Boys Top Five
1. Clay County (19-6 overall, 10-2 vs. 13th Region foes)
What’s the scoop: Surprise, surprise. We are down to the last Fear ‘Les’ 13th Region Rankings of the regular season and for the first time on the boys’ side, we’ve got a new No. 1 ranked team. Yep, Harlan County is no longer the region’s top-ranked squad and is replaced by the region’s hottest team — Clay County.
Surprise, surprise: Clay County’s two losses against 13th Region teams (against Harlan County and Knox Central) are the fewest in the region. Combine that with the Tigers’ current eight-game win streak and you see why I have them ranked No. 1.
What’s ahead: Clay County will travel to play Middlesboro Friday before going against the winner of Red Bird and Oneida Baptist Wednesday during semifinal action of the 49th District Tournament, which is held in Jackson County.
2. Corbin (21-6, 13-3)
What’s the scoop: Look who has the best record in the 13th Region along with the most wins (tied with Pineville) against regional teams — yep, the Corbin Redhounds. I’ve said it numerous times, but Tony Pietrowski and his staff have done a fantastic job this season.
Surprise, surprise: The Redhounds are currently riding a six-game win thanks to an impressive comeback win over Harlan County. Corbin was down 16 points on the road before rallying to beat the Black Bears, 74-70.
What’s ahead: The Redhounds finish regular season play Friday on the road against Harlan before going against Williamsburg Monday during semifinal action of the 50th District Tournament at Williamsburg High School.
3. Harlan County (20-7, 11-3)
What’s the scoop: The team that has been sitting atop the 13th Region rankings for the entire regular season has dropped two steps after losing its third straight home contest this past week. Once again, Harlan County is struggling at the wrong time and the struggles could once again keep the Black Bears from winning the 13th Region.
Surprise, surprise: I can’t put my finger on what is wrong with Harlan County, but if the Black Bears don’t turn things around, who knows what will happen once postseason play begins.
What’s ahead: Harlan County will be back in action Thursday at home against Whitley County and the Black Bears desperately need to win this game for confidence reasons. They will be back in action again Monday against Harlan during first round action of the 52nd District Tournament, which is held at Harlan High School.
4. Barbourville (16-10, 9-6)
What’s the scoop: In a season that has been very hard to predict, I’ve got Dinky Phipps’ squad ranked No. 4 now — why not? The Tigers have beaten Harlan County and Bell County along with Pineville and Knox Central.
Surprise, surprise: Barbourville continues to get solid play from Devon Mills, who has been the most consistent player in the region this season.
What’s ahead: The Tigers host Oneida Baptist today and will host the 51st District Tournament next week. Their first matchup is Monday against Lynn Camp.
5. Jackson County (18-10, 11-3)
What’s the scoop: The Generals remain in the top five and if center Steven Wagers can heal up, they’ve still got as good of a shot than any other team to win the 13th Region.
Surprise, surprise: One game stuck out this past week and it was Jackson County’s 79-70 win over Oneida Baptist. The final margin is a concern, so we’ll see how the Generals will respond with a week off now.
What’s ahead: Jackson County is host of the 49th District Tournament and will face-off against North Laurel in an elimination game Tuesday.
The Best of the rest
No. 6 Pineville (17-9, 13-7)
What’s the scoop: The Mountain Lions are peaking at the right time. You better keep an eye on them.
No. 7 Knox Central (15-12, 7-6)
What’s the scoop: The Panthers are rolling at the right time. They could be dangerous once postseason begins.
No. 8 South Laurel (11-15, 7-6)
What’s the scoop: The Cardinals are still dangerous in a one-game setting.
No. 9 North Laurel (13-14, 6-9)
What’s the scoop: The Jaguars are struggling at the wrong time of the season.
No. 10 Bell County (12-13, 7-8)
What’s the scoop: The Bobcats are another team that is very dangerous.
Girls Top Five
1. Clay County (23-5 overall, 9-3 vs. 13th Region foes)
What’s the scoop: The four-time defending 13th Region champions are where they usually are during the end of the regular season — sitting atop my 13th Region rankings. A lot of people are counting out Clay County because of its earlier losses to regional teams, but I say not so fast.
Surprise, surprise: The Lady Tigers are now winners of four straight after upending South Laurel at home a couple of days ago, 54-36. Clay County has put together an impressive 13-3 record since Christmas break.
What’s ahead: The Lady Tigers finish regular season play Friday on the road against Middlesboro before going against the winner of Red/Bird/Oneida Baptist Wednesday in semifinal action of the 49th District Tournament.
2. Corbin (21-8, 15-3)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Redhounds keep rolling along after upending both Harlan County and Pineville this past week. Coach Jennifer Parsons and her coaching staff have done a fantastic job with the Lady Redhounds this season.
Surprise, surprise: Corbin saw its eight-game win streak come to an end Friday after losing to Rockcastle County, but has still put together an impressive 11-2 record since Christmas break.
What’s ahead: The Lady Redhounds will finish regular season play Friday on the road against Harlan before going against Williamsburg Monday during first round action of the 50th District Tournament.
3. Harlan County (22-5, 12-2)
What’s the scoop: I’m beginning to wonder if the Lady Black Bears didn’t peak too soon. Harlan County dropped its second game in a row this past week after losing to both Corbin and Somerset — both losses were by one one point.
Surprise, surprise: Harlan County remains a dangerous team and with the region tournament being played on the Lady Black Bears’ homecourt, they could win their first regional championship.
What’s ahead: Harlan County finishes regular season play Friday at home against Knox Central before going against Middlesboro during first round action of the 52nd District Tournament on Wednesday.
4. Bell County (22-5, 13-3)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Bobcats have been on a roll even with star Maci Morris out nursing an injury. Bell County has put together an impressive 11-2 mark since Christmas break.
Surprise, surprise: The Lady Bobcats saw their five-game win streak snapped this past week after falling to Barbourville on the road, 71-69. That was a tough loss for Bell County.
What’s ahead: The Lady Bobcats will host Whitley County Friday before going up against Harlan in first round action of the 52nd District Tournament on Wednesday.
5. Whitley County (18-7, 11-2)
What’s the scoop: I said this last week and I’ll say it again — Injuries have really taken the wind out of the Lady Colonels’ sails this season, but Whitley County players have shown they’re not going to fold.
Surprise, surprise:If Whitley County can get healthy, the Lady Colonels can win the 13th Region Tournament. But they need to get 100 percent healthy first.
What’s ahead: The Lady Colonels finish regular season play against Bell County Friday before going against South Laurel in an elimination game Tuesday during first round action of the 50th District Tournament.
The Best of the rest
No. 6 South Laurel (12-13, 9-8)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Cardinals suffered a double-digit loss to Clay County on the road this past week, but I still feel like they can surprise in the end. Taylor Arthur is an important key to this team’s success.
No. 7 Barbourville (18-10, 12-8)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Tigers dropped a double-digit loss to South Laurel this past week, but responded by knocking Bell County off at home. This is another team to keep an eye on.
No. 8 Lynn Camp (20-8, 13-7)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Wildcats recorded 20 wins for the first time in the program’s history this past Tuesday by defeating Red Bird, 73-30. Richard Jones’ squad could surprise come next week.
No. 9 Harlan (13-13, 8-10)
What’s the scoop: Another team to keep an eye on is Harlan. The Lady Green Dragons are winners of three straight and could put a big scare in Harlan County next week during the 52nd District Tournament. This team is a hole lot better than people think.
No. 10 Middlesboro (5-19, 4-17)
What’s the scoop: I really like the way Elgie Green’s squad is playing during the end of the regular season despite having to deal with injuries throughout the year. You read it here first — seventh grader Blair Green is going to be one of the best players to come out of the 13th Region by the time she graduates.
Wait and see.