By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
The Knox Central Panthers entered the season young and inexperienced at some key positions with only two seniors on this year’s roster, which in turn left many 13th Region prognosticators scratching their heads where exactly to rank them coming into the season.
But Brian Evans’ squad has shed the inexperience and given many people reason to believe his squad can make a run at the 13th Region crown. The Panthers already secured a 68-62 win over Clay County while putting together an impressive 10-4 record.
But it’s not been easy.
Evans has had to deal with some early season injuries and some tough early tests before the Christmas break, but things look to even be a bit tougher during the next couple of weeks.
The Panthers open a crucial stretch of games that’s going to determine the 51st District seeding while allowing them to see how they match up with some of the region’s other top teams.
“We’ve got some tough games coming up,” Evans said. “We’re going to be tested and we are working hard to get better.”
The tough stretch begins Friday at home against Pineville in a 51st District showdown with games against Barbourville (away), Lynn Camp (home), South Laurel (home), Corbin (home) and Harlan County (away) on the horizon.
“That’s why we try to play some good teams early in the season,” Evans said. “It’s a tough stretch of games, but that’s just how our schedule has fallen the past few years.
“Playing these games will make us better,” he added. “We’ve got the district games that are very important. I believe our kids will be ready to play.”
What makes things even tougher on the Panthers will be the absence of starting guard Matthew Barger, who is out with a hip injury.
“Not having Matt in the lineup is going to make things tougher — it changes things,” Evans admitted. “He’s got a hip injury and I’m not sure when he will be back. Our health has played a big role in our season this year. We have made progress, though.
“We were without him for four games earlier and we switched some things around and improved on some things. It was a good experience for our guys — they learned a lot.”
Barger missed four games earlier this season due to an injury, but came back in time to help guide Knox Central to a Williamsburg Holiday Tournament championship, as the Panthers posted a 3-0 record.
“He went down in the Upperman, Tenn., game and I thought our guys responded well,” Evans said. “I believe we’re going to be OK. I know everyone is working hard and the guys are getting better. We just need to go out there and do the best we can.”
By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
- Local Sports
The Williamsburg Yellow Jackets are partying like it's 1987! That was the last time the Jackets won a game in the 13th Region Tournament, and they ended the 27-year drought with a 47-44 win over the heavily-favored Knox Central Panthers on Thursday night.
Les Dixon's Daily Region Pick'Em
When it comes to picking region tournament games, it’s not an easy task to say the least. This is the most parity that I’ve ever seen in the 13th Region Boys and Girls Tournaments.
If Clay County’s play during the first game of the 13th Region Tournament is any indication of things to come, Robert Marcum’s squad could be well on its way of capturing their second straight 13th Region championship.
The Way it is
Since I’m picking Corbin to pull off the upset against Jackson County today, I figured I’d give my top five upsets dating back to 2005-06 when the 13th realigned and welcomed both North and South Laurel high schools to the mix.
Tony Pietrowski’s Corbin Redhounds have been favored during the past two first round 13th Region match-ups, and have been upset both times. Corbin is hoping things might change a bit this time around.
Barbourville will have hands full against Bell County today
Dinky Phipps’ Barbourville Tigers are looking for their first 13th Region Tournament win dating back to 2006’s tournament when they defeated Clay County in the regional semifinals.
Like It or Not
There’s an elephant in the room at this year’s 13th Region Tournament, and really in basketball in general, and I guess I’ll be the first one to point it out (publicly with my name attached to it).
Chris' Daily Region Pick'Em
With the first three days of opening round games in the books, I can honestly say I'm not surprised that I'm 4-2 overall when it comes to my pick'ems record.
You can never count out the Clay County Lady Tigers when it comes to the 13th Region Tournament.
Les Dixon's Daily Region Pick'em
After going just .500 during the girls games, things are going to get even tougher when it comes to picking the 13th Region Boys Tournament games.
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