Knox Central, HCHS favorites to win region tourneys

Published 1:24 pm Monday, February 26, 2018

It’s that time of year again in Kentucky high school basketball. It’s the regional tournaments and it’s win or go home. While it feels like the winner of the girls 13th Region tournament is set in stone, the boys bracket is wide open with a plethora of outcomes possible.

With that said, here are my predictions for the outcome of the both the girls and boys 13th Region tournament:

Boys 13th Region Tournament

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If I was a betting man, I would put my money on this team: Knox Central

Knox Central has looked like a team on a mission this season. Boasting the second best overall record in the 13th Region, the Panthers have been very impressive on both sides of the ball.

Led by standout Markelle Turner — who is averaging 21.6 points, the Panthers breezed through the 51st District tournament defeating their opponents by an average of 42 points.

In addition to that, Knox Central has a pretty impressive record over the rest of the 13th Region tournament field. The Panthers are 6-2 against the field with their only losses coming against Corbin (who they split games with) and North Laurel. South Laurel is the only team in the tournament Knox has not played.

The path to the championship isn’t as hard as it could’ve been with the chances of squaring off against Corbin in the semifinals highly likely. That game within itself is a toss-up. With that said, a 55-52 loss to the Redhounds in the semifinals a year ago should serve as added motivation for Knox Central.

The darkhorse of the tournament: Lynn Camp

Determining an actual darkhorse in this year’s tournament is difficult because there are honestly five teams who I wouldn’t be surprised to win the whole thing. If there is any team that could get hot at the right time and win the tournament, it would be Lynn Camp.

Outside of Harlan and Jackson County, Lynn Camp boast the third worst region record in the tournament at 15-6. Those losses came at the hands of Whitley County, Bell County, Knox Central (twice), Oneida Baptist Institute and Middlesboro.

With that said, the Wildcats possess the players and talent to surprise some people in the tournament. Tanner Boggs is averaging 25.8 points while shooting 52 percent from the field. He also leads the team in rebounding with 6.1 per game.

Max Burd and Jacob Bundy also provide an offensive spark for Lynn Camp with the duo averaging 13.2 and 11.2 points per game, respectively.

The Wildcats face a tough challenge in their opening game against North Laurel, but an upset their could give Lynn Camp an opportunity to square off against a more reasonable opponent in the semifinals.

Let’s not forget that a very similar Wildcat team almost upset eventual 13th Region champion Harlan County in the opening round of the regional tournament just one year ago.

Girls 13th Region Tournament

If I was a betting man, I would put my money on this team: Harlan County

When the season opened up, it almost felt predetermined that Harlan County was going to win the girls regional tournament. Returning essentially their whole team plus added determination after being beaten by Harlan a year ago, it felt like it was the Lady Black Bears’ title to lose.

Then Kaylea Gross went down with an injury after averaging 14.8 points per game in the first five games. While things looked grim after the loss, Harlan County continued dominating the competition.

The Lady Black Bears enter the 13th Region tournament undefeated in region play (15-0) while boasting an 8-0 record against the field. The only two teams in the tournament Harlan County hasn’t played this year are Pineville — who they open the tournament against — and Jackson County.

Of the teams in the field, Whitley County came the closest to defeating the Lady Black Bears in the regular season losing 62-61. With Blair Green leading the way, it still feels like the regional tournament is Harlan County’s to lose.

The darkhorse of the tournament: North Laurel

If this was a question of the dark horse to reach the tournament finals, then the answer would have been Harlan. But to win the tournament, you have to have the tools to defeat Harlan County. North Laurel is the only team on the opposite side of the bracket that has those weapons.

While the Lady Jags have losses to South Laurel, Whitley County and Harlan County, it’s North Laurel’s ability to shoot the ball that makes them a possible candidate to win the whole tournament.

As a whole, the team is shooting 33.2 percent from beyond the arc with three players averaging double digits. Madison Sheppard leads the way with 15.7 points. Hannah Lawson and Gracie Jervis is tallying 13.4 and 11.7 points per game, respectively.

Sheppard and Lawson also lead the team in rebounds.

To make it to the finals, the Lady Jags may have to avenge an earlier season loss to Whitley County if the Lady Colonels make it past Knox Central in the opening round.

Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN