Boys Top Five
1. Harlan Co. (8-0 overall, 5-0 vs. 13th Region foes)
What’s the scoop: The Black Bears are off to their best start in school history and after eight games, their closest contest has been an 11-point win over 51st District rival Middlesboro.
Surprise, surprise: Harlan County closed out this past week by grabbing two more regional wins over both South Laurel and Bell County. The Black Bears showed they can win playing against slow down tactics or run and gun style during those two games.
What’s ahead: Harlan County will be hitting the road Thursday to participate in the Hilton Head Classic.
2. Knox Central (5-2, 2-0)
What’s the scoop: The Panthers move up a spot after picking up a 68-62 win over Clay County last week. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Knox Central is young and dangerous.
Surprise, surprise: Matt Barger is out with an injury, but the Panthers still almost beat 12th Region foe Wayne County a couple of days ago. Jeffrey Adams did a great job running the point guard spot for Knox Central and Tobie Merida scored 19 points while continuing to improve.
What’s ahead: Knox Central will be in action today during the Winterfest Tournament in Sevierville, Tenn.
3. Clay County (6-1, 2-1)
What’s the scoop: The Tigers had a minor setback after losing on the road to Knox Central this past week. I still believe in the long run Bobby Marcum’s squad will make some serious noise once postseason play begins.
Surprise, surprise: Tyler McDaniel continues to show why he is considered one of the top players in the region during Clay County’s 68-53 49th District win over North Laurel. He ran the point guard spot great and scored clutch baskets when the Tigers needed them most.
What’s ahead: The Tigers will face-off against Ashland today during the Raceland Derby Classic.
4. Corbin (5-3, 2-1)
What’s the scoop: The Redhounds are losers of two straight, but played some solid competition this past week, playing both defending state champion Trinity and Spencer County on the road.
Surprise, surprise: The Redhounds continuing to improve as team and will surprise many by the time postseason play rolls around.
What’s ahead: Corbin will play 12th Region foe Rockcastle County today in the Legacy Nissan Shootout II.
5. Jackson County (6-4, 3-0)
What’s the scoop: After beating North Laurel in a triple overtime affair last week, the Generals dropped four straight games before recovering with two wins this past week.
Surprise, surprise: I’m not too sure if I don’t have Jackson County ranked too high at the present time. The Generals struggled to a 64-57 win over Bell County on Tuesday.
What’s ahead: Jackson County will hit the road today to face-off against Owsley County.
The Best of the rest
No. 6 North Laurel (4-4, 2-3)
What’s the scoop: Junior Jake Allen will be back in the Jaguar line-up today, which will be a big plus for Brad Sizemore’s squad. Keep an eye on eighth grader Peyton Broughton. He’s one of the best guards I’ve seen play this season. No guard in the region hits the boards like Broughton does.
No. 7 South Laurel (2-5, 1-2)
What’s the scoop: The Cardinals might be three games under .500, but they are the most dangerous 2-5 team in the state. South Laurel put a scare in Harlan County this past week and only trailed by two points with 6:30 left in regulation. Take away a walk call on a made layup by Zac Baxter and who knows what could have happened during the final five minutes of play.
No. 8 Barbourville (4-2, 3-1)
What’s the scoop: The Tigers’ length is giving many teams fits. Coach Dinky Phipps continues to work his magic with his Tiger squad while senior Devon Mills continues to show he’s one of the best players in the region.
No. 9 Middlesboro (5-2, 3-2)
What’s the scoop: The Yellow Jackets are a pleasant surprise in the region this season. Middlesboro is very athletic and is led by underrated Austin Poindexter. Wait and see if this team isn’t one of the best in the region by the end of the regular season.
No. 10 Pineville (5-4, 3-4)
What’s the scoop: This team is too good to leave out of the top 10, but I’m still confused why the Mountain Lions are struggling so much.
Girls Top Five
1. Whitley Co. (6-0 overall, 3-0 vs. 13th Region foes)
What’s the scoop: The Whitley County Lady Colonels only played one game this past week, but they managed to remain unbeaten by going on the road to knock off Casey County, 49-35. It’s a big plus any time you can get a win on the road against a good team like Casey County.
Surprise, surprise: The Lady Colonels have plenty of weapons on offense. Brandi Smith is capable of scoring more than 20 points a game at any time and Maria Johnson continues to be a threat from the outside. Taylor Bingess can score points in bunches and so can Bethany Powers.
What’s ahead: Whitley County will travel to Calloway County to participate in the Heritage Bank Hardwood Tournament. The Lady Colonels’ first opponent will be Northwest, Tenn., before playing Sacred Heart.
2. Harlan County (9-0, 5-0)
What’s the scoop: Anthony Nolan continues to do a great job coaching the Lady Black Bears. They are off to the program’s best start at 9-0.
Surprise, surprise: The Lady Black Bears continue to shine while handing upstart Bell County its first loss of the season this past week, 50-33. Lauren Lee and Kaitlyn Stittums came through in the clutch during the win by scoring 14 points apiece.
What’s ahead: Harlan County will travel to Gatlinburg, Tenn., today to participate in the Smoky Mountain Classic.
3. Clay County (5-1, 3-1)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Tigers have recovered nicely since dropping a 58-55 decision to Whitley County almost two weeks ago.
Surprise, surprise: The loss to Whitley County hasn’t fazed Ivy Burchell’s squad. The Lady Tigers have outscored their opponents by 33 points a game during their current three-game win streak. Now that is pretty darn impressive.
What’s ahead: Clay County hits the road today and will play North Hardin in the Mustang Christmas Tournament at Muhlenberg County High School.
4. Bell County (7-1, 4-1)
What’s the scoop: Bell County received a loud wake-up call this past week, losing to Harlan County, 58-33. Many believed the Lady Bobcats were the region’s top team, but they’ve taken a step back with the loss.
Surprise, surprise: Don’t count out Bell County, though. Maci Morris is one of the top players in the state and will be a big key to the Lady Bobcats’ success the remainder of the season.
What’s ahead: Bell County will play Boyle County in Danville today while participating in the Danville Lady Ads Christmas Tournament.
5. Corbin (8-5, 5-2)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Redhounds turned in a big week by placing third in the Berea Invitational. Corbin only lost to eventual tournament champion Madison Central by only three points.
Surprise, surprise: Jennifer Parsons likes the way her team is playing right now and she should. Corbin has the talent to make some serious noise once postseason play begins.
What’s ahead: The Lady Redhounds are off this week before traveling to Orlando, Fla., to play in the KSA Events next week.
The Best of the rest
No. 6 South Laurel (4-6, 2-4)
What’s the scoop: This team is hard to figure out. The Lady Cardinals struggled to beat Knox Central at home and tuned in a nice showing in the Berea Invitational. The big key to South Laurel’s success is Taylor Arthur.
No. 7 Barbourville (8-1, 4-1)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Tigers suffered a setback after losing by 10 points to Corbin last week, but did manage to pick up a three-point win over 51st District rival Lynn Camp. Can this team surprise in the postseason? I believe so.
No. 8 Lynn Camp (7-2, 3-1)
What’s the scoop: Coach Richard Jones continues to work his magic on the sideline while Kayla Smith continues to show she’s one of the top players in the 13th Region. I’m really impressed with the way Lynn Camp has played so far this season.
No. 9 Pineville (7-4, 4-3)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Mountain Lions have a big game against Lynn Camp in the 17th Annual Bowman Memorial Classic. A win over the Lady Wildcats will move Pineville up in the rankings.
No. 10 Knox Central (4-3, 1-3)
What’s the scoop: I say this every week — The Lady Panthers continue to be one of the hardest teams to figure out. They lost to Clay County and South Laurel last week, but managed to beat Cumberland, Gap, Tenn. Knox Central played one of its best games a couple of days ago against the Lady Cardinals and actually had them down by eight points in the second half before losing.
A lot of the Lady Panthers success is because of the scoring efforts of Jenna Mills. Mills is one of the best shooters in the 13th Region.