Opening night of the high school basketball season is finally upon us and I have to admit, I’m extremely excited about what this season may have in store for some of our area teams.
• 13th Region Boys
It’s no secret that Harlan County is tabbed by most as the team to beat in the 13th Region, but it’s also no secret that they’ve stumbled in the first round of the region tournament four straight years.
Taking that into consideration, I think North Laurel has to be the team to beat.
When you talk about success this season, I think the key factor is going to be experience. The good news for a lot of teams is there is plenty to go around for quite a few teams.
Senior guards Marcus Carson and Kendrick Henson will lead the way as far as the backcourt goes, while big man Jake Allen and Austin Rush will keep teams honest in the middle.
The wildcard for North Laurel could be coaching because the Jaguars have a fiery second-year coach in Brad Sizemore on the sideline who is eager to prove that his team’s trip to Rupp Arena wasn’t just a fluke. He’ll have his chance to prove it and I think we’ll get it done.
The Black Bears, however, do return four seniors from last year’s squad in Tyler Brewer, Chad Massingill, Alex Sergent, Aaron Caldwell and James Bond.
Expect Harlan County to dominate regular season play, much like they did last season. By season’s end Mike Jones’ team had lost just twice to 13th Region foes, with both losses coming in postseason play.
Some teams aren’t built for the pressure that comes with tournament play and some teams excel when it comes down to crunch-time.
Next in line is the Clay County Tigers who, like the previous two teams, have a boat load of experience returning from last season.
The Tigers return three starters, including leading scorer Tyler McDaniel, who averaged 12.8 points per game last season.
One of the biggest surprises of last season’s 13th Region Tournament came when the Pineville Mountain Lions eliminated Corbin in the first round, but I don’t think many will be shaking their heads if J.D. Strange and company put together a solid season this year. With all five starters returning from last season, Strange and company are set up perfectly for a run.
Not a lot of people are expecting the Jackson County Generals to make too much noise, but they could be a surprise team this year. Greg Parrett’s squad picked up Jordan Fox, who played for Dixie Heights last season along with former Clay County player Steven Wagers.
Parrett’s squad has some major keys in place to make a run at North Laurel and Clay County, but they’ll have to avoid any injuries and play solid basketball all season long if they expect to do so.
With my thoughts on the top five in place, you have to look at Knox Central, Corbin, South Laurel, Barbourville and Williamsburg as well.
• 13th Region Girls
Just like most seasons, the Clay County Lady Tigers have to be considered the top dog until someone knocks them off the porch. The only difference this season is that I feel like there are a few teams that could get the job done by the time things are said and done.
Last season’s 13th region Player of the Year, Cheyenne Madden will have to continue to work hard for the Lady Tigers if they want to win their seventh region title in the past eight seasons.
As for who can knock Clay County off its perch, look no further than the Whitley County Lady Colonels because Larry Anderson will be looking to go out on a high note in last season at the helm.
With his retirement set, Anderson may be returning one of the better lineups that he’s had in his tenure, but they will have to compete night in and night out.
Next in line could be the Corbin Lady Redhounds, who will be one of the most active teams on the court all season. When you see them play you will know what I mean as Jennifer Parsons and company will be looking to push the pace all season long.
Look for Bell County and Harlan County to round out the top five on the girls side of things.