Boys Top Five
1. Harlan Co. (0-0 overall, 0-0 vs. 13th Region foes)
What’s the scoop: The Black Bears haven’t played a game just yet, but they’re still my No. 1 team. The big key for every team right now is to remain healthy and if they do, they’re going to be hard to beat.
Surprise, surprise: Mike Jones’ squad has a talented team along with a solid bench, but the key for them this season is to get over the 13th Region Tournament hump. They have never won a 13th Region Tournament game (0-4 all-time) and to get the elusive regional title they’ve got to get over the hump.
What’s ahead: Harlan County will be in action Monday at home against Sullivan Central, Tenn. before hitting the road Monday in a 13th Region showdown against Pineville.
2. North Laurel (1-0, 1-0)
What’s the scoop: The defending 13th Region champions are currently No. 2 in the rankings, but they suffered a big blow with the region’s top-ranked player Jake Allen being out at least three weeks due to an injury.
Surprise, surprise: The loss of Allen will hurt and the Jaguars might hit a couple of bumps along the way, especially with some very big games coming up in the near future. North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore did see some positives out of his team’s win over Harlan Monday — eighth grader Peyton Broughton almost recorded a triple-double during his first varsity game. He scored 12 points, tallied 10 rebounds and had seven steals against the Green Dragons.
What’s ahead: North Laurel has a district game Friday on the road against Oneida Baptist and will be off until a Dec. 6 matchup against district foe Jackson County.
3. Clay County (0-0, 0-0)
What’s the scoop: I might have the Tigers a bit high right now, but we’ll see. Clay County has the talent to surprise and they’ve made some noise during the past couple of years, but like Harlan County, has fallen short in March.
Surprise, surprise: Clay County will be tested early and often during the early part of the season, so I’ll be able to gauge them a bit better.
What’s ahead: The Tigers will play their first game of the season Friday at home against Knoxville Catholic, Tenn. before hosting Lloyd Memorial on Saturday. Clay County will be back in action Tuesday on the road against Corbin.
4. Knox Central (1-0, 0-0)
What’s the scoop: The Panthers are young, but very talented. Brian Evans’ squad is going to be very fun to watch as the season progresses.
Surprise, surprise: The Panthers received a big boost off the bench from Jeffrey Adams during Tuesday’s win over Cumberland Gap, Tenn. He scored 23 points while Matthew Barger added a six-point, nine assist effort.
What’s ahead: Knox Central will participate in Jackson County’s PRTC Classic Saturday with a game against Wolfe County before hitting the road to play Harlan Tuesday.
5. Jackson County (1-0, 1-0)
What’s the scoop: The Generals are for real folks. They went on the road Tuesday and picked up an important win over 13th Region foe Pineville.
Surprise, surprise: Jackson County led by as much as 10 points on the road against a Mountain Lion squad that returned all five starters from last season. Jordan Fox was as good as advertised by scoring 14 points along with teammate Jacob Hammons, who scored 14 points.
What’s ahead: The Generals will be back in action Friday at home in their own PRTC Classic against Riverside Christian and then again Saturday against Owsley County.
The Best of the rest
No. 6 Pineville (0-1, 0-1)
What’s the scoop: The Mountain Lions drop a spot from my preseason No. 5 ranking after dropping a 55-51 decision to now No. 5 ranked Jackson County.
No. 7 Corbin (0-0, 0-0)
What’s the scoop: I’ve got a feeling the Redhounds are going to surprise many this season. I do know one thing — never count Tony Pietrowski’s squad out.
No. 8 Whitley County (1-0, 1-0)
What’s the scoop: The Colonels are another team that might surprise this season. To be honest, the 50th District is up for grabs.
No. 9 Harlan (0-1, 0-1)
What’s the scoop: The Green Dragons almost pulled off a huge upset on Tuesday against defending 13th Region champion North Laurel before falling on the road, 66-62. Harlan is young and athletic and will only get better.
No. 10 Williamsburg (0-0, 0-0)
What’s the scoop: The Yellow Jackets might struggle early, but will surprise by season’s end. They have a nice young nucleus of talent.
Girls Top Five
1. Clay Co. (0-0 overall, 0-0 vs. 13th Region foes)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Tigers will remain No. 1 until someone defeats them. I know everyone gets tired of my repetitive theme for Clay County, but it’s simple — they are 105-2 against 13th Region opponents dating back to the 2006-06 season and the Lady Tigers are winners of 60 straight against 13th Region opponents.
Surprise, surprise: The inside duo of 2011-12 13th Region Media Player of the Year Cheyenne Madden and Morgan Chesnut is going to continue to make Clay County a tough team to beat. Plus add Talaura Mathis to the mix and you can see why they are favored to win their fifth straight 13th Region crown.
What’s ahead: Clay County will be tested during Saturday’s season-opener at home against Scott County. They’ll be back in action again Monday against Harlan.
2. Whitley County (1-0, 1-0)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Colonels already got off on the right foot with an impressive 62-38 win over Harlan on Monday. Larry Anderson’s squad picked up the 24-point win despite having some players still injured.
Surprise, surprise: Taylor Dingess came up big against the Lady Green Dragons with an impressive 20-point effort while Brandi Smith continues to show she’s one of the best players in the 13th Region by dishing out an 18-point effort.
What’s ahead: Whitley County will host McCreary Central Friday before playing an important district game on the road against South Laurel.
3. Harlan County (1-0, 1-0)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Black Bears opened the season with an impressive 64-35 win over Williamsburg Tuesday and continued to show they are a team to watch out for. Coach Anthony Nolan does a fantastic job getting his team ready for whomever they face on the hardwood.
Surprise, surprise: Brooklyn Massingill continued her impressive play by leading Harlan County with a 16-point scoring effort against Williamsburg. Kaitlyn Stittums also scored in double figures, finishing with 11 points.
What’s ahead: Harlan County will have an early season test at home Friday against South Laurel before participating in the Southern Kentucky Classic against Pulaski County on Saturday. The Lady Black Bears will hit the road Monday and play Pineville before hosting Lee, Va. Tuesday.
4. Bell County (0-0, 0-0)
What’s the scoop: I’m anxious to see if the Lady Bobcats have improved from last season. We all know Bell County possesses one of the best players in Maci Morris, but how good is her supporting cast?
Surprise, surprise: Bell County will have some early season tests that will show if they deserve to be ranked this high.
What’s ahead: Bell County will face-off against Corbin in the Cumberland Falls Lady Redhound Invitational today and will play Perry Central Friday and Middlesboro Saturday. The Lady Bobcats will then play Corbin Monday, but this time it will be on Log Mountain.
5. Corbin (1-0, 0-0)
What’s the scoop: I might have the Lady Redhounds ranked too low, but I’ll wait and see how they fare against Bell County this week first before I move them up any.
Surprise, surprise: One of Corbin’s main strengths is bench play. Melanie Wilson came off the bench Monday to lead the Redhounds with a 16-point effort while Natalye Gallagher added 12 points.
What’s ahead: Corbin will host the Cumberland Falls Lady Redhound Invitational beginning today and will play Bell County today before hosting Middlesboro Friday and Perry Central Saturday. The Lady Redhounds will then hit the road Tuesday and face Bell County.
The Best of the rest
No. 6 South Laurel (1-0, 1-0)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Cardinals surprised many by defeating Middlesboro with ease, 70-48. Taylor Arthur showed she’s one of the top players around by pouring in 20 points against the Lady Yellow Jackets. Cassandra Johnson also had a big game and scored 17 points during the 22-point win on Monday.
No. 7 Barbourville (2-0, 0-0)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Tigers are another team to keep an eye on. They return all five of their starters and cruised to an easy 82-57 win over Jellico, Tenn. on Monday and a 61-39 victory against Berea on Tuesday.
Kara Erslan had five three-pointers and 29 points against Jellico, Tenn, while Kelsey Erslan got into the scoring action against Berea and led all scorers with 21 points.
No. 8 Knox Central (1-0, 0-0)
What’s the scoop: The 13th Region is pretty deep this season, to say the least. Knox Central is another team that could make some noise by season’s end, if the Lady Panthers’ younger players continue to improve. Cassi Shippy scored 23 points during Knox Central’s win over Cumberland Gap, Tenn. on Tuesday while sharpshooter Jenna Mills added an 11-point effort.
No. 9 Middlesboro (0-1, 0-1)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Yellow Jackets don’t drop any spots, but they sure didn’t fare well against South Laurel on Monday. One bright spot in the 22-point loss was seventh grader Blair Green’s 21-point scoring effort.
No. 10 Harlan (0-1, 0-1)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Green Dragons are going to be hard to figure out this season. Harlan has some talent to make some noise this season.