It’s that time of year again. March Madness is upon us and it is in full swing. The 10th Region Boys Basketball Tournament gets underway
Wednesday and Thursday nights March 7 at the Mason County Fieldhouse, with first round action.
For myself and many, not only basketball fans, but sports fans in general, there is no better month in sports than March. This is usually where the boys are separated from the men, regional tournament play. If the district play within the 10th Region is any indicator, then we should be in for a wild ride at The Fieldhouse this week and next.
Some things we all need to look at and remember as 10th Region basketball fans with the regional opening up
Wednesday night March 7th:
**Augusta High School, under the direction of Coach Jason Hinson, will be making their 5th straight appearance in the regional tourney and that has never been done in the history of the school.
**Pendleton County, under first year head coach Keaton Belcher, returns to regional play for the first time since 2012. The last time Coach Belcher was in the regional he was cutting down nets as a key member of the Pendleton County Wildcat team that won the regional in 2005.
**Coach Terence Brooks has his Paris Greyhounds back in the region for their first appearance since 2002 and they come in as the winner of the 40th District.
**Bourbon County is making their first appearance since 2005; entering as the runner-up of the 40th District with their impressive upset win over Montgomery County, 67-65 on February 24th.
**Scott High School is back in the regional after missing out last season. Last year was the only season that Scott hasn’t made the regional since joining the 10th Region in 2006.
**Campbell County enters the regional tournament winning 11 of their last 15 games and is the defending regional champion.
**Mason County enters regional play obviously as the hottest team in the region, winning 11 straight games and 19 of their last 20. Remember Mason County lost to Augusta the last 2 years in round one of their district.
**Harrison County enters regional play as the only team in the state to have a player who played for 2 different teams in the state in the same season without moving residences.
**This will be the first year in the last 49 years that 10th Region fans will not see George Rogers Clark or Montgomery County playing in the regional. Yes that’s correct; I did say 49 years.
PENDLETON COUNTY WILDCATS (14-16)
Pendleton County, under first year Head Coach Keaton Belcher, enters regional play with a 14-16 record, but have won 6 of their last 8 games and are getting hot at the right time. To some, the Wildcats were a surprising winner of the 38th District, defeating an up and down Harrison County team. In a classic district final battle at Robertson County, the Wildcats beat Harrison County 73-71. The Wildcats were led by sophomore guard Michael Antrobus who garnered 27 points, including 7/11 from behind the arc. The young man scored 11 straight points in 70 seconds in the 2nd quarter that really turned the game around. Antrobus leads the Wildcats in scoring with 16 ppg, shoots 82% from the FT line, and makes 36% of his 3 point shots. He also, this season, became the single season school record holder for 3 point shots made in a season with 86. This kid can fill it up in a hurry.
The thing about the Wildcats, who have been dubbed “Belcher’s Bomber’s” due to their onslaught of three point shots, is they are certainly more than a one man show. Quick Note: Pendleton County leads all 10th Region tournament participants in 3 point shots taken with 693 and made with 244. They have hit 31 in their last 2 games.
Junior PG Hunter Wood has really taken to his role as the team’s leader and is averaging 7.0 ppg; but there is so much more to his game than just scoring. Wood averages 5.2 assists per game and has 145 assists on the year. Wood is only 3 assists shy of breaking the single season assist record at Pendleton County, which is held by former Wildcat standout Tyler Mains. He has been a major help to the team’s young players who have had to be key contributors this season. Wood’s leadership truly has been invaluable to the Wildcats this year.
Senior big man Hunter Lea has been a key contributor all season for the Wildcats, averaging 10.2 ppg and 8.6 rpg. He is a battler down low, but can hit the 3 point shot as well. Lea has to be guarded wherever he is on the court.
Eighth grader Dontaie Allen recently returned for the Wildcats after breaking his wrist in December. Allen scored 34 points and grabbed 8 boards in his first game back, leading the Wildcats to their district semi-final win over Robertson County. He is a lengthy young man with a ton of potential who helps the Wildcats in many different aspects of the game.
This Wildcat team has battled injuries all season and has played a pretty tough schedule heading into regional play. The Wildcats are playing as well as anyone not named Mason County. With the team shooting as well as they have been from behind the arc, I look for them to make a nice run at the regional tournament.
AUGUSTA PANTHERS (17-10)
Augusta is led by head coach Jason Hinson. Hinson who was the 10th Region Coach of the Year, enters regional play with a 17-10 record. After losing all-world performer Brent Bach to graduation last season, many of the so called experts didn’t feel the Panthers would be back in the region this season. Not only have the Panthers returned to the region, they also were winners of the 10th Region Class A tournament (first in school history) and played in the All A State Tournament in Frankfort. Coach Hinson summarized his team’s goals for the season on pcroradio.com:
“Our team wanted to prove that we were more than just a one man show, as great as Brent was, we felt, especially our three juniors, that we had something to prove this season. We wanted to win the Class A and win our district again. We won the Class and even though we fell short of winning the district we are very happy to be returning to the regional tournament.”
Augusta has also had to overcome the loss of All-Region performer Camryn Snapp, who tore his ACL in the Class A State tourney. Snapp will have surgery March 5th to repair the ligament damage. At the time of his injury, Snapp was averaging 15.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg, and was shooting over 50% from the field. He is also a leader on the floor and a wonderful defender. Augusta has had to move on without Snapp; and the whole team has stepped up and tried their best to fill in for their injured leader.
Junior Connor Maddox, who has really evolved his game from just a 3 point shooter, leads the team in scoring with 18.3 ppg, making 52 three pointers on the season while shooting 84% from the charity stripe. Maddox has really stepped up his game in the absence of Snapp and has evolved into more of a leader.
Also helping the Panthers in Snapp’s absence has been Junior Owens Crawford. Crawford is a relentless worker and a player who does all the little things that might sometimes go unnoticed. However, he has stepped into being more of a scorer lately and has played very well down the stretch. Crawford averages 11.0 ppg and brings down 4 rpg, while also operating as the primary ball handler for the Panthers.
Others who have stepped up include Seniors Nathan Schrader and David Tucker. Schrader, who can be deadly from behind the arc (45%), is averaging about 8 points per game on the season. Tucker who also averages 8 points and 4.5 rebounds per contest has also stepped up his defense in recent weeks.
In typical, never give up fashion, Augusta earned their regional appearance with a hard fought contest over the Bracken County Polar Bears in the district semi-finals. This team isn’t at full strength, but I can guarantee they will be ready for their matchup against Pendleton County in round one and will fight to the very end. This Panther team has tasted success; they want more, and they have dealt with adversity. You can never count Coach Hinson, his staff, and the Panthers out.
MASON COUNTY ROYALS (27-2)
Mason County is the team to beat in the 10th Region this season after not making the regional the last two years. Player of the Year Dorian Henry leads the way with 21.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg, and a whopping 71% from the field (237/335). He is an absolute stud inside the lane and is nearly impossible to stop when he comes ready to play. The thing about Henry that I love, is that he truly lets the game come to him; he doesn’t ever force the action. At the end of every game, Henry has his numbers.
This Mason County team is deep. The Royals regularly play up to 10 players each night. However, it is their starters that get most of the work done on the offensive end of the floor. Junior PG Antwavon “PIG” Williams has really come on this season, especially late in the year as he had a tremendous 39th District tournament. Williams is the only junior in the Royals starting lineup and averages 9.5 ppg, 4.5 assists, and 4.2 rpg. Also chipping in for the Royals are senior guards Ryan Johnson and Daerius Johnson, who respectively average 9.8 and 8.2 points per game. This Mason County team shoots better than 52% from the field and can flat-out get it done on the defensive end of the floor, only allowing a measly 49.4 points per game.
This Royals team has been playing as well as anyone in the state and Coach Chris O’Hearn has his team on an 11 game winning streak, and winning 19 of their last 20 games. The Royals are 27-2 on the year and they have been a top-15 team in the state all season. Mason County is salivating for a return trip to the Sweet 16. Rumors are swirling that this could be Coach O’Hearn’s last year on the sidelines as the leader of the Royals basketball program. If that is truly the case, then that adds a little extra something special to this team making it back to Lexington for the 5th time in O’Hearn’s tenure as head coach at Mason County.
Mason County destroyed both their district opponents last week with an average margin of victory of 34 points. The Royals are primed and ready heading into the region and in my opinion, as well as many others, this is Mason County’s regional tournament to lose. They will be extremely tough to beat at the mecca of high school gymnasiums in the state of Kentucky, the vaunted Fieldhouse. The Royals are 15-0 in 10th region play this season and only lost one game all season at The Fieldhouse and that was to Lexington Catholic.
HARRISON COUNTY THOROUGHBREDS (15-14)
Harrison County enters the regional tournament at 15-14. The Thoroughbreds are likely disappointed in themselves and have surprised many in the region. This team has enough talent to be a top 5 regional team; but somehow that hasn’t really carried over to the court this season. The Breds are led by All-Region player Trent Thompson who averages 22.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest. The kid is a complete beast on the court, hitting 52% of his FG’s and 73% of his FT’s. In my humble opinion, this young man is as good as any player in the 10th Region. The thing most people cannot figure out is why the Breds haven’t had more wins.
Larry Kendall and his team have certainly underachieved this year and I am not sure the return of DJ Jenkins helped or hurt this team. For those of you who do not know, Jenkins started the season out at state powerhouse Scott County, but in the middle of the season transferred back to Harrison County. (Jenkins was at Harrison County prior to enrolling at Scott County)
How all that went down is beyond me and has left many in the region scratching their heads. Jenkins is a tremendous athlete, but to say the young man brings some baggage to the court would be an understatement to say the least. He can play though; and has averaged 14.1 ppg and is another athlete/defender on the floor for Coach Kendall. Zach Pulliam is another very nice player for the Breds, averaging 11 points per night and has made 49 threes on the season.
Harrison County is one of those teams that you just don’t know what you’re going to get from night to night. They have all the talent in the world to play with anyone in the region; but finished the season going 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are a jump shooting team and an average defensive team at best. You pair that with their inconsistency and you don’t have a good formula for making a run in the regional. If they bring their “A” game they can hang with the mighty Mason County Royals, but I don’t think it really matters as I am predicting Mason County will defeat the Thoroughbreds handedly.
BOURBON COUNTY COLONELS (9-19)
First year Head Coach Nick Sosby has the Colonels of Bourbon County back in the region for the first time since 2005. When you read that, stop for a minute and think to yourself: How is that possible? Has it been 10 years since Bourbon has played in the regional? It certainly has and this team making it to the regional this year was an accomplishment that very few in the region would have predicted heading into district play.
In a major upset over Montgomery County in the 40th district last week, the Colonels found themselves in the district finals against Paris, losing a tight one 53-50. With the fewest wins of any team entering the 10th Region tournament at 9, Bourbon County has a lot to prove; but this is post season play where anything can happen.
The Colonels are led in scoring by senior guard Landon Sexton, a tremendous shooter. Sexton leads the Colonels in scoring with 14.9 points per game, has mad 65 threes in 129 attempts, and carries 3 point FG% of 50.4%….this kid can fill it up and can do so in a hurry. Any chance the Colonels have at upsetting Campbell County lies in this young man’s hands.
Helping Sexton is sophomore guard Ameryon Blackburn. Blackburn is averaging 10.3 ppg, and is shooting 48% from the field and 72% from the free throw line. He also has hit 42 three point shots on the season. The young sophomore has been a surprise for the Colonels this year and has a very bright future ahead of him. During the district tournament, Sexton averaged 18.0 ppg.
Senior Michael Baker is also a key contributor for Bourbon County and is finishing up a fine playing career for the Colonels. Baker averages 9.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, and has hit 29 three pointers on the season as well.
The Colonels love to shoot the 3 point shot and it is a major part of their offense, considering they only average 59.6 ppg. As a team, they have hit 184 threes in 454 attempts for a very respectable 41% and 7 per game. The Colonels only trail Pendleton County in treys made among regional participants. They have four players who have hit 29 or more 3’s on the season, requiring this team to be guarded beyond the arc.
I don’t think the Colonels have another upset in them as they face a very daunting opponent in defending 10th Region champion Campbell County. However, the way the Colonels like to shoot the three and the way they can heat up, anything is possible. In order to pull off the upset over the Camels, Nick Sosby’s bunch will have to be on fire from behind the arc. No matter what happens, Coach Sosby has to be happy with a return trip to the regional for his Colonels.
CAMPBELL COUNTY CAMELS (22-9)
The Camels look to be playing as close to full strength as they have been all season long. After a dismantling of their district opponents last week, only allowing 70 points in the two games, the Camels are primed for a another run at the regional tournament. Coach Aric Russell has his team at 22-9 on the year; but the Camels have certainly played their best ball of the season down the stretch going, 11-4 in their last 15 games. The Camels who score 69.5 ppg and love to get up and down the floor, have recently turned up their defense only giving up an average of 38 ppg in the last 3 games.
The return of junior Matt Wilson has been a major lift to the team. Wilson who missed a big portion of the season due to injuries is back and playing very well. Wilson is as good as it gets in the 10th region and is a leader for the Camels. He is averaging 14.3 ppg, 10.8 rpg, shoots 70% for the FT line and 50% from the field, hitting 60 three-point shots on the season. If you can handle Wilson then you have a legit shot at stopping the Camels. However, the Camels have proved this season, they can win without Wilson and played very well at times in his absence.
Senior guard DeAndre Jackson, the Kentucky State commit, is the team’s leading scorer coming in at 17.4 points per contest. This kid is a tremendous athlete who shoots 75% from the free-throw line and 48% from the field. Much of the offense runs through Jackson and Wilson and the Camels have as good of a two man combo as any team in the 10th region tournament.
The Camels also get help from Blake Losey and Trent McGovney. Losey who really saw his playing time and scoring increase in the second half of the season, has come onto be a bit of a surprise this season. Losey averages 12.7 ppg, but its his leadership that has been so valuable to the Camels this season. McGovney has settled in at the point for the Camels. While his statistics don’t show how important he is to the Camels on the court, McGovney averages 7.4 points per game.
With this recent uptick in the Camels defense play and the way they have performed in their last 15 games, the Camels look poised to make another run at the regional title. They have proven they can play with anyone in the 10th region and they cut down the nets at The Fieldhouse just last season. The Camels are well coached and play a tough, in your face brand of defense. They also like to get up and down the court in a hurry. If the Camels are to earn a repeat trip to the Sweet 16, Jackson and Wilson will have to do the majority of the work, but this Camels team is certainly not just a two man team. The Camels play very unselfishly and are primed to repeat as 10th region champions.
PARIS GREYHOUNDS (18-9)
It’s been 13 years since the Paris Greyhounds were in the 10th Region tournament, seems hard to believe, but it certainly has been a long dry spell for Paris. Coach Terence Brooks, in his second year as Greyhounds head coach, led his team to an impressive 18-9 record. Paris, who had a 6 game winning streak earlier this season, enters the region winning their last three games and are playing very well, winning the 40th District last week.
The Hounds are led by All-10th region performer junior Koebe Garrard who averages 19 points and 8 rebounds per game, while shooting 47% from the field. Garrad has also made 33 three point FG’s on the year. This kid is big and strong and is an all-around player that is very hard to contain anywhere on the court. He will be a hand full for the Scott Eagles.
Helping Garrard lead the Greyhounds, is the young, athletic sophomore combo guard Jekobi Wells. Wells who has major upside to his game, averaged 14 points and nearly 7 boards per night. Wells does most of his damage in the lane, making only one three pointer on the season. The young man shoots a very respectable 56% from the field and is a tremendous defender. Point guard James Clark chips in 9.2 points per night as well as 4.5 assists and is the floor general for Coach Brooks’ Hounds.
The Hounds who average 64 points per contest and give up 57 per night have had a wonderful season and look to make some noise in the region. In their first round game against Scott, I like the Greyhounds to get the W. They have too much athleticism for Scott to handle. This is a very good rebounding team and they love to get after it on defense. With their team quickness and relentless pressure, they can force their opponents to turn it over pretty quickly. Look for them to get after the Eagles and pressure them all night.
SCOTT EAGLES (16-13)
Head coach Brad Carr and his Eagles return to region action after a one year hiatus. Last season is the only time the Eagles have missed the regional tournament since entering the 10th in 2006. At 16-13 on the season, it’s safe to conclude that the Eagles didn’t play as well as they feel they could have and should have. Despigte qualifying for the regional once again, the Eagles have had an up and down season that began with 3 straight wins, then 5 straight losses, and then 5 straight wins. So, for Coach Carr, this has been a roller coaster of year to say the least. The Eagles are 6-4 in their last 10 games and are averaging 62.8 points per game while giving up an average of 61.7.
All region sophomore guard Jake Ohmer, who this season, had a 51 point school record explosion; is the straw that stirs the Eagles drink. The shooting guard is deadly from behind the three point line, hitting 50 on the season all while averaging 22.2 points per night and grabbing 4.2 boards. Ohmer is shooting 57% from 2 point range, 36% from three point range, and 83.2% from the free throw line. One of the better players in this great region, Ohmer has been a bit streaky lately. If the Eagles hope to get a win at The Fieldhouse, Ohmer has to be on top of his game.
Senior guard Blake Schneider has had a very nice season thus far, averaging 14.8 points per game, 3 rebounds, while shooting 81% from the line. Schneider is the floor leader for the Eagles and a fiery player who likes to get after people on the defensive end. Guard Andrew Tramme leads the Eagles with 56 three’s made and is a deep range threat every time he touches the ball. Tramme averages 11.0 points per night and has made a very respectable 37% of all his threes on the year.
In order for Scott to pull off a win at the regional, they have to be hitting on all cylinders from behind the arc. The three point shot is what makes this team go. They have been so up and down this season that you truly do not know what team will make the trip up the AA Highway. If Scott can control the tempo and hit their outside shots, they have a chance at beating Paris in round one.
Campbell County vs. Bourbon County
Camels take care of business, handle Colonels easy.
Pendleton County vs. Augusta
Wildcats pull away late and move onto meet the Camels.
Mason County vs. Harrison County
Breds hang around for a while, but Royals talent /depth takes over and Royals get the W.
Paris vs. Scott
Hounds are too athletic for the Eagles
Campbell County vs. Pendleton County
Wildcats stay hot and UPSET the Camels.
Mason County vs. Paris
Royals win this one easily and make finals.
Mason County vs. Pendleton County
PC hangs tough for a little while, but Royals are just too much for the Cinderella Wildcats as the Royals make their return to Lexington
10th Region Champions
Mason County Royals
Michael Appleman II is a father of two sons, long-time sports fan, coach, and the co-host of the The King-Appleman Monday Night Sports Show on pcroradio.com, 7 to 9 pm on Monday nights, along with Tim King. Follow Michael and Tim on Twitter at @thekingapplesho