Kentucky High School Basketball Regional Tournament Preview: Regions 1-8

On3 imageby:Brady Byrdwell03/04/24

BbyrdwellKSR

This is March. Simply put this month is like Christmas for every basketball fan. As the Wildcats finish off the regular season this week, people all around Kentucky will be flocking to their local high schools for even more high-stakes basketball.

This week marks the start of regional tournaments for high school basketball in Kentucky. District tournaments happened all around the bluegrass last week, setting up brackets for all 16 regions.

With a ticket to Rupp Arena on the line, KSR is here to give you a wide look at the entire state. From the dominant 11th Region of Lexington to the plains of Lyon County and the 2nd Region, KSR has you covered. Look out for game recaps and regional tournament coverage by following myself (@BByrdwellKSR) and Piper McCoun (@PiperMcCounKSR)!

1st Region

With the power of Lexington, Louisville, and Eastern Kentucky schools, Western KY has been known to have less-than-stellar runs at Rupp Arena. This season may be more of the same for the 1st Region. None of the squads are in the KSR Top 25, but the records of McCracken County and Marshall County saw them both only suffer seven losses this season.

Murray is also a good squad with a 23-9 record and a 15-3 record in the region. Whoever wins the second-round matchup of Murray and McCracken County will be seen as the favorite entering a plausible final matchup with Marshall County.

The only other real threat to punch a ticket to Rupp Arena is Calloway County, as their 10-4 record in the region is third best. However, this is McCracken County’s to lose, and there is a good chance the Mustangs are riding to Rupp Arena. Connor Miller and Jackson Klope lead the Mustangs, both averaging over 15 ppg this season.

Prediction: McCracken County

2nd Region

The 2nd Region is sneakily one of the most exciting regions in Kentucky.

Entering the tournament, all of the talk will be on Lyon County’s Travis Perry. I mean, he’s only the likely Mr. Basketball award winner, the all-time leading scorer in the state, committed to Kentucky, and a top-100 recruit nationally. Perry is averaging a ridiculous 30.1 ppg this season for the Lyons. Not to mention FGCU commit Jack Reddick and UT Martin commit Brady Shoulders. Do not fall into the trap of thinking Reddick and Shoulders are riding the success of Perry; these dudes can play. Lyon County’s 29-3 record is one of the best in Kentucky. 

So surely the Lyons will waltz into Rupp Arena for Perry’s coronation on his future home floor, right? Wrong. Henderson County is ranked 12th in the KSR top 25 and even owns a 79-73 road victory over Lyon County (with no Jack Reddick). The Colonels are led by Cooper Davenport, a 5-11 junior guard averaging a little over 14 points per game this season. Henderson County has multiple guys that can get a bucket and are one of the more balanced teams in the top 25.

Prediction: Lyon County

3rd Region

The 3rd Region is really a three-horse race. Butler County is the favorite due to their 12-0 record in the region. The Bears are led by junior guard Ty Price, who is fifth in the state in scoring with 28.9 ppg. Price has a burner and is known as having one of the best three-point jumpers in Kentucky.

Daviess County will meet Butler County in the first round of the regional tournament. The Panthers are 24-7 on the year and 13-3 in the 3rd Region. Owensboro Catholic is hot coming off a 9th District championship win over Daviess County, and is a real threat to win the region. Owensboro Catholic is led by Luke Beickman, a junior forward averaging 20.7 ppg this season.

Prediction: Owensboro Catholic

4th Region

Kentucky’s 4th Region features the defending state champions in Warren Central. However, the region has been dominated by last year’s runner-ups in the 4th, the seventh-ranked Bowling Green Purples.

Coach DG Sherrill’s squad is led by senior MJ Wardlow, senior Mason Ritter, and junior Deuce Bailey. The Purples gave DOMINATED western Kentucky to the tune of a 12-0 regional record and a 27-5 record overall. In fact, since December Bowling Green has only suffered ONE LOSS. This loss came in double overtime to Lyon County in the Akridge Ace Hardware Shootout. It took 46 points from Travis Perry to take down the Purples on February 10th. Behind Wardlow and company, Bowling Green will dominate the 4th this week, and should be in Rupp Arena at the end of March.

Prediction: Bowling Green

5th Region

There are no two ways about it, Kentucky’s 5th Region is a complete scramble this season. Usually dominant, John Hardin is, well, really bad this season. The Bulldogs are 5-27 on the year and (obviously) did not make the 5th Region tournament bracket. The 2000 State Champions Elizabethtown Panthers have won some big games, including wins over Bowling Green, Warren Central, and Taylor County. However, E-Town has also suffered 10 losses this season including six within the 5th Region.

Adair County may be the favorites, as their 25-7, 13-3 record is the most impressive among the region. However, Adair just lost to Taylor County in the 20th District championship, a Taylor County team that is 19-12. This leaves LaRue County with their 22-9, 13-5 record.

LaRue enters the 5th Region tournament on an eight-game winning streak, but also their last loss came to Green County, which is 17-14. Taylor County and North Hardin won their districts and are hot entering March, but again, both have lost games that question their season’s work. If you want to see some real March Madness, check out the 5th Region tournament at Green County this week.

All this being said, I feel that North Hardin is the most talented squad and trust their 14-2 regional record to end up carrying the Trojans to their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2010.

Prediction: North Hardin

6th Region

The 6th Region tournament is set up perfect for a top-25 matchup with a ticket to Rupp on the line. If everything goes to chalk, #25 Fairdale and #8 Evangel Christian will meet on March 12th for the title.

Evangel Christian is a very good team, one that has only lost six games this season. Evangel is led by the senior guard duo of Christian Doerr (16.7 ppg) and Kyran Tilley (17.5 ppg). Tilley and Doerr are one of the best backcourts in Louisville, both will small D1 interest and offers ranging below that. Both are going to put a LOT of programs on notice if they dominate the 6th Region tournament on their way to Rupp Arena.

As mentioned, Fairdale is seen as Evangel’s biggest competition. The Bulldogs have an identical 26-6 record with a great 16-1 record in the region. Evangel and Fairdale did not meet this season, so a matchup is highly sought after by fans around Kentucky. Not to be outshined, #17 DeSales is a real threat to win the 6th Region. While DeSales has more losses than the previous squads, they have played some of the best teams in the state. This includes Male, St. X, Covington Catholic, Trinity, and Lyon County, all close losses for the Colts.

Within the region, the Bulldogs are a perfect 6-0, and dog walked Butler 77-49 for a 22nd District Championship. DeSales’ senior guard Damone King is averaging 20.1 ppg with 624 total points this season. King is known around the 6th as the best player in the region, and he’s earned that title. I’m going to trust the strength of schedule and the talent of King

Prediction: DeSales

7th Region

Now, onto the 7th Region, usually the most talented region in Kentucky. Most of Louisville’s talent is shown in the 7th every year, and this year is no different.

The usual suspects St. Xavier and Trinity both enter the tournament with top-10 ranking — X at six and the Shamrocks at nine. DuPont Manual and Male are ranked 18th and 19th, respectively, and have enjoyed great seasons. Male is looking for the first regional three-peat since they did it from 2000-2002.

However, most would feel that St. X and Trinity are the far-and-away favorites entering the tournament. St. Xavier is led by junior Chance Dillingham, who is averaging 17.5 ppg and has been dominating as of late. Trinity is led by four-star top-50 recruit sophomore Jayden Johnson. Johnson is a sought-after recruit with offers from Ohio State, Indiana, Xavier, Cincinnati, Missouri, Michigan, and more.

Trinity beat St. X behind Johnson’s 19 points in an 81-59 victory. This followed a matchup where St. X defeated Trinity a couple of weeks prior by a point in the LIT semis. Trinity lost to Male on December 1st at the beginning of the year behind Cole Edelen and Jayson Gasaway. However, Male is coming off a 66-77 loss to St. X in the 26th District tournament, causing havoc on who the favorite is in the regional tournament. It’s really a three-horse race, and any pick is about as justified as the others.

Prediction: St. Xavier

8th Region

Kentucky’s 8th Region features the #15, #16, and #21 teams in the state. North Oldham holds the highest ranking with their 26-5 record and 10-1 mark in the region. Just behind is the reigning champions of the 8th, Woodford County. Even without former Yellow Jacket Jasper Johnson, Woodford holds a 25-5 record and 10-1 in the region.

As you can see, Woodford County and North Oldham are very close in comparison. Woodford is led by Layton Starks, Omari Jointer, Jaunte Jenkins, and Santonio Waide. A very solid group that has enjoyed success all season. North Oldham, on the other hand, has a three-headed monster of Grant Neal, Jack Fischer, and Ryan Howard. David Levitch’s Mustangs can score with the best in the state and have improved defensively throughout the season. Grant Neal averages more than 20 per game and is an all-time 1,000-point scorer for the Mustangs.

Top-25 team Oldham County was knocked out by South Oldham by a point in the 29th District playoff, an upset that sent shockwaves through Kentucky. That means state-leading scorer Max Green (32.1 ppg) and Holy Cross commit will not compete in the 8th Region playoff.

In this battle for the 8th, I have North Oldham avenging their loss last season to Woodford in the regional tournament and capturing the region.

Prediction: North Oldham

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2024-04-22