For The Beacon
HEAD COACH: Jason Mays
2018-19 Record: 18-17
Where Season Ended: 60-30 loss to Trinity in State Quarterfinals.
Key Losses: Devaunte Robinson (14.4 ppg/5.9 rpg) Hunters Mays (10.5 pgg), Ryan Bryant (7.6 ppg/5.7 rpg)
Keynote Games: Spring Valley (WV) 12/10, GRC 12/17, Capital (WV) 12/20, George Washington (WV) 12/21, Trinity (Louisville) 1/7, Russell 1/10, Ironton 2/8.
Jason Mays proved it does not matter how you start, only how you finish in his rookie season with the Tomcats.
Ashland was 14-16 following a loss to Boyd County in the 64th District Championship. What followed was a 4-1 run that ended with a loss to eventual State Champion Trinity at Rupp Arena. Now the Tomcats look to build upon its first regional championship since 2001 while needing only six wins to become the first Kentucky team to win 2,000 games as a program.
The Tomcats return as one of the region favorites with plenty of returning experience from last year’s squad. Ethan Hudson (10.4 ppg), Ethan Sellers (7.9 ppg) and Cole Villers (7.4 ppg) look to start an Ashland strangle-hold on the region for the next several years. Villers hopes for a healthy season after playing only 10 games. Villers returned at the end of the season after a successful recovery from an ACL injury.
Joining the Tomcats this season is freshman transfer Collin Porter from Elliott County. Porter gives the Tomcats a true point guard presence with Villers and Sellers on the wings.
Ashland looks at a schedule that is considered as one of the toughest in the region while playing several formidable opponents from neighboring states. Ashland tangles with Spring Valley, Capital and George Washington out of West Virginia all before Christmas and Ironton on February 8. Ashland visits George Rogers Clark (Winchester) on December 17, battles reigning state champ Trinity January 7 and Russell on January 10.
Boyd County Lions
HEAD COACH: Randy Anderson
2018-19 Record: 24-11
Where Season Ended: 59-43 loss to Ashland in Regional Championship
Key Losses: Talbott Taylor (13.3 ppg/7.1 rpg), Jonathan Hicks (6.2 ppg), Landon Meade (3.4 ppg).
Keynote Games: Russell December 6, Rowan December 13, West Carter December 16, Ashland January 11 & 25.
It is no secret Boyd County is playing with a chip on its shoulder after falling to rival Ashland in the regional championship last season.
However, the Lions will be playing with an extra boost of motivation this season as well after the loss of Coach Bobby Sparks in the offseason.
Sparks was the voice of reason, while rarely saying a word. His look could send a message anyone could hear, but his smile could as easily light up a room. Now the Lions hope his legacy will lead them back to Rupp Arena in March.
Having one of the most prolific scorers in the region in Blake Stewart will help that cause. Averaging 21.5 points per game while grabbing 7.8 rebounds—both team highs—Stewart will be the cog in the wheel Randy Anderson hopes has enough traction to push his Lions back to Lexington. And Anderson hopes his biggest attribute this season is the ability to play as many as 10 players at any given time.
Carson Webb (9.9 ppg) will take a larger part in the offense this season after Talbott Taylor graduating. They will be joined by Brad Newsome and Gaylon Cisco, who both contributed to another Lions’ 20+ win season.
Boyd County tangles with Russell on December 6 then a 16th region favorite in Rowan County on December 13. The Lions matchup with the Comets of West Carter on December 16 before heading to Vegas after Christmas. Boyd County visits Ashland on January 11 followed by a return trip by the Tomcats on January 25.
HEAD COACH: Brett Cooksey
2018-19 Record: 10-20
Where Season Ended: 70-63 loss to Boyd County in Districts.
Key Losses: Garrett Greene (15.4ppg/7.1 rpg), Noah King (14.1ppg/6.3 rpg).
Keynote Games: West Carter December 3, Ashland December 9, Boyd County January 3
New look, same name in Westwood.
Although the Eagles will have a new head coach, it will not be someone unfamiliar with the program.
Brett Cooksey takes over after working as an assistant for his brother Derek who took an assistant role at Russell in the offseason.
Now Cooksey looks to guide the Eagles to their first winning season since 2014-15 (15-11) and must do so after the loss of their two leading scorers and rebounders. Returning for Fairview is Terrick Smith (11.1 ppg) who offers a 3-point attack from anywhere past the timeline. Jaxon Manning will look to build on a solid freshman season (8.4 ppg) with a tall frame that should present itself to the Eagles’ void on the glass. Jack Roy (4.1 ppg/6.8 rpg) brings a physical presence in the paint for the Eagles but struggled to stay on the floor last season due to foul issues.
Fairview gets a challenge out of the gate with West Carter on December 3 followed by a district tilt with Ashland on December 9. The Eagles first battle with Boyd County comes on January 3.
Rose Hill Royals
HEAD COACH: Johnny Bush
2018-19 Record: 4-25
Where Season Ended: 77-27 loss to Ashland in Districts.
Key Losses: None
Keynote Games: Fairview 12/5 & 1/21, Bath (All-A) 1/11, Menifee 1/24.
Johnny Bush admits everything the Royals have been working toward has been for this season. With what he returns, that statement is as clear as a crystal-clear piece of glass.
Bush returns his entire starting five led by Kenny Wilburn (16.9 ppg/7.1 rpg) and Stephan Barker (12.7/6.2 rpg). Trey Phelps (10.1 ppg) rounds out the group of scorers for the Royals. However, Bush admits this season he has five guys who can handle the ball which created plenty of issues for the Royals last year in the turnover column.
Rose Hill captured a 71-64 win over Fairview on January 22, its first district win since 2008-09. It gets another shot at the Eagles on December 5 then again on January 21. The Royals face the Bath County Wildcats to open the All-A on January 11 and battles Menifee County January 24.
Greenup County Musketeers
HEAD COACH: Robert Amis
2018-19 Record: 11-19
Where Season Ended: 62- 41 loss to Lewis in Districts.
Key Losses: Eli Raby (9.7 ppg), Logan Robinson (9 ppg), Brecken Thomas (4 ppg/6 rpg)
Keynote Games: Lewis 12/13, Raceland 1/2, Russell 1/7
Last season was a up and down season for Robert Amis in his first year at the helm of the Musketeers. Amis inherited a squad with very little varsity experience and was severely undersized.
What a difference a year can make.
Greenup returns significant varsity playing time from seven players led by point guard Brady Nelson (17.7 ppg). Nelson never saw a shot he did not like; hence the 30 percent of Greenup’s shots being accounted for from the guard. However, Nelson has reinforcements this season, including 6-foot-5 transfer Rodrell Dryden on the block.
Joining Nelson in the backcourt will be Zane (5.3 ppg) and Zander Carter and Brady Burchett. Zane, the elder of the Carters, offers a long wingspan with great athletic ability from anywhere on the floor. He could bring another option from the paint for the Musketeers. Zander is only an eighth grader, but plays well above his age. He saw varsity time last season but looks to start this year for Greenup. Griffin Keeton will see significant time as the sixth man for the Musketeers.
Greenup will open district play with Lewis County at home on December 13 before heading to Alabama for three games prior to Christmas. The turn of the calendar year sets up a pair of district tilts with Raceland on January 2 and Russell January 7.
Russell Red Devils
HEAD COACH: Tom Barrick
2018-19 Record: 9-18
Where Season Ended: 55-53 loss to Raceland in Districts
Key Losses: None
Keynote Games: Boyd 12/6, West Carter 12/7, Cabell Midland 12/13 and 2/10, Raceland 12/17, Greenup 1/7, Lewis 1/14.
The only thing that will look different on the Red Devils’ sideline while be its skipper and the new coach is far from a rookie.
Tom Barrick is a member of the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame after collecting 339 wins in 19 years with Wheelersburg. Likewise, as veteran as the coach is, so is the squad he inherits in his first season at Russell.
Arguably one of the most experienced groups in the region return to the court for the Red Devils led by one of the most dangerous shooters in Tristan Miller. At nearly 43 percent, Miller was a deadeye from beyond the arc for Russell while dropping in 14.7 per night. Miller was joined in double-digit scoring by Charlie Jachimczuk (13.4) and Brady Bell (10). Malakai Anderson (4 ppg/5 rpg) will be looked upon for a presence in the paint and on the glass.
Barrick should have a great idea of where his team is prior to the Christmas break with several key regional matchups, with region runner-up Boyd County on December 6, West Carter December 7 and Raceland December 17. The Red Devils have also added a home-and-home with Cabell Midland (WV) on December 13 and February 10.
Russell opens 2020 with a pair of district tilts with Greenup County (1/7) and Lewis (1/14).
HEAD COACH: Bob Trimble
2018-19 Record: 16-14
Where Season Ended: 74-72 2OT loss to Boyd County in opening round of Region.
Key Losses: Kyle Adkins (13.6 ppg), Greg Mershon (10.8 ppg/6.2rpg).
Keynote Games: Elliott County 12/10, Russell 12/17, Greenup 1/2, Lewis 1/7.
Losing over 24 points per game in two players is reality Bob Trimble faces entering this season. Luckily, he returns three players who averaged around 30 a night.
With Kyle Adkins and Greg Mershon graduating, Raceland turns to Kirk Pence (14.1 ppg), Andrew Floyd (10.6) and Austin Cumpton (6.8 ppg/4.9 rpg) to its offensive attack.
Pence returns from a foot injury in the offseason and appears to be 100 percent healthy as he takes the court looking to lead the Rams to their third consecutive winning season. It would be the first time Raceland achieved such a feat since the 2000-03 seasons.
Joining Pence in the backcourt is Floyd, who plays with the motto, “shooters gonna shoot.” Floyd presents a significant long-range threat with the ability to use the dribble-drive. The biggest difference for the Rams this season is who will fill the void at point guard and if that is Pence, how does it affect the Rams’ offensive production.
Cumpton is another key contributor for Raceland who had a coming-out party in the Derby Classic last season. Cumpton offers a tall frame that the Rams will look to on the glass after losing its leading rebounder in Mershon.
Matchups with Elliott County on December 10 and Russell on December 17 will let the Rams know where they stand prior to the Derby Classic ramping up before Christmas. Raceland works district tilts with Greenup County on January 2 and Lewis County on January 7.