By Les Dixon
The Barbourville Tigers will try to pull off the upset while the Clay County Tigers will try to keep their dreams of winning their first 13th Region title since 2001 when the two teams meet today in first round action of the 13th Region Tournament.
The Tigers (19-11) are coming off a 60-45 loss to Knox Central in the finals of the 51st District Tournament while the Tigers (23-6) won their 10th straight 49th District crown with a 74-68 win over North Laurel.
Barbourville coach Dinky Phipps admitted his team has its hands full against Clay County and needs to get back to the way it was playing in early February when the Tigers upset Harlan County on the road.
“We’ve got to get back to playing like that,” he said. “I didn’t feel like we played well at all in the district championship and if we don’t, we’re going to have a short stay.
“Clay is Clay,” he added. “They are a very good team and we’ve got to play hard to win.”
Clay County coach Robert Marcum believes the key is to find a way to slow down Barbourville senior Devon Mills, who has put together a solid season for the Tigers.
“He is a very good player,” he said. “They have a lot of good players. Barbourville has surprised a lot of people this year after losing a lot of players from last year. They have competed really well and have a nice team over there. We’re going to have to play well to win.
“We’ve not played them this year,” he added. “They are capable of beating a Harlan County on their home floor. We don’t have a lot of preparation time, so we know we’ve got our hands full. We better be ready to play. This stage of the game we’re going to have to play three solid games and right now, we’re focused on Barbourville.”
Phipps admitted his team must find a way to slow down players such as Chip McDaniel and Marty Bowling.
“They both are pretty good players, so we’ve got to contain them,” he said. “For us, we’ve got to play a real good ball game and find a way to keep them from getting the ball on the baseline and in the middle. If we do that, I believe we have a chance.”