High school basketball season begins this week with all four of Letcher County teams lacing up their shoes and hitting the courts.
The Letcher County Central Cougars, who finished 19-14 last season after a firstround loss to Powell County in the 14th Region tourney, will host Hazard and Pikeville on Saturday (Nov. 24) for final preseason scrimmages. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.
The Cougars graduated five seniors last year’s seven-player rotation and will be heavily invested in rebuilding this season. Returning starter Cody Gregory, a 6-2 senior point guard, and 6-2 junior guard Sam Robinson, a key reserve last season, will try to provide some stability while younger players again much needed experience. Junior guards Chippy Frazier and Josh Boggs will also be competing for playing time in the backcourt. Juniors Dylan Kincer (6-4), Josh Owens (6-4) and Zane Blair (6-5) are being counted on to step up and handle the inside work.
Coach Robert Hammonds will be assisted again this year by Bryan Johnson and Jerry Bentley, both with previous headcoaching experience, and by Winston Lee, an assistant for six seasons.
The Cougars open the regular season November 29 at home against highly regarded East Ridge. The Warriors, under new coach Randy McCoy, apparently will be without the services of 6-8 senior forward Ray Kasongo, who moved to Kentucky from Canada last season and led East Ridge to second place in the 15th Region tourney. The Warriors are the preseason pick of many to represent the region at Rupp Arena in March.
Kasongo, who told The Courier-Journal of Louisville earlier this year that he has scholarship offers from UCLA, DePaul, Arizona, Southern Cal and other Division 1 schools, has reportedly transferred to Pikeville High School, pending final action by the Kentucky High School Athletics Association. The KHSAA does not list Kasongo on the roster of either East Ridge or Pikeville.
The Cougars will visit Jenkins on December 4 before returning home to take on Phelps two days later.
The LCC basketball programs continue to benefit greatly with enormous off-thecourt support from community volunteers. Manis Blair provides statistics, Robert Lewis handles sound/lighting, and Kelvin Eldridge handles the announcing duties. David Setzer is the boys’ scorekeeper while Philip Hampton handles the girls’ scorekeeping duties.
The Jenkins Cavaliers open at home against defending regional champion Knott County Central on November 27. The Cavs then visit Jackson City on November 30 and host Letcher Central on December 4.
Cavaliers coach Eric Ratliff, who stepped in for the school as its football coach last summer and led the Cavs to early-season success before injuries took a serious toll, returns much experience from last season’s 9-20 team.
Jenkins should have ample depth with seniors Jacob Campbell, Josh Collins, Casey Hall, Tim Seals and Koty Sexton joined by juniors Jordan Bentley and Donald Quillen and sophomores Randy Potter and Jeffery Newsome, as all will vye for playing time.
The Jenkins Lady Cavaliers open their season at Hazard on December 1, with a 2 p.m. tip-off time. The Lady Cavs’ home opener will be against Knott County Central on December 4.
Lady Cavs coach Ashley Addington graduated four seniors last year and will be trying to rebuild around highly regarded 5-8 freshman Whitney Creech. The Lady Cavs could struggle early because of their thin rank of upperclassman players with experience.
The Letcher County Central Lady Cougars open their season at home with backto back games. The Lady Cougars host Jackson City on November 30, and then Estill County on December 1 with a tip-off time of 3:30 p.m. The Lady Cougars’ first road game is a visit to June Buchanan School on December 5.
The Lady Cougars flirted with a top-25 state ranking all last season and wound up with a 24-6 record after losing to Breathitt County in the regional semifinals. The Lady Cougars will have their final preseason scrimmage Saturday against Lawrence County at Belfry High School.
The Lady Cougars graduated two seniors off last season’s seven-player rotation but are expected again this season to seriously challenge two-time defending regional champion Perry County Central for the coveted trip to Bowling Green next March.
Returning to LCC this year is Kelah Eldridge, a 5-6 senior guard who was a Lexington Herald-Leader second team All- State selection. Eldridge will have plenty of support from senior forwards Julie Cornett, Keisha Collins and Vannah Breeding. Two key front court reserves will be sophomores Kristine Bentley and Kelly Adams, both 5-9. Joining Eldridge in the Lady Cougars’ threeguard set will be newcomers Kelli Quillen, a 5-5 junior, and Cheyanne Stidham, a 5-6 sophomore. Sophomore Sara Baker can expect to see a lot of playing time.
Again this season, coach Dickie Adams will be assisted by George “Bumper” Adams, Amy Maggard-Kincer, David Ison and Danny Cornett.