Boys Top Five
1. Harlan Co. (20-5 overall, 11-2 vs. 13th Region foes)
What’s the scoop: The Black Bears suffered another setback this week when they lost at home to Barbourville by three points. Folks, I just don’t feel comfortable dropping them from the top spot just yet because on paper, they’re going to enter the postseason as the team to beat. Do I think they’ll win the region championship? That I’m not sure off.
Surprise, surprise: Of course I was surprised just like many others when I found out Harlan County lost to Barbourville. The most alarming thing that came out of the game was Barbourville rebounded with the Black Bears. Harlan County’s rebounding skills are what sets them apart from the other teams in the 13th Region. If they don’t rebound, they’ll have trouble with teams.
What’s ahead: The Black Bears will host Montgomery County Saturday before hosting Corbin in another interesting matchup Monday.
2. Corbin (19-6, 12-3)
What’s the scoop: I was very close moving Corbin to the top spot, but before I do, I want to see how Tony Pietrowski’s squad will fare against Harlan County on the road Monday. A win over the Black Bears will move the Redhounds into the top spot for the first time this season.
Surprise, surprise: After opening the new year with a 25-point loss to Pulaski County, Corbin has been on a role, winning nine of its last 10 games, which includes a current four-game win streak.
What’s ahead: The Redhounds will host Rockcastle County today before hitting the road Monday to play No. 1 ranked Harlan County. This game should be an interesting matchup.
3. Jackson County (17-8, 10-2)
What’s the scoop: Yep, the Generals leapfrogged Clay County after playing one of their best games on Tuesday against North Laurel. This was the first time I got to see Jackson County play and boy, can they. This team is solid just as long as Steven Wagers doesn’t get into foul trouble.
Surprise, surprise: Jackson County’s matchup against Clay County is huge. First off if the Generals win by more than two points, they will be the No. 1 seed, which means no elimination game against North Laurel. The two teams met on Jan. 4 with the Tigers coming from behind to pick up a 68-67 win.
What’s ahead: Jackson County will host Clay County Friday, Perry Central Saturday and Oneida Baptist Tuesday to finish out the regular season.
4. Clay County (17-6, 9-2)
What’s the scoop: It’s hard to drop a team a spot when they are winners of six straight games, but unfortunately for Clay County, I did. But honestly you could easily flip-flop both the Tigers and Jackson County at the three-four spots.
Surprise, surprise: Clay County picked up a big win on Tuesday against South Laurel while also beating Pineville, North Laurel and Bell County during the six-game win streak.
What’s ahead: The Tigers have a huge game on the road Friday against Jackson County. A win assures Clay County the 49th District’s top seed while a loss by two points or more moves the Tigers to the No. 2 seed. They will host Breathitt County Saturday and Perry Central Wednesday.
5. Barbourville (15-10, 8-6)
What’s the scoop: Dinky Phipps’ squad moves into the top five after upending No. 1 ranked Harlan County on the road, 56-53. I’ve said this before, but this is another solid coaching job by Phipps.
Surprise, surprise: Devon Mills is beginning to separate himself from the other players in the Tri-County for the Times-Tribune’s Player of the Year award. He continues to pour in the points while grabbing many rebounds.
What’s ahead:The Tigers won’t be back in action until Tuesday on the road against Bell County.
The Best of the rest
No. 6 North Laurel (13-12, 6-8)
What’s the scoop: On paper, the Jaguars are one of the best teams in the 13th Region, but once they hit the court they just can’t seem to find any type of consistency.
No. 7 South Laurel (10-13, 6-6)
What’s the scoop: Speaking of consistency, the Cardinals are another team that has struggled putting any thing together. In a one-game setting, they are still dangerous.
No. 8 Knox Central (13-11, 5-5)
What’s the scoop: The Panthers are losers of five of their last six games and seven of their last 10.
No. 9 Barbourville (10-12, 6-7)
What’s the scoop: The Bobcats are a dangerous team.
No. 10 Pineville (14-9, 10-7)
What’s the scoop: I’ll say this again — the Mountain Lions are one team that’s hard to figure out.
Girls Top Five
1. Clay County (20-5 overall, 7-3 vs. 13th Region foes)
What’s the scoop: Welcome back to the top spot Lady Tigers. After sitting around and pondering about whether to keep Harlan County at the top spot or slide Clay County in, I decided to move the Lady Tigers back to No. 1.
Why? Well, I just believe the Lady Tigers are playing better basketball right now — nothing more than that.
Surprise, surprise: The key to Clay County’s success has been the improved play of guards Ajaycia Cotton and TaLaura Mathis. Cotton connected on six-of-eight shot attempts and scored 14 points during the Lady Tigers’ 58-22 win over North Laurel Monday.
What’s ahead: Clay County will travel to play Jackson County Friday before traveling to play Elizabethtown Saturday. The Lady Tigers will host South Laurel Monday.
2. Harlan County (22-3, 12-1)
What’s the scoop: Some might believe I’m foolish for moving the Lady Black Bears down a spot, and I might be, but for right now, I just believe Clay County is playing better.
Surprise, surprise: Harlan County is 3-0 since dropping a 52-47 decision to Bell County, but the wins haven’t come easy — beating Barbourville, 54-40, Middlesboro 51-50 and Harlan, 45-38.
What’s ahead: The Lady Black Bears will hit the road and face-off against No. 3 Corbin Friday before playing Somerset on the road Saturday.
3. Corbin (19-7, 13-3)
What’s the scoop: Jennifer Parsons has done a fantastic job with this group of Lady Redhound basketball players this season. Corbin has won seven games in a row with wins over Assumption, Clay County, Whitley County and Lynn Camp.
Surprise, surprise: The Lady Redhounds clinched the 50th District’s top seed this past week after going on the road to beat Whitley County in double overtime, 65-62.
What’s ahead: Corbin will host Harlan County Friday before traveling to Pulaski County to play Rockcastle County Saturday. The Lady Redhounds will be back in action Tuesday at home against Pineville.
4. Bell County (20-4, 12-2)
What’s the scoop: A week break has seemed to have helped the Lady Bobcats, as they picked up two impressive wins over Middlesboro (64-34) and 13th Region All ‘A’ Classic champion Pineville (68-50).
Surprise, surprise: Bell County’s Maci Morris turned in a 19-point, nine-rebound effort against Middlesboro while teammate Jessica Sanders added 18 points on eight-of-nine shooting from the floor.
What’s ahead: The Lady Bobcats will host Cumberland Gap, Tenn. Thursday and will be home again Friday against Knox Central before hitting the road to play Barbourville on Monday.
5. Whitley County (16-6, 9-2)
What’s the scoop: 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 by picking up two wins this past week.
Surprise, surprise: Larry Anderson’s squad suffered a big loss in double overtime last week, which now moves the Lady Colonels to the No. 2 spot in the 50th District. What does that mean? Well, Whitley County will have to play South Laurel in the first round of the 50th District Tournament. The Lady Cardinals beat the Lady Colonels on the road on Jan. 18, 54-48.
What’s ahead: Whitley County hosts North Laurel Friday, which will be Larry Anderson’s final home game as head coach of the Lady Colonels. They’ll be back in action Saturday against Nelson County before hitting the road to play Jackson County on Monday.
The Best of the rest
No. 6 South Laurel (11-11, 8-7)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Cardinals only played one game this past week, losing to Breathitt County on the road 56-42. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak.
No. 7 Barbourville (16-9, 10-7)
What’s the scoop: Even though they dropped a 67-66 decision to 51st District rival Knox Central this past week, I’m leaving the Lady Tigers at the No. 7 spot.
No. 8 Lynn Camp (19-8, 12-7)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Wildcats would have moved up a couple of spots if they could have pulled off the upset against Corbin this past Monday. They didn’t though, falling to the Lady Redhounds, 52-46.
No. 9 Harlan (12-13, 7-10)
What’s the scoop: Keep an eye on the Lady Green Dragons. They seem to be peaking at the right time. Harlan has an impressive two-game win streak at the present time with identical 54-46 wins over both Williamsburg and Knox Central.
No. 10 Knox Central (12-13, 7-8)
What’s the scoop: Just when it seems as if Knox Central is going to take a step forward, the Lady Panthers take a step back. Darren Mills’ squad caught some momentum after beating 51st District rival Barbourville in overtime, 67-66, but a 54-46 loss to Harlan a couple of days later hurt Knox Central’s chances of moving up any spots.