Regular season play is winding down, and we are beginning to see the Fear ‘Les’ 13th Region Boys begin to shake out a bit.
South Laurel retains its top spot as the 13th Region’s best team while Knox Central continues to impress and moves into the No. 2 spot.
North Laurel, Clay County and red-hot Barbourville round out the top five with Harlan County, Corbin, Middlesboro, Harlan and Williamsburg filling the six through 10 spots.
1. South Laurel (22-2 overall, 15-0 vs. 13th Region competition)
Defense wins championships, and the Cardinals are displaying some of the finest defensive play in the 13th Region.
Since the beginning of January, South Laurel has held opponents under 60 points 10 times, which includes a 39-point effort by Corbin and 43-point effort by North Laurel.
The Cardinals handed the Jaguars a 59-43 loss at The Jungle last week, and have now won seven in a row.
This team is good, but South Laurel still hasn’t played its best game yet, which is very scary for opposing teams in the region.
2. Knox Central (21-4, 6-2)
The Panthers have recorded some big wins this season, but none compare to their 91-69 road win over Somerset.
To go on the road in the 12th Region and get a win is big. To go on the road and beat a very good Briar Jumper squad on their home floor by 22 points is even bigger.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know if Knox Central was a team that could make a run and win a region crown, but now, I believe the Panthers are a serious threat and could very well be cutting down the nets at the Corbin Arena in March.
3. North Laurel (16-9, 5-4)
The Jaguars saw their three-game win streak get snapped after dropping a 59-43 decision to South Laurel this past week.
Even with the loss to the Cardinals, North Laurel remains at the No. 3 spot. I really like what coach Brad Sizemore has done with his team.
The Jaguars are going to be tested down the stretch with games against Garrard County, Corbin and Knox Central coming up.
They could move up in the rankings with some wins, or they could drop a few spots if they fall to both the Panthers and Redhounds.
4. Clay County (19-5, 7-3)
The Tigers are 5-5 during their last 10 games, and look to have turned things around since dropping an 89-55 decision to Pikeville.
Clay County followed its loss to the Panthers with an impressive 72-59 win against Johnson Central. The Tigers proceeded to get some payback against Pikeville at home Monday with an impressive 75-68 overtime victory.
Glenn Gray’s squad has a chance to finish regular season play strong, but will face off against some very good teams (Scott County, Knox Central, Bell County and Harlan).
5. Barbourville (17-7, 13-4)
The Tigers picked up their biggest win of the season by defeating Harlan County, 77-51.
Cody Messer’s squad followed it up with a 48-40 win over Red Bird, but it was a game Barbourville struggled in.
Messer’s squad is real good, but their margin of error is thin. They can’t let teams such as Red Bird hang around or they could get beat.
The Tigers currently possess a season-long five game win streak, and could make it six games, but they’ll need to get past Middlesboro today.
6. Harlan County (18-6, 8-4)
The Black Bears had a setback after their 77-51 loss to Barbourville on Monday.
Harlan County hasn’t played the toughest of schedules, and maybe that is one of the reasons they struggled against the Tigers, but not having Taylor Spurlock in the lineup hurt a tad bit.
Even with the loss, the Black Bears can’t be overlooked. They’re a good enough team to make a deep postseason run.
7. Corbin (17-6, 11-4)
Tony Pietrowski’s Redhounds are winners of four of their last five games, and could be turning the corner after picking up a nice 68-61 victory over Middlesboro on Tuesday.
Corbin has a chance to move up in the rankings the next few weeks if they can get past both North Laurel and Pulaski County.
On the flip side, the Redhounds did suffer a minor setback this past Saturday when they dropped a 70-51 decision on the road to Garrard County.
8. Middlesboro (13-11, 8-8)
The Yellow Jackets are 2-5 during their past seven games, but it looks as if they’re turning things around after getting wins over Bell County and Pineville.
I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face — keep an eye out on this team, they’re good enough to pull off some big wins once postseason play begins.
9. Williamsburg (14-11, 8-11)
Surprise, surprise, the Yellow Jackets move back into the top 10 after posting an impressive 4-1 record during the past two weeks.
Williamsburg is a dangerous team and possesses one of the best one-two punches in the region in Caleb Rose and Slaht Hunter.
Nick Napier will find out his team’s fate in the 50th District Tournament on Monday during the District Tournament draw when a coin flip will decide if his team or Whitley County will be a No. 3 seed or a No. 4 seed.
10. Bell County (14-10, 8-9)
The Bobcats picked up a huge 73-66 road win over Harlan on Tuesday while moving their record to 6-2 during its past eight games.
Frankie Smith’s squad is another dangerous team that could cause some problems for teams once postseason play tips-off.