Few events in the world of sports can match the passion and intensity of Kentucky high school basketball in March. With only one class and 16 regions the margin for error is slim and the chance to play on the floor of Rupp Arena can quickly slip away. Tomorrow night the quest to win a state title begins for the remaining 128 teams from around the Commonwealth. Which ones have the best chance to get it done? Find out with KSR Preps’ region 9-16 preview:
Favorite: Covington Catholic
Dark Horse: Cooper
Region 9 Preview:
Covington Catholic is the favorite to win their second state championship in three years behind the play of junior Cole VonHandorf. The Colonels were a contender last year as well but the budding powerhouse fell to eventual champ Owensboro in the Final Four. Getting out of the Northern Kentucky region isn’t going to be easy for Cov Cath as Newport Central, Cooper, and Holy Cross are all legit challenges. However, a favorable draw means they won’t see any of those teams until the region 9 title game.
Dark Horse: Augusta
Region 10 Preview:
The fighting George Clooneys of Augusta have won 11 of their last 12 to storm into the dark horse leader for the region 10 crown. The Paris Independent School System, or PISS for short, has one of the strongest teams with a 13-3 mark against region 10 foes. And don’t count out the Camels of Campbell County. The defending champs are also coming in hot but will face a tough road to return to Rupp.
Dark Horse: Scott County
Region 11 Preview:
Welcome to the loaded 11th region where at least four teams are a threat to win the entire Sweet 16. Dunbar is the favorite with a top 5 state ranking and a 17-2 record against 11th region opponents. Henry Clay gave Dunbar one of those two losses and is a legitimate top 5 team. Scott County beat Henry Clay twice in the regular season before falling in the district championship. The Cards are one of the youngest teams in the state and avoiding PLD and Clay until the regional championship could have them reaching Rupp ahead of schedule. Madison Central beat Dunbar on the road this year and a Richmond crowd could propel them to a regional crown. The eleventh may have better basketball than the eventual sweet 16.
Favorite: Mercer County
Dark Horse: Southwestern
Region 12 Preview:
Mercer County is one of the top teams in the state following the offseason addition of scoring sensation Dylan James. James, is shooting over 40% from beyond the arc and joined the 2000 point club as a junior earlier this season. He has a legitimate shot to join the exclusive 3000 point club which has only added 3 players since the year 2000. The Titans will put a 30-1 record on the line in the region 12 championship but will face a tough challenge out of Southwestern. Southwestern played Mercer within three in the final game of the season and lost some other close games down the stretch. The Warriors have something to prove this week.
Favorite: South Laurel
Dark Horse: Clay County
Region 13 Preview:
Only one set of genes could produce a Kentucky beard as majestic as the facial hair that appeared in State Tournament two years ago. Trey Farmer, the son of Kentucky legend Richie Farmer, is now a senior and aims to get his pack of Tigers back into Rupp Arena. The region is tough with strong teams out of London, a solid Harlan County squad, and the fighting Matt Jones out of Bell County. It’s been nearly 30 years since the legendary title games of Clay County and Ballard, could we see a bit of history repeating?
The Favorite: Perry County Central
Our Favorite: Buckhorn Mullets
Perry County Central is the best team in the region but here at KSR we’re going to be pulling for the Buckhorn Wildcats. Those mullets deserve to make an appearance in Rupp Arena due to their contributions to the Commonwealth over the last couple years. Everybody make the trip to Knott Central to show some support.
Region 14 Preview:
Favorite: Lawrence County
Dark Horse: Johnson Central
Region 15 Preview:
Lawrence County is one of the best teams from the mountains this year with a record of 26-4. Johnson Central has won the region the past four years and took the Bulldogs to overtime on their home floor. If both teams can navigate to the Region 15 finals then prepare for an epic showdown in Pikeville.
Co-Favorites: Elliott County – Rowan County – Boyd County
Region 16 Preview:
Region 16 is as wide-open as any other region in the state. I like Elliott County’s chances to repeat since they won’t have to see the other two favorites until the championship. In March it’s all about the draw.