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June Buchanan, Hazard appear to be best in 14th Region




Even though it seems like we just started the 2007-08 high school basketball season here in the mountains, we actually passed the midway point last week when the WYMT Mountain Classic crowned its 21st champion in June Buchanan of the 14th Region.

The Crusaders beat a talented Knox Central team 73-58 in the first round, which was led by the best sophomore (6’5″ Cody Miller) I’ve seen in several years, then embarrassed Pikeville of the 15th Region 97-51 in the semi finals which set the highly anticipated match-up with Hazard in the championship game.

The Hazard-JBS championship did not disappoint anyone. The game was tight for the entire 32 minutes with only a two to five point difference the entire game. The only real difference was that Hazard seemed to play a little more physical type game with more man-to-man defense and played a rotation of nine to 10 players, while JBS seemed to rely more on a zone defense while trying to get its talented guard duo of Clark Stepp and Tate Cox in one-on-one and individual isolation-type situations where they could create offense off the dribble for themselves and teammates.

These two teams are in my eyes the class of the 14th Region and in all likelihood should meet again in two weeks for the 14th Region All-A-Classic championship and, unless some upset lightning strikes in their respective districts, should enter the 14th Regional tournament as co-favorites. The only scenario I see preventing a final third match-up in the regional championship is if they draw in the same bracket. Anytime these two teams meet, whoever wins the fourth quarter will probably end up on top.

Sophomore class

impressive

It’s been quite a few years since eastern Kentucky has seen a sophomore class as talented as this year’s is. Any coach would like to have this lineup of starters and reserves to coach: guards – Josh Whitaker, 6’0″, Hazard, and Tate Cox, 5’11”, JBS; wing forward – Cody Miller, 6’5″, Knox Central; forward – Dakotah Euton, 6’8″, Rose Hill Academy; center forward – Ashley Hatfield, 6’6″, Shelby Valley. If any of those get in foul trouble, come off the bench with guards Aaron Watts, McCreary Central; Stuart Stamper, Knott Central; and Madison Johnson, Corbin; or wing forward Chad Jackson, Rose Hill Academy, and for a solid sub inside, Matt St. John, South Laurel. I sure would like to take this group on a summer tour and put them up against the so-called quick athletic-type player we see so often in today’s inner city and metropolitan areas.

As we enter the second half of the 2007-08 season here is an update of notes and items we’ve run across for our monthly mountain high school notebook since we last visited with you:

• Owsley County girls’ basketball coach Wallace Bates has resigned his position from the 14th Region school effective immediately. According to sources close to Tri State Sports, Bates was very unhappy with the support he was getting from the school’s principal and other athletic support groups.

• Officials from the Harlan County school system have reportedly put together an impressive financial package for their new school’s head football coaching position and are pitching it at Dudley Hilton of Bell County, who is supposed to give them an answer within the week. If Hilton were to leave Bell County, he would leave behind one of his better teams that is returning this coming fall according to longtime Bobcat supporters on Log Mountain.

• Hazard’s new coach, Al Holland, got some good news last week when Robert Warren was ruled eligible by the KHSAA just in time to make a cameo appearance in the WYMT Mountain Classic. Robert Warren is the stepson of new Bulldog assistant coach Eddie Whitaker. Now Holland and the Bulldogs have received a late Christmas present when freshman Eric Back, who was the starting point guard at Perry Central, reportedly became unhappy with the style of play for new coach Allen Hatcher and his role for the Commodores and enrolled at Hazard when the second semester started back after the holiday break. Transfer papers were being processed by school officials at press time. Based on past experience in this matter it could be anywhere from two to four weeks before a ruling is sent down from the KHSAA commissioner’s office.

• Over in the 15th Region, Shelby Valley and Paintsville are on a collision course similar to the one Hazard and JBS had at last week’s WYMT Classic. The only difference is they will have only two meetings this season and the first will be in next week’s All-A-Classic regional tournament to be held at Betsy Layne High School. That is, unless Allen Central upsets Paintsville in the first round.

• Leslie County High School’s boys’ and girls’ basketball teams are both young and struggling through tough seasons and if that’s not enough to deal with’ they were dealt another blow last week when their recently renovated Richard Nixon Athletic Center caught on fire. There was severe damage to several rooms and extensive damage to the playing floor. School officials said the remainder of this year’s schedule will be rearranged and some home games that were planned for special occasions will be played at Perry Central. Leslie County and Perry Central have also agreed to trade years in the district rotation. This year’s 54th District will be at the John C. Combs Arena at PCC and next year Leslie County will take its turn as host.

• My favorites to meet in the finals of the four eastern Kentucky mountain All-A-Classic boys’ regionals are: 13th Region, Cumberland-Lynn Camp; 14th Region, JBS-Hazard; 15th Region, Paintsville-Shelby Valley; 16th Region, Elliott County- Fairview. Pineville got a tough draw in the 13th and must beat Middlesboro and Cumberland both just to get to finals, and Rose Hill got a similar draw in the 16th, getting matched up in Elliott County’s bracket.

• Breathitt County High School’s boys’ basketball team entered the off season last summer on a tremendous high note after coming off a 21-4 regular season and a Final Four appearance in last year’s 14th Regional tournament. It has been a rocky road for the Bobcats’ likable coach Steve Banks since the summer.

It all started when Banks had two guards to transfer to Owsley County and Jackson City at the end of the summer. Then the football team went deep into the playoffs, which pushed the start of the hoops season back two weeks since several football players are key hoopsters. Then several underclassmen who played last year decided to devote their time elsewhere after 3 p.m. each day.

The season started and a couple losses revealed the true interest of some other players and now Banks has reportedly lost the services of guard Justin Hollon, who decided to leave the team after losing twice in the WYMT Mountain Classic. According to sources close to the Bobcats team, only 11 players presently make up the entire team’s roster.


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