, Corbin, KY

November 13, 2012

Prep b’ball season is almost here

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — We’ve only got one team remaining from the Tri-County in the high school football playoffs and we’re now less than two weeks away from tipping off the high school basketball season.

Yep, hoops season is almost here and let me just tell you, I can’t wait. The 2012-13 season should be an interesting one on both the boys’ and girls’ side of things and for the first time, in a long time, there aren’t any teams on either side that are heads and shoulders above everyone else.

So with that said, I guess I can give a preview of things to come for the boys’ teams today for the upcoming season., and in a few days, I’ll give my thoughts about the girls’ teams. I can’t really let the cat out of the bag, though, since the Times-Tribune 2012-13 Prep Basketball Preview will be coming out on Nov. 24.

13th Region Boys Contenders

Four teams stand out heading into the season and they are Harlan County, defending 13th Region champion North Laurel, Clay County and Pineville.

The Black Bears return a solid core of players back again, but can’t seem to find the magic once regional tournament play begins in March. Harlan County has never won a 13th Region Tournament game in four tries, but has to be considered by many to end the losing skid this season, especially since the region tournament will be played on its homecourt.

North Laurel is a team you’ve got to keep an eye on, too. Last season, the Jaguars snuck up on teams once regional tournament play began, but they won’t be able to enjoy that luxury this time around. Brad Sizemore’s squad will return just as much talent as anyone in the region, but North Laurel’s bench could be a big key this season.

The Jaguars’ rivals in the 49th District look to make some noise, too. Clay County came up a few minutes short of capturing its first region title since 2001 last season, but fell to North Laurel in overtime in the finals of the 13th Region Tournament. Look for the Tigers to make some noise again this season, but here’s the kicker — it’s not going to be easy for both North Laurel and Clay County to reach the 13th Region Tournament this season. District neighbor Jackson County has a lot of talent on its roster, so the Generals will not be a pushover by any means.

The other team to keep an eye on is Pineville. The Mountain Lions have one of the best coaches in J.D. Strange and they opened a lot of 13th Region fans’ eyes when they upset Corbin in the first round of the 13th Region Tournament last season. Pineville returns all five starters including John Simpson and will be a tough out this year.

Knocking on the door

Knox Central, South Laurel and Corbin are teams to keep an eye on.

It seems as if the Panthers have been knocking on the 13th Region title door the past few years and it’s not going to be any different this year. Knox Central returns big man Tobie Merida and the key to their season will be just how quick their younger players can step up.

The past two years haven’t been kind to the South Laurel Cardinals. Last season marked the first time in school history they posed consecutive losing seasons. Things look to be better during Jeff Davis’ second year as head coach of the South Laurel basketball team.

Another team to keep an eye on is Tony Pietrowski’s Corbin Redhounds. For Corbin to make a run at the 13th Region crown, someone must step up and fill the scoring gap that the Redhounds lost after the graduation of Travis Smith.

Keep an eye on

I could and probably should put Jackson County in the “Knocking on the Door” category, but for now, I’ll leave them here. The Generals picked up both Jordan Fox and Steven Wagers and could be a contender by season’s end.

Williamsburg is another team that you can’t ignore. The Yellow Jackets return some veteran talent and a lot of young talent. It’s going to be an interesting season for Patrick Robinson’s squad.