Archive for February, 2009

Mid-district week

Interesting elimination games are popping up all over the place within the 12th Region, particularly in the boys district tournaments. I’ve seen three compelling boys games in the last two nights, but I’m sorry I missed the smiles in Somerset when Casey County finally found its way back to the regional tournament.

The Rebels defeated Pulaski County in a 47th District semifinal Wednesday night to earn its first regional berth in 11 years. To put it another way, this year’s Casey seniors were first-graders the last time their team played in a regional tourney game.

Regional games — and regional wins — used to be commonplace for Casey, as Jeff Bastin of The Casey County News reminded his readers in his column this week (which was published before Wednesday’s game). And as their 9-18 record reminds us, the Rebels are still a long way from their salad days of the three decades before this one.

One win over Pulaski doesn’t fix all that ails the program, but it’s a pretty good Band-Aid. The players and coaches and fans at Casey want better things for their in the coming years, and getting back into the regional is an important first step. The next step is making sure it doesn’t take another 11 years to get back.

Elsewhere around the region, Danville’s win over Garrard County in the 45th looks like an upset on paper, but it was a win I thought the Admirals were very capable of, and it was a bad matchup at a bad time for the Golden Lions. They played some of their worst games late in the season, and coach Lee DeForest said Wednesday’s game was probably their worst of the year.

The real surprise came in the preceding game, where Boyle County took Lincoln County to overtime before the Patriots prevailed. It was several notches below Lincoln’s best game, although the Pats looked pretty impressive in overtime, and it was a better effort by Boyle than in just about any of its other late-season games.

There was also a gem on Tuesday night in the 46th, where East Jessamine lost a double-digit lead to Mercer County, then won by two points. The first half of that game wasn’t much, but the second half more than made up for it. And there figures to be one more good one tonight at Monticello, where McCreary Central and Southwestern play the only remaining elimination game in the 48th.

There has been less drama on the girls side, with the exception of Casey’s narrow win over Somerset in the 47th. The margin of victory in every other game has been in double digits.

So the list of qualifiers for next week’s 12th Region Tournaments is nearly complete. Here’s who’s in, with one spot still open for the McCreary or Southwestern boys.

Girls

  • 45th District: Boyle County, Lincoln County
  • 46th District: East Jessamine, Mercer County
  • 47th District: Casey County, Rockcastle County
  • 48th District: Southwestern, Wayne County

Boys

  • 45th District: Danville, Lincoln County
  • 46th District: East Jessamine, West Jessamine
  • 47th District: Casey County, Rockcastle County
  • 48th District: Wayne County

Three girls finals (46th, 47th and 48th) and one or two boys finals (46th and 48th if Southwestern wins tonight) will be the same as last year. Girls titles will be decided tonight in the 45th, 46th and 47th districts and Friday in the 48th, while the boys will play title games Friday in the 45th, 46th and 47th and Saturday in the 48th.

Regional pairings will be drawn Saturday for the girls tournament at Pulaski and Sunday for the boys tournament at Lincoln. The girls tourney starts first with first-round games Monday and Tuesday; boys first-round games will be the following two days.

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What I know now

Several months ago, before high school basketball teams even held their first practice, I formed the carefully thought-out opinion — which appeared in two preseason forecasts — that the McCreary Central boys and Rockcastle County girls would win the 12th Region this year.

I’d like to take one of them back now, please.

As the postseason begins, I’m still confident in the Rockcastle girls, who have won two of the last three 12th Region titles and four regional championships in the last five years in all. But I don’t feel so good about the McCreary boys, who lost 11 games in the regular season and face the most interesting elimination game in the entire region this week.

I realized even last summer that picking the Raiders was a risk, because this was a team that hasn’t even made the 12th Region Tournament since 2006, when it lost to Boyle County in the semifinals. But I thought that as the 12th took a downturn — and make no mistake, this is a down year for boys teams in the 12th — that standout Aaron Watts would give McCreary an edge in what looks like a wide-open field.

Now the field doesn’t look as wide-open as it did even a month ago, and McCreary certainly doesn’t look like the team to beat. The Raiders went just 9-5 within the region this season, and three of those losses came within their own district, the 48th. One was at home against Southwestern, the team they’ll play in their district semifinal Thursday.

McCreary could still win it, along with as many as five other teams. (Though I’m starting to think that number is too high.) But I’m looking to a familiar place as I revise my pick for the start of the postseason. I’m looking to Lincoln County.

Lincoln looks almost nothing like its team that won the last two titles, but the Patriots still look pretty good. They have the best intra-regional record at 15-3, and I’m inclined to throw out two of those losses: a holiday tournament loss to Danville in Lexington and a clunker against Southwestern that was their only regional loss in the last month.

Ethan Spurlin has shined all season for Lincoln, and players who didn’t see much action last year seem to be getting better by the week. And remember that the Patriots will be home for the regional, so they’ll be an even tougher out once coach Jeff Jackson turns up the thermostat to 80 degrees or so and the Lincoln fans turn out in droves.

As for the girls, I have pledged to stick with Rockcastle until someone  takes them out. And while there are two very good teams — Casey County and Lincoln County — capable of doing so, the Lady Rockets’ depth of talent and tournament experience give them the edge in my book.

Rockcastle lost once to Casey and once to Lincoln during the season, but the Lady Rockets proved last year that such losses matter little when they defeated Casey in both the district and regional finals after losing two regular-season games to the Lady Rebels.

If any of the three aformentioned teams wins the girls 12th, the region will have a pretty good representative at the Girls Sweet Sixteen. All three were among the top 16 teams in the final Bluegrasspreps.com rankings, with Rockcastle at No. 9, Lincoln at No. 14 and Casey at No. 16.

Now that I’ve stuck my neck out in picking the regional winners, here’s who I think will fill out the regional fields next week in Somerset and Stanford:

Boys

  • 45th District: 1. Lincoln County; 2. Danville.
  • 46th District: 1. West Jessamine; 2. East Jessamine.
  • 47th District: 1. Casey County; 2. Somerset.
  • 48th District: 1. Southwestern; 2. Wayne County.

Girls

  • 45th District: 1. Lincoln County; 2. Garrard County.
  • 46th District: 1. Mercer County; 2. East Jessamine.
  • 47th District: 1. Rockcastle County; 2. Casey County.
  • 48th District: 1. Wayne County; 2. Southwestern.
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District tournament schedules

It’s hard to believe that the high school basketball season is almost over, but here we are at the final weekend of the regular season, and district tournaments begin Monday in the 12th Region and across Kentucky.

(See tournament schedules for districts in the 12th Region at the bottom of this post.)

Locally, all of the elimination games in districts that include Advocate-area teams (the 45th, 46th and 47th) will be played Monday through Wednesday. The girls championship games in all three districts will be played Thursday, and the boys finals will be Friday (Feb. 27).

Mercer County will host the 46th District in its new facility, one of the largest gyms in the region. Meanwhile, two district tournaments will be played at two of the region’s smallest ball halls, Somerset (47th) and Monticello (48th).

If you’ve been in any of those gyms or ones like them, I don’t have to tell you which is better. In fact, it’s beyond ridiculous to hold postseason tournaments in gyms so small that only a few hundred people can squeeze their way in to sit shoulder to shoulder while many more who would like to be there are shut out.

The idea that it’s only fair for every team to have a chance to host a tournament is outweighed by the better idea of allowing as many fans as possible to see the most important games of the season. At a time when high school basketball attendance is on the decline, why make it harder on those who actually want to be there?

You should find plenty of room to stretch out at Mercer (capacity 2,510), or maybe even at Boyle County, where the 45th District will be played out. But if you’re headed to one of the southern districts, you’d better take half a day off work to make sure you get there early enough to get a seat.

* * *

As for the regional tournaments, they’ll be back in familiar locations. Pulaski County will host the girls tournament (March 2-3, 6-7), and Lincoln County will host the boys (March 4-5, 9-10).

The region’s athletic directors agreed to rotate the tournaments between those two schools for four years beginning in 2006, and last fall the agreement was renewed for another four years, meaning the current arrangement is in place through 2013.

It’s a good plan, far better than the 12-school, 12-year rotation it replaced. However, I’d be inclined to play the boys tournament, which always outdraws the girls tourney, at the roomier Pulaski gym every year because it’s much larger than Lincoln’s gym, which has actually gotten smaller with the installation of new lower-level seats since the two-school rotation began.

12th Region District Tournament Schedules

(Seeds in parentheses)

45th District

At Boyle County

BOYS

Monday, Feb. 23

KSD (5) vs. Boyle County (4), 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 25

KSD-Boyle County winner vs. Lincoln County (1), 6 p.m.

Danville (3) vs. Garrard County (2), 7:45 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 27

Championship, 7:30 p.m.

GIRLS

Tuesday, Feb. 24

Danville (4) vs. Lincoln County (1), 6 p.m.

Garrard County (3) vs. Boyle County (2), 7:45 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 26

Championship, 7:30 p.m.

46th District

At Mercer County

BOYS

Tuesday, Feb. 24

Burgin (4) vs. West Jessamine (1), 6 p.m.

Mercer County (3) vs. East Jessamine (2), 8 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 27

Championship, 7 p.m.

GIRLS

Monday, Feb. 23

West Jessamine (4) vs. Mercer County (1), 6 p.m.

Burgin (3) vs. East Jessamine (2), 8 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 26

Championship, 7 p.m.

47th District

At Somerset

BOYS

Tuesday, Feb. 24

Somerset (4) vs. Rockcastle County (1), 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 25

Pulaski County (3) vs. Casey County (2), 7 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 27

Championship, 7 p.m.

GIRLS

Monday, Feb. 23

Pulaski County (4) vs. Rockcastle County (1), 6:30 p.m.

Somerset (3) vs. Casey County (2), 8 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 26

Championship, 7 p.m.

48th District

At Monticello

BOYS

Wednesday, Feb. 25

Monticello (4) vs. Wayne County (1), 7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 26

McCreary Central (3) vs. Southwestern (2), 7 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 28

Championship, 7 p.m.

GIRLS

Monday, Feb. 24

McCreary Central (4) vs. Southwestern (1), 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 25

Monticello (3) vs. Wayne County (2), 7 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 27

Championship, 7 p.m.

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Cundiff's comeback coming along

Nelson Cundiff isn’t back to work yet, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t coaching.

The Mercer County boys coach, who has been off the job since being seriously injured in an automobile accident almost two months ago, watched the Titans’ win at Boyle County on Tuesday night from a wheelchair parked at the end of the bench.

He continues to make progress, as he explained in Hal Morris’ story in the Advocate earlier this week. This was the third game he has attended, and the first in over two weeks, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that the Titans have won all three. It surely does him a great deal of good to be around the game and his players, and one of those players told me after the game that it does them good to see him there.

Before the boys game started, the group of Mercer students that had set up shop behind the Titans’ bench greeted him with a chant of “We love Cundiff!” During the game, while I was taking pictures on that end of the floor, I could hear occasionally shouting instructions to the players. And after the game, he was in the locker room with the team and then spoke to just about every player individually as they came out after getting dressed.

This was the first time I had seen him since his accident, and it was good to see him in good spirits and improving health. And even though his staff and players are carrying on well without him — Mercer is 13-11 with wins in five of its last six games and eight of its last 11 — it’ll be even better to see him back on the other end of the bench and doing what he loves.

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Cundiff’s comeback coming along

Nelson Cundiff isn’t back to work yet, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t coaching.

The Mercer County boys coach, who has been off the job since being seriously injured in an automobile accident almost two months ago, watched the Titans’ win at Boyle County on Tuesday night from a wheelchair parked at the end of the bench.

He continues to make progress, as he explained in Hal Morris’ story in the Advocate earlier this week. This was the third game he has attended, and the first in over two weeks, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that the Titans have won all three. It surely does him a great deal of good to be around the game and his players, and one of those players told me after the game that it does them good to see him there.

Before the boys game started, the group of Mercer students that had set up shop behind the Titans’ bench greeted him with a chant of “We love Cundiff!” During the game, while I was taking pictures on that end of the floor, I could hear occasionally shouting instructions to the players. And after the game, he was in the locker room with the team and then spoke to just about every player individually as they came out after getting dressed.

This was the first time I had seen him since his accident, and it was good to see him in good spirits and improving health. And even though his staff and players are carrying on well without him — Mercer is 13-11 with wins in five of its last six games and eight of its last 11 — it’ll be even better to see him back on the other end of the bench and doing what he loves.

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Back to basketball, if not back to normal

Normal may still be a few days — or even weeks — away for those who have endured last week’s terrible ice storm and who are still dealing with the aftermath. But another piece of normality comes back to this area tonight when the high school basketball schedule resumes in earnest.

There are seven games scheduled, including a boys-girls doubleheader between Danville and Garrard County in Lancaster that was postponed on Tuesday. It’s part of a big three-day stretch of 45th District doubleheaders that also includes Garrard at Boyle County on Friday and Boyle at Danville on Saturday.

We’ve learned about a few games that have been rescheduled, and we’ll keep learning in the coming days. At least a dozen games remain unaccounted for, and some of them will no doubt be canceled. For now, here are the games that have been resolved that we know of:

Doubleheaders

  • Danville at Garrard County boys and girls, postponed Tuesday, to be played tonight.
  • Boyle County at Lincoln County, postponed Jan. 30, to be played Feb. 14.
  • Bluegrass Conference Tournaments at KSD, canceled last week.

Boys

  • Western Hills at Danville, canceled tonight.
  • McCreary Central at Lincoln County, postponed Jan. 27, to be played tonight.
  • Monroe County at Casey County, added to the schedule, to be played Saturday.
  • Garrard County at Lincoln County, postponed Jan. 9, to be played Monday.
  • Burgin at Paris, postponed Tuesday, to be played Feb. 16.
  • Danville at Campbellsville, canceled Jan. 27.
  • Danville at Frankfort, canceled Jan. 30.

Girls

  • Mercer County at Frankfort, postponed Tuesday, to be played tonight.
  • Garrard County at East Jessamine, postponed Jan. 20, to be played Feb. 21.
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