Paducah Tilghman girls' star Brandy Allen is serving a school-issued six-game suspension. She missed the Lady Tornado's 90-80 loss at Ballard Memorial and Tilghman's 59-50 win over Marshall County on Tuesday night, a good bounce-back for Josh Barnett's club.

• Heath's Tra Tharp could have an eventful weekend planned. Tharp, who starts at off-guard for the Pirates, will play in Friday night's All A Classic regional semifinal against Fulton County, then head down to take a football recruiting visit to Tennessee-Martin. If the Pirates make it to the finals, Tharp will have to cut his visit short to try and help Heath advance to the state tournament.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

All A Classic pairings ...

These are the All A Classic First Region tournament pairings. The tournament will be played at Graves County's Eagles' Nest. Seedings are in parentheses:

(8) St. Mary vs. (9) Hickman County, 12:45 p.m.
(6) Ballard Memorial vs. (11) Reidland, 4:15 p.m.
(7) Fulton City vs. (10) Community Christian, 7:45 p.m.
(1) Heath vs. St. Mary-Hickman winner, 8 p.m.
(2) Carlisle County vs. Fulton City-CCA winner, 8 p.m.
(4) Fulton County vs. (5) Mayfield, 6 p.m.
(3) Murray vs. Ballard-Reidland winner, 7:45 p.m.
Semifinals, 6 p.m.
Championship, 8 p.m.

(8) Carlisle County vs. (9) Mayfield, 11 a.m.
(6) Hickman County vs. (11) Fulton City, 2:30 p.m.
(7) Fulton County vs. (10) Reidland, 6 p.m.
(2) Ballard Memorial vs. Fulton Co.-Reidland winner, 5 p.m.
(1) Murray vs. Carlisle-Mayfield winner, 6:30 p.m.
(4) Heath vs. (5) St. Mary, 5 p.m.
(3) Community Christian vs. Hickman-Fulton City winner, 6:30 p.m.
Semifinals, 6 p.m.
Championship, 6 p.m.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lilly shakes off adversity ...

“Playing the role of Brock Simmons, it’s Austin Lilly.”

That wasn’t the way Lilly was introduced as a starter for Calloway County’s game with Murray on Friday night, but the description would have fit. Lilly tossed in 22 points as the Lakers beat archrival Murray 47-37 without leading scorer Simmons, who had surgery to remove a staph infection from his knee.

It wasn't his career-best scoring effort — he drilled eight 3-pointers in a 31-point explosion against University School of Nashville as a sophomore — but it may have been the game that stands out in his memory years from now, given the ferocity of the rivalry between Calloway and Murray.

Lilly is easy to root for because of the adversity he's dealt with over the last couple of years. Two summers ago, he was ready to give up the game to spend more time with his ailing father, who passed away last summer after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. He eventually rejoined the team, in large part because of the encouragement from his father.

"He definitely had a hand in it," Lilly said.

Lilly has also missed some time this season because of a bad back. “Yeah, it still bothers me,” he said. “I’ll probably need surgery on it.”

Calloway coach Bruce Lane was more than happy to take Lilly back, and not just because of his difficult family situation.

“Austin is a kid that plays hard all the time — sometimes too hard, maybe,” Lane said. “We have to get on him sometimes about gambling too much on defense, but he always puts out the effort.

"And he's been through more than most kids his age have been. I don't know how I would've handled that at his age.”

Friday, January 8, 2010

All A Classic ... Murray girls earn top seed

Not surprisingly, Murray's girls (13-1 going into tonight's clash with crosstown rival Calloway County) earned the top seed for the All A Classic First Region tournament. Murray was the choice of the initial Litkenhous Ratings, followed by Ballard Memorial, Community Christian, Heath, St. Mary, Hickman County, Fulton County, Carlisle County, Mayfield, Reidland and Fulton City.

At first glance, Heath and St. Mary make for an intriguing quarterfinal game, as could possibly CCA and Hickman. A potentially very interesting semifinal between Ballard and CCA.

The pairings and game times will be finalized on Sunday night.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hoop musings ... girls

At first glance, and at the second and third glance, this year's First Region girls' basketball race appears to be as wide-open and entertaining as ever.

Five teams figure to have legitimate shots at a regional title in March, and there looks to be one or two other teams good enough to knock off the top five, although two of the top half-dozen teams will be on the sidelines for the regional tournament.

That's because the Fourth District is as balanced as its ever been, something Murray coach Rechelle Turner correctly noted after the Lady Tigers held off district rival Community Christian on Tuesday night. And each contender has some legitimate question marks.

Calloway County has multi-faceted star Averee Fields, but she has a sophomore-laden supporting cast that needs to provide some consistent scoring punch.

Murray has three tough matchups in Haley Armstrong, Shelby Crouch and Janssen Starks, but all three are underclassmen and have yet to really experience what March is all about.

Paducah Tilghman has two of the region's top 10 players in Chelsey Shumpert and Brandy Allen and the quickest, most athletic team in the region, but can't put much more firepower on the floor.

Ballard Memorial has three capable scorers in Abby Shelley, Candace Bryant and Tiffani Hatley, but starts two freshmen in the backcourt and backs them up with an eighth grader. That inexperience makes one wonder if they can pull back the reins when needed — the Lady Bombers sometimes get a little too hectic in their fullcourt style.

And there is perennial power Marshall County, which lacks a proven scorer and has all sorts of problems putting up points against quality competition.

We can't forget Community Christian, which has a pair of fine players in Bonnie Durrett and Cari McMullen but no depth, and Graves County, which stunned Ballard on the road last weekend.

• The seedings for the All A Classic girls' First Region tournament will be determined by the Litkenhous Ratings, which will be released either Thursday or Friday. Look for Murray to get the top seed, followed by Ballard Memorial and Community Christian, not necessarily in that order. Heath appears to have a shot at the No. 4 seed.

Caldwell County looks like the favorite in the Second Region and seeks to make the state tournament for the second consecutive year.

• The First Region champion has as good a draw as it could hope for in the state tournament, with two very winnable games before a potential semifinal meeting with either Newport Catholic or Green County, which has beaten Ballard in the quarterfinals in each of the last two years.

If Caldwell wins the Second Region title, it would face a potentially very tough game against the Ninth Region champion — Newport Catholic is the heavy favorite there.

A seven-year Holliday?

The St. Louis Cardinals resigned outfielder Matt Holliday, almost on default.

Holliday's contract demands (five or more years and at least $100 million) and the reputation of super-agent Scott Boras scared off just about every other team in baseball. The New York Mets preferred Jason Bay and his more modest demands. Boston chose to make pitcher John Lackey its big-ticket signing. The Yankees could probably afford Holliday, but chose not to get in the bidding. Baltimore reportedly showed some interest, but not on Holliday's financial terms.

So why did the Cardinals give Holliday a seven-year deal for $120 million, essentially bidding only against themselves?

It's a legitimate question, and it's likely to be one Cardinal fans are asking sometime around 2013 or 2014, when Holliday is likely to be in steep decline, not to mention when he's 36 at the end of the contract. Baseball-reference.com lists the top 10 most comparable players for Holliday through age 29, and the list isn't very encouraging. Wally Berger was out of baseball at age 36, as was Hall of Famer Chick Hafey.

Among the modern comps are Magglio Ordonez, whose power took a big dip at age 35 last season. Fred Lynn and Tim Salmon were well on the way down by their mid-30s. And also remember that Holliday's early-career numbers which earned those comps were a bit inflated by his five seasons in Colorado.

Holliday is a fine player, a quality hitter with fairly good power and a couple of 100-RBI seasons. He won't play at the superstar level he did for the two months after the Cardinals acquired him from Oakland, but he's a proven cleanup hitter and, with Albert Pujols, gives the Cardinals as good a 1-2 punch as there is in the National League.

But Holliday is getting much more money for more years than he should, and that presents some problems for the Cardinals when Pujols' new contract comes due in a couple of years. Can the Cardinals afford to keep Holliday, Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright for the long term, especially if the franchise has $40 million or more tied into two hitters? And how will they fill the rest of the roster with the farm system gutted by a couple of recent trades?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hoop musings ... boys

There is a consensus among the First Region coaches that Graves County and Paducah Tilghman remain the favorites.

"There are those two teams, and then a bunch of us in a pile," Marshall County coach Gus Gillespie said on Saturday night, after his Marshals edged Fourth District rival Calloway County.

Presumably, Gillespie puts both Marshall and Calloway in the "pile," and it's safe to say that teams like Heath and Carlisle County belong there. Mayfield could, too, if leading scorer Xavier Shelton had been allowed to return to the team — he was suspended after the Cardinals finished playing in the Paducah Tilghman Christmas Tournament and later dismissed from the team.

"It was a tough call," said Mayfield coach Chris Guhy said, who said that Shelton was guilty of "inappropriate behavior in practice."

• Tilghman hosts Graves on Saturday night, the first of two regular-season match ups between the favorites.

The Tornado's close loss at Christian County, generally ranked as a top-10 team, was a quick start out of the gate, but the Tornado has been plagued by inconsistent effort and performance since then. Tilghman went 2-2 at the Centralia (Ill.) Holiday Tournament, turning in a somewhat listless effort in a first-round loss to a Cahokia club that came into the tournament with a 4-4 record but won the tournament.

Even so, you have to remember that several key players — including starters Josh Forrest, Kris Jackson and DeJuan Edmonds — are only now a month removed from Tilghman's surprise run to the Class 3A state championship.

Graves comes into the game on a roll, having won the Beach Blowout tournament at Fort Walton Beach, Fla., routing the host team in the title game. Center Ryan Vogt had three double-doubles in as many games and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

• Heath is the No. 1 seed in the All A Classic First Region tournament, with Carlisle County at No. 2, followed by Murray, Fulton County, Mayfield, Ballard Memorial, Fulton City, St. Mary, Hickman County, Community Christian and Reidland. The tournament starts on Jan. 16 at Graves County's Eagles' Nest, with both the boys' and girls' championship games scheduled for Jan. 23.

It didn't necessarily surprise Community Christian coach B.B. Kendrick, who has been the First Region representative on the All A Classic state board since the tournament's inception — but it did some of the area's coaches.

"Every year, we vote on the pre-season top five teams and top five players (for release on the tournament's Web site," Kendrick said. "Heath wasn't in our top five."

The seedings were determined by Litkenhous Ratings, which were released on Monday. The first girls' Litratings will be published later this week, and those will determine the seedings for the girls' regional tournament.

It's Heath's third time as the top seed — the Pirates were upset by Ballard Memorial in the quarterfinals in 1993 and won the tournament as the favorite in 2005. Traditionally, the top seed prevails about half the time, 11 times in 20 years on the boys' side.

• The First Region got maybe its worst draw ever in the All A Classic state tournament, meeting the 15th Region in the first round. That is the home of All A Classic favorite Shelby Valley, which won the small-school state title last season and returns star point guard Elisha Justice — he is expected to walk on at Louisville but has also gotten an offer from West Point and may get some more mid-major scholarship offers over the next few weeks.

Lyon County and University Heights look like the two best teams in the Second Region, and either of them would likely face a tough first-round draw in Richmond. Lexington Christian is the 11th Region favorite and stunned Scott County last weekend.

• Massac County's Superman Classic will hold its seeding meeting on Wednesday, and the tournament looks to have one of its stronger fields in recent years. Murphysboro is undefeated going into tonight's game with archrival Carbondale and appears to be in line to grab the top seed, and Madison (from the St. Louis area) is considered one of Illinois' top Class A teams.

Also in the field are three Kentucky teams — Paducah Tilghman, Marshall County and Calloway County — and southern Illinois entries Massac, Carbondale and Vienna. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that seven teams might have a legitimate chance to win the tournament.