Boys Top Five
1. Harlan Co. (13-1 overall, 5-0 vs. 13th Region foes)
What’s the scoop: The Black Bears suffered their first loss of the season, but posted an impressive 5-1 record over the holiday break, including winning the Hilton Head championship.
Surprise, surprise: Harlan County’s lone loss of the season so far came to the hands of Breathitt County in the Pikeville Invitational Tournament.
What’s ahead: The Black Bears have an important 52nd District road game battle with Harlan today before playing Lincoln County Saturday in the Dunkin Donuts Tournament at Lexington Catholic. They’ll also begin playing in the WYMT Classic Wednesday against Hazard.
2. Knox Central (10-4, 2-0)
What’s the scoop: The Panthers remain at the No. 2 spot, but have a rough road ahead with starting guard Matt Barger out with a hip injury.
Surprise, surprise: Knox Central posted a 5-2 record during the Christmas Break and captured the Williamsburg Holiday Tournament championship in the process.
What’s ahead: The Panthers will host Knox Central in a key 51st District showdown Friday and will be back in action on the road Tuesday in another important 51st District game against Barbourville.
3. Clay County (10-3, 2-1)
What’s the scoop: The Tigers remain one of the top teams in the region and I still believe when it comes down to it, could very well win their first region title since 2001.
Surprise, surprise: Robert Marcum’s squad posted a 4-2 mark during their two holiday tournaments they participated in. Clay County went 2-1 in both the Raceland Derby Classic and the Daytona Beach Sunshine Classic.
What’s ahead: The Tigers have a key game at home against Jackson County Friday and will host Wayne County on Saturday. They will be back in action Wednesday in the WYMT Classic against former coach Kevin Spurlock’s Perry Central Commodores.
4. North Laurel (8-6, 4-3)
What’s the scoop: The Jaguars are rated this high right now, but they need to build a bit of consistency if they’re going to repeat as 13th Region champions.
Surprise, surprise: North Laurel went 4-2 during the holidays, including a 3-0 effort that was good enough to win its own Legacy Nissan Shootout. The Jaguars picked up a big win over Corbin to capture the tournament title.
What’s ahead: Bragging rights will be on display Friday when the Jaguars travel to play South Laurel. They’ll be on the road again Saturday against Owsley County before participating in the WYMT Classic Tuesday against Breathitt County.
5. Corbin (10-5, 4-2)
What’s the scoop: The Redhounds are another team to keep an eye on once postseason play begins. Coach Tony Pietrowski has done a fantastic job with this team.
Surprise, surprise: Corbin posted 5-2 mark during Christmas break by turning in a runner-up effort in the Legacy Nissan Shootout while capturing the Cumberland Falls Invitational Tournament championship. Pulaski County paid a visit on New Year’s Day and handed the Redhounds a 90-65 loss.
What’s ahead: Corbin will travel to play Williamsburg Friday in a 50th District battle and will host Middlesboro Tuesday.
The Best of the rest
No. 6 Jackson County (8-6, 4-0)
What’s the scoop: The Generals are dangerous, but they have been struggling as of late. After starting the season with a 4-0 mark after beating North Laurel, 86-85, in triple overtime, Jackson County is only 4-6 since.
No. 7 Middlesboro (8-5, 3-2)
What’s the scoop: The Yellow Jackets are another team that ranks in my ‘dangerous’ category. Middlesboro posted a 3-3 mark during the holidays and looks to continue to improve each week.
No. 8 South Laurel (4-8, 1-2)
What’s the scoop: The Cardinals just can’t seem to get over the hump. I know injuries have played a big role lately, but South Laurel is 27-47 during the past two and a half years.
No. 9 Barbourville (7-5, 3-2)
What’s the scoop: The Tigers continue to improve and have two important 51s District contests coming up this week against rivals Lynn Camp and Knox Central.
No. 10 Pineville (7-5, 4-5)
What’s the scoop: This is one team I just can’t figure out. I still believe coach J.D. Strange will make this team a region contender by the time postseason play rolls around.
Girls Top Five
1. Whitley Co. (10-3 overall, 3-0 vs. 13th Region foes)
What’s the scoop: The Whitley County Lady Colonels suffered their first loss of the season (and picked up two more this past week), but remain at the top spot after posting a 5-3 mark during the holidays.
Surprise, surprise: I was really impressed with the way the Lady Colonels hung tough during their 47-44 loss to Sacred Heart during the Mercer County Lady Titans Tournament. The Valkyries have only lost once this season and that shows just how good Whitley County can be.
What’s ahead: Whitley County will host Lynn Camp today before hosting 12th Region power Lincoln County Monday at home.
2. Harlan County (15-1, 7-0)
What’s the scoop: I know I continue to say this — but what a fantastic coaching job Anthony Noal has done with the Lady Black Bear program this season. To be 15-1 and undefeated against regional teams is impressive.
Surprise, surprise: Harlan County turned in a fantastic Christmas Break by going a combined 6-1 during the Smokey Mountain Classic and the Candy Cane Classic Tournaments. The Lady Black Bears posted a perfect 4-0 record in the Candy Cane Classic, which was good enough to win the tournament championship.
What’s ahead: Harlan County will travel to play 52nd District rival Harlan today before hosting defending 13th Region champion Clay County Saturday.
3. Clay County (10-2, 3-1)
What’s the scoop: Since losing to North Hardin, the Lady Tigers have recovered nicely, going 5-1 during Christmas Break.
Surprise, surprise: Clay County placed second in the Mustang Christmas Tournament while capturing the Daytona Beach Sunshine Classic championship with a perfect 3-0 mark. The Lady Tigers’ game against Harlan County Saturday will show if they are one of the top two teams in the region heading into the second week of January.
What’s ahead: Clay County will host 49th District rival Jackson County Friday before hitting the road to play Harlan County in an important 13th Region showdown. The Lady Tigers will be back in action again at home Monday against rival Rockcastle County.
4. Bell County (11-3, 5-1)
What’s the scoop: Bell County posted a 4-2 mark during Christmas break by going 2-1 in both the Danville Lady Admiral Christmas Tournament and the Lady Wolverine Classic.
Surprise, surprise: The Lady Bobcats remain as one of the best teams in the 13th Region, but they have hit a couple of bumps along the way the past couple of weeks. It’s key for them to continue to improve.
What’s ahead: Bell County hits the road Friday against Middlesboro before hosting Virginia’s Lee High School Monday.
5. Corbin (10-6, 5-2)
What’s the scoop: This is another team to keep an eye out on. Just when it seemed as if the Lady Redhounds were struggling, they turned in two impressive performances in the Berea Lady Pirate Holiday Classic and the KSA Event Tournament in Orlando, Fla.
Surprise, surprise: A big shout out goes to freshman guard Jaclyn Jewell, who scored 22 points while knocking down all six of her three-point attempts during Corbin’s win over Alabama’s Pisgah High School this past week.
What’s ahead: The Lady Redhounds will travel to play Williamsburg in a 50th District contest Friday and will be back in action again Monday on the road against 50th District foe South Laurel.
The Best of the rest
No. 6 Barbourville (11-3, 6-2)
What’s the scoop: This is the highest the Lady Tiger basketball program has ever been ranked. Barbourville picked up a big win this past week (the program’s first) over South Laurel.
No. 7 Lynn Camp (11-2, 6-1)
What’s the scoop: Who has the second-best record in the 13th Region behind Harlan County? Try Richard Jones’ Lady Wildcats. This is also the highest Lynn Camp has ever been ranked. Jones’ squad will have a tough matchup today against No. 1 ranked Whitley County.
No. 8 South Laurel (7-8, 4-5)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Cardinals are looking for some consistency and momentum, but it’s going to be tough in the upcoming weeks with games against Corbin, Bell County and Whitley County looming.
No. 9 Pineville (9-6, 5-5)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Mountain Lions continue to improve and will be a sleeper once the 13th Region All ‘A’ Classic Tournament begins next week. Both Barbourville and Lynn Camp enter as favorites, but you can’t count out Pineville.
No. 10 Knox Central (6-6, 1-3)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Panthers turned in a 2-3 effort during the holidays after going 1-1 in the Coach Wilson Classic and 1-2 in the Lady Wolverine Classic. Knox Central has a nice looking schedule coming up that should help Darrin Mills’ squad to gain some momentum heading into some key district matchups against Lynn Camp and Barbourville in a couple of weeks.