Boys Top Five
1. Harlan Co. (5-0 overall, 3-0 vs. 13th Region foes)
What’s the scoop: The Black Bears keep rolling while showing everyone they are the team to beat in the 13th Region this season. Harlan County has picked up some big early season wins over Pineville, Middlesboro and North Laurel.
Surprise, surprise: The Black Bears seem like a team on the mission this season and I saw glimpses of that during their win at home against defending 13th Region champion North Laurel Wednesday.
What’s ahead: Harlan County will be in action at home Friday against Leslie County before traveling to play South Laurel Saturday. They will host Bell County Monday in a key 52nd District game on Monday.
2. Clay County (5-0, 1-0)
What’s the scoop: I’m really impressed with this year’s Tiger squad. If there is one team at the present time that could upend Harlan County, it has to be Robert Marcum’s squad.
Surprise, surprise: Tyler McDaniel continues to shine during his sophomore season as the Tigers’ point guard. He can run the offense as good as anyone and he can score at any time. If Clay County is going to make a run at its first regional title since 2001, McDaniel will play an important role.
What’s ahead: The Tigers will be tested today on the road against a young, but talented Knox Central squad before hosting North Laurel at home in a key 49th District showdown on Monday.
3. Knox Central (3-1, 1-0)
What’s the scoop: This might be a tad too high for the Panthers right now, but they are just going to get better as the season progresses.
Surprise, surprise: Knox Central has received solid play from players such as Matt Barger, Jeffrey Adams and Chad Marsee, but to be make a run at the 13th Region crown, center Tobie Merida is going to have to step up in the post and I believe he will.
What’s ahead: The Panthers host Clay County today in a key 13th Region showdown before hosting Cumberland, Gap, Tenn. Saturday. Knox Central will be back in action again at home Tuesday against Wayne County.
4. Corbin (5-1, 2-1)
What’s the scoop: This scrappy team continues to surprise and will be a tough team to beat throughout the season. I’m really impressed with the way coach Tony Pietrowski has molded this year’s version of Redhounds into one of the region’s best teams.
Surprise, surprise: Big props go out to senior Hunter Grubb, who continues to give Corbin a huge boost when he’s out on the floor. Grubb gives 110 percent and can cause opposing teams trouble on the boards and when a clutch shot is needed, he can knock it down.
What’s ahead: The Redhounds travel to play the defending state champions Trinity Shamrocks Friday before traveling to play Spencer County Saturday.
5. North Laurel (3-3, 2-3)
What’s the scoop: The defending 13th Region champion is struggling right now with Jake Allen out of the line-up due to an injury. It seems as if North Laurel is having a hard time getting rebounds, but things will change once Allen is back.
Surprise, surprise: Austin Thompson came up big against Rockcastle County by hitting a last-second shot to give the Jaguars a win. The Jaguars might be struggling at times with Allen out, but the experience the younger players get will pay off down the road.
What’s ahead: North Laurel hosts Riverside Christian Saturday before traveling to play 49th District rival Clay County on the road Monday. A loss to the Tigers will drop North Laurel to 1-2 in 49th District play, so the Jaguars need a win in a big way.
The Best of the rest
No. 6 Jackson County (4-2, 2-0)
What’s the scoop: Yes, the Generals beat North Laurel and yes, they beat the Jaguars at The Jungle, but they only one by one in triple overtime and the Jaguars were without Jake Allen. Also Jackson County has dropped two in a row, including a 71-65 loss to Leslie County.
No. 7 South Laurel (2-4, 1-1)
What’s the scoop: The Cardinals are slowly improving.
No. 8 Barbourville (3-2, 2-1)
What’s the scoop: The Tigers are a pleasant surprise.
No. 9 Bell County (2-2, 2-1)
What’s the scoop: The Bobcats have rebounded after an 0-2 start to the season.
No. 10 Harlan (3-5, 1-4)
What’s the scoop: Welcome to the top 10 Green Dragons.
Girls Top Five
1. Whitley Co. (5-0 overall, 3-0 vs. 13th Region foes)
What’s the scoop: For the first time in 66 polls, I have a new girls team atop the Fear ‘Les’ 13th Region Girls Rankings. The last time Clay County wasn’t ranked No. 1 was back in March of 2008 — that’s a long time folks.
Whitley County deserves to be No. 1. The Lady Colonels accomplished something 61 other teams tried to do and they did it. Larry Anderson’s squad could have folded a couple of times against Clay County, but responded like true warriors.
Surprise, surprise: Brandi Smith is getting a lot of love and deservedly so after hitting the game-winning shot to beat Clay County, but you also gotta give credit to both Kandice Craig and Maria Johnson for keeping the ball alive after Bethany Powers’ shot with seven seconds remaining rimmed out. Craig tipped the ball and Johnson came down with the rebound and then was credited with the assist after passing the ball out to Smith.
What’s ahead: Whitley County will be back in action Friday before taking a week off to participate in Calloway County’s Heritage Bank Hardwood Tournament.
2. Bell County (6-0, 5-0)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Bobcats continue to roll and look to be a team hard to beat after starting the season with a perfect 6-0 record.
Surprise, surprise: A lot of Bell County’s success can be credited to the play of standout Maci Morris, who led the Lady Bobcats with 18 points during an 84-45 win over North Laurel Monday, but Jessica Sanders (12.3 scoring average) and Morgan Garnett (11.0 scoring average) are playing well, too.
What’s ahead: The Lady Bobcats will travel to play 12th Region foe Wayne County Saturday before going back on the road Monday to play Harlan County in a 52nd District showdown.
3. Clay County (2-1, 1-1)
What’s the scoop: I’ve been doing the Fear ‘Les’ 13th Region Girls Rankings since 2005 and this is the lowest the Lady Tigers have ever been. But don’t get used to the No. 3 ranking, the defending four-time 13th Region champions remain one of the best teams in the region.
Surprise, surprise: One of the big keys to Clay County’s success this season will be its guard play. For four years Alisha Mitchell ran the point for the Lady Tigers and turned in some of the best play I’ve seen. Both TaLaura Mathis and Ajaycia Cotton have the talent to run the point guard position, but need to cut down on turnovers.
What’s ahead: Clay County will hit the road today and play Knox Central before hosting Betsy Layne Saturday and North Laurel Monday in a 49th District matchup.
4. Harlan County (7-0, 4-0)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Black Bears have been rolling and could easily be ranked anywhere in the top three as well, but it’s hard to see just where they should fit into those three spots right now.
Surprise, surprise: Coach Anthony Nolan has done a fantastic job coaching so far this season for Harlan County and recorded his 300th career victory last week and I expect him to have even more down the road.
What’s ahead: I’ll get a better sense of just how good the lady Black Bears are when they play Bell County at home Monday. That should be a very interesting game.
5. Corbin (3-4, 2-2)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Redhounds picked up a big 50th District win over South Laurel Monday with hopes of continuing to play well down the road.
Surprise, surprise: Corbin has talent, but needs to be more consistent.
What’s ahead: The Lady Redhounds have a big home game against Barbourville today before trailing up I-75 to participate in the Berea Lady Pirate Holiday Classic beginning Friday.
The Best of the rest
No. 6 Barbourville (5-0, 2-0)
What’s the scoop: A win over Corbin today would allow the Lady Tigers to crack my top five for the first time in school history. The Lady Redhounds will be a good test for Barbourville.
No. 7 South Laurel (1-4, 1-3)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Cardinals aren’t picking up many wins, but they are hanging tough against some very good teams. Taylor Arthur might just be the most important player to her Lady Cardinal team than any other player in the 13th Region.
No. 8 Lynn Camp (5-1, 2-0)
What’s the scoop: The Lady Wildcats keep surprising and Kayla Smith keeps showing she’s one of the most underrated players in the 13th Region. This could be one of the best coaching jobs Richard Jones has done in a long time.
No. 9 Pineville (4-3, 3-2)
What’s the scoop: The 52nd District is a whole lot better than people think. The Lady Mountain Lions came away with a big win over North Laurel Tuesday.
No. 10 Knox Central (3-1, 1-1)
What’s the scoop: I say this every week — The Lady Panthers continue to be one of the hardest teams to figure out. We will get to see just how much they have improved today with their home game against No. 3 ranked Clay County. The Lady Tigers will enter the game with something to prove, so Knox Central better be ready to play or the Lady Panthers could be in trouble.