2015 Boys State Tournament Preview

First of all I would like to congratulate Covington Holy Cross girls on their victory in the 2015 Girls state tournament.

With that said, welcome to the new look of Bluegrass Basketball. Here you’ll find news, facts, and updates about everything Kentucky High School basketball.

To get started, our team member, Jonathan Moore has written up a detailed break down of each region for you. Make us your go-to source for this year’s state tournament information. We will keep an updated bracket along with rosters available at your fingertips! Feel free to comment with your own thoughts and predictions. Later today we will be posting team rosters. Stay tuned.

Region 1 – Calloway County 

Record: 29-3

Coach: Terry Birdsong

Last Trip: 2003

Championships: 0

The Lakers make their first trip to Rupp Arena since 2003. The last time the Lakers made this trip coach Terry Birdsong was also on the sideline. After leaving Calloway County to coach at Graves County, coach Birdsong returned to Calloway County this season and has once again led the Lakers to the Sweet Sixteen. The Lakers might be one of the biggest unknowns of this year’s tournament but that comes with the territory when you come out of the 1st region.

The Lakers enter the state tournament with an impressive 29-3 record and are led by Region 1 player of the year, Parker Adams. Adams is averaging 17.7 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds per game. Also, anchoring the scoring load for the Lakers is 6’7” senior Skyler Hunter. Hunter, who averages 11.5 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game isn’t strictly a post player. He can step out and knock down the 3 at an impressive clip, in fact he is shooting 43.5% from behind the arc on the season. This has been a nightmare matchup for 1st region teams all year.

The biggest x factor for the Lakers is their senior leadership. Any team that has 6 seniors that all play significant minutes is a dangerous team. This group of kids have played together for a while and play extremely well as a unit.

Region 2 – Hopkinsville 

Record: 26-5

Coach: Tim Haworth

Last Trip: 2014

Championships: 1 (1985)

The more things change the more they stay the same. For the fourth year in a row the Tigers and coach Tim Haworth will represent the 2nd region at Rupp Arena. Although, this year the road to Rupp was no easy task. The Tigers beat an outstanding Henderson County team in the 2nd region tournament before finishing off a pesky Webster County team in the 2nd region finals.

The Tigers are led this year by senior Jaqualis Matlock. Matlock, a starter since he was a freshmen, is averaging 19.6 points per game along with 8.8 rebounds per contest. Matlock is an outstanding athlete who has had big performances on this stage before is the big gun for the Tigers. Jordan Gary and LeDonald Gray anchor the rest of the scoring attack for the Tigers, each of the averaging right around 12 points a game. A kid I expect to really make a name for himself during the state tournament is Stephen Cager. Cager is just a freshmen but he is an absolute jet on the floor and shows great signs of being a true point guard. Cager will be a huge part of how successful the Tigers are at Rupp this year. Experience goes a long way on this stage and you will be hard pressed to find a team in this field with more of it then the Tigers.

Region 3 – Owensboro 

Record: 27-4

Coach: Rod Drake

Last Trip: 2014

Championships: 3 (1949,1972,1980)

Coach Rod Drake and the Owensboro Red Devils make a return trip to Rupp Arena this season as the 3rd Region champions. This season marks the 41st time the Owensboro Red Devils have been Regional Champions. Think about that for a second, 41 times, quite an impressive feat. Along with those 41 regional titles comes 3 state championships and a storied history as one of the top programs in the state’s history.

This year’s team is led by senior forward Aric Holman. Holman, a top candidate for Mr. Basketball, is averaging 15.8 points per game along with 9.7 rebounds. Not only a post player, Holman’s athleticism and ball handling will surprise some people. He can pretty much do it all on the basketball court when given the chance. When looking for a true post presence look no further then Justin Miller for the Red Devils. Miller is a true post presence, is actually the Red Devils leading scorer at 16.7 points per game to go along with 8.7 rebounds per contest. The only defense to be able to contain Miller on the block this year is the officials. Miller has had some games where foul trouble sneaks up on him and he has to spend extended periods of time on the bench. If not for that no telling how his numbers may look. The key for the Red Devils to advance and be successful at Rupp Arena is guard play. If senior point guard Darion Morrow and senior shooting guard Dylan Sanford can take care of the ball and control the perimeter game the Red Devils could make a serious run at state title number 4!

Region 4 – Bowling Green 

Record: 28-5

Coach: DG Sherrill

Last Trip: 2014

Championships: 0

The Purples make a return trip to Rupp Arena looking to finish what they started last season. Bowling Green advanced to the semifinals of last year’s state tournament before falling to eventual champion Covington Catholic. Led by Coach DG Sherril the Purples once again make the trip to Lexington with a solid group of kids and athletes.

Leading the way for the Purples is senior Tucker Sine. Sine is averaging just under 14 points and 5 rebounds a game. Not only is Sine a great player but the leader of this Purple team. Don’t be surprised to see him guarding the best player on the court or grabbing that decisive rebound when the game is on the line. Sine isn’t a one man show for the Purples though, look no further then sophomore forward Terry Taylor. Taylor is the team’s leading rebounder at 7.4 rebounds per game along with 12 points per contest. A name to watch for the Purples is junior Perry Ayers. Ayers a long athletic forward can play on the inside and outside for the Purples and really impressed off the bench last year during the state tournament. If the Purples can get things going early on for themselves don’t be surprised to see them make another run at Rupp Arena.

Region 5 – Taylor County 

Record: 28-4

Coach: Richard Gatewood

Last Trip: 1983

Championships: 0

Coach Richard Gatewood leads his Cardinals to Rupp Arena for the first time since 1983. The Cardinals have been impressive all year long with some big wins against teams from all around the state of Kentucky. Taylor County finished the season undefeated in the 5th region and only lost 1 game to in state competition, not to mention an impressive runner up finish in the prestigious King of the Bluegrass Christmas Tournament.

If you haven’t heard the name Quentin Goodin by now you sure will know his name by the end of the state tournament. Goodin is not only one of the top players in the state but one of the top rated junior guards in all of the country. Goodin has an impressive list of college offers including one from the University of Louisville. You will be hard pressed to find an overall better point guard at Rupp during the state tournament. Goodin averages 21.3 points and 5 rebounds per game and is an amazing athlete that can do it all. However, Goodin is not by himself out there. The Cardinals also feature a pair of guards that are as good of a supporting cast as you will find with Senior guard/forward Brandon Berry and Sophomore guard David Sloan.  If the three headed monster that is Taylor County gets going watch out anyone who stands in their way. Expect the first round matchup with Hopkinsville to be an all-out war and a heck of an entertaining game.

Region 6 – Doss 

Record: 26-6

Coach: Tony Williams

Last Trip: 1987

Championships: 0

The Doss Dragons make their first trip back to Rupp Arena and the state tournament since 1987. Doss is led by Coach Tony Williams who is a former Dragon and Louisville Cardinal. Williams in his first year at the helm of the Dragons has led his alma mater to the promised land that is Rupp Arena. Expect these Dragons to take full advantage of the trip and make it a memorable one.

Leading the way for the Dragons is Senior point guard Dujuanta Weaver. Weaver can’t only handle the ball and distribute he can flat put it in the basket. He is the Dragons’ leading scorer at 16.9 per game and controls the tempo and pace Doss wants to play at. Along with Weaver, Doss has a pair of players that really make them tough to guard. Terrell Gray and Tyler Jefferson are two guys that can step up if Weaver is struggling or they can all just fill it up and then you have huge problems. Gray  is an aggressive attacking guard but can shoot the jump shot at an impressive clip if you decide to lay off of him. Tyler Jefferson, a WKU football commitment, left the team for a couple games during the middle of the season to focus on his football career but decided to come back and really helped push the team to the regional championship. Jefferson is the go to guy in the post and averages 12.5 points and 7 rebounds per game. The Dragons play an exciting brand of basketball and look to push it every chance they get. The Rupp Arena crowd will really enjoy watching these guys play.

Region 7 – Ballard 

Record: 31-2

Coach: Chris Renner

Last Trip: 2013

Championships: 3 (1977, 1988, 1999)

What do you get when you take 2 Division 1 basketball players, 4 starters, and Mr. Basketball off of a 29 win team? Evidently you get 31 wins, no losses to in state teams, a 26 game winning streak, and a 7th region championship. Almost everyone at the beginning of the year was ready to crown Trinity the state champions and at least the 7th region champions. Well the Bruins must not have gotten that message. Not only did the Bruins put an end to Trinity’s season, they pretty much dismantled everyone in Louisville and the 7th region this season. Winners or the LIT, the Bruins were an impressive 18-0 against 7th region competition.

Filling the shoes of last season’s Mr. Basketball, Quentin Snider, is a top Mr. Basketball candidate himself Jalen Perry. Perry is the leader of the Bruins and the go to guy when they need a big bucket. Perry comes into the state tournament averaging 21.2 points per game and shooting an impressive 41.6% from the 3. The other big gun for the Bruins is Anthony Eaves, Eaves is the son of former UofL Cardinal Jerry Eaves, and Anthony hopes to accomplish something his father did at his time at Ballard, a state championship. Eaves was a part of Ballard’s first state championship team in 1977. The younger Eaves is averaging 17.7 points per game and is a nice compliment to Perry on the perimeter. Taken care of the interior for the Bruins is senior Corey Douglas. Douglas a long athletic post player puts in 8.8 points per game to go with 7.7 rebounds per contest. As a team the Bruins are one of the best at shooting it from long range. The highest ranked team in the field and one of the favorites the Bruins look primed for their 4th state championship.

Region 8 – Collins 

Record: 26-8

Coach: Chris Gaither

Last Trip: Never

Championships: 0

The Collins Titans enter their first ever state tournament. Only a school for 5 years now, Collins has been close to this stage before but finally got over the hump this season and captured the 8th region title. The Titans had an up and down season but pulled it all together when it mattered the most and find themselves in Rupp Arena when that state tournament starts on Wednesday afternoon.

Leading the way for the Titans are Senior guards Deion Cochran and Brent Kidwell. Cochran a prolific 3 point shooter, shoots the 3 at an impressive 40% clip and leads the Titans in scoring at 16.7 points per game. The floor general and point guard for the Titans is Brent Kidwell. Kidwell handles it well, hardly turns it over, and makes a ton of winning plays for the Titans. Kidwell also can put it in the basket when he needs to and averages 13.3 points per game. The Titans are a very guard oriented team and rebound well as a team. When they have had problems this season it’s been due to a lack of a true post presence. As we know though, if you can shoot it from the perimeter then you can beat anyone on any given night and that’s what the Titans can do. Look for the Titans to make the most of their first trip to Rupp Arena and give any team they run up against a test.

Region 9 – Covington Catholic 

Record: 29-5

Coach: Scott Ruthsatz

Last Trip: 2014

Championships: 1 (2014)

After leading the Colonels to a state championship last season, what more could Coach Scott Ruthsatz do? How about bring those Blue Colonels right back to Rupp Arena and go for a repeat? Well that’s exactly what he has done. The Colonels survived a brutal 9th region tournament and ridiculous regular season schedule to find themselves right back where they ended the season last year. Can they cut down the nets again and be our first repeat champions since the Fairdale Bulldogs? Only time will tell.

Gone is state tournament MVP Nick Ruthsatz and a host of seniors that led the Colonels last year. Don’t let that fool you though the Colonels haven’t missed a beat this season and much of that is due to three guys who played huge on this stage last season. Cole Vonhandorf, Cooper Theobald, and Bo Schuh. Vonhandorf is the leading scorer for the Colonels at 17.9 per game but not only can he score, he can lock anyone up. Look no further than his defensive performance in last year’s title game against Trent Gilbert.  Bo Schuh is the man that controls the inside for the Colonels pounding in 13.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per contest. If anything the Colonels know what it takes to win on this stage and have guys that have been here before, not to mention the best student section in the state of Kentucky. Expect the Colonels to leave there stamp on this year’s tournament as they look to repeat and cut the nets down again.

Region 10 – Campbell County 

Record: 25-9

Coach: Aric Russell

Last Trip: 2014

Championships: 0

A stinging 2 point loss to Johnson Central in the first round of last year’s state tournament has to be a key motivating factor for the Camels this year as they return to Rupp. Vastly over looked all year in the 10th region, the Camels once again came away as the regional champions have a chance to prove that last season was no fluke.

A trio of returning players from last year’s regional tournament squad lead the Camels’ back to Rupp this season.  The man leading the way, Senior guard Deondre Jackson and his 16.9 points per game. Jackson, an outstanding athlete, is a tough matchup for any team. He can shoot it and take it to the rim and passes it well when he needs to. Helping out on the perimeter is fellow senior guard Blake Losey and his 13.1 points per game. Both Jackson and Losey shoot the 3 at over a 35% average and if they get hot watch out. Anchoring the load in the post for the Camels is big man Matt Wilson. Wilson brings his 14.6 points and 11.3 rebounds per game back to Rupp Arena where he had an outstanding performance just a year ago. For the Camels to make noise this year at Rupp they will need a huge effort from Wilson and some great outside shooting from Jackson and Losey. Don’t count them out though, they have one thing most teams at this level would love to have, experience.

Region 11 – Lexington Catholic 

Record: 24-8

Coach: Brandon Salsman

Last Trip: 2011

Championships: 1 (2002)

The Knights make their return to Rupp Arena and needless to say their earned this one. Not only did the Knights navigate an always tough 11th region they also survived an absolute brutal 43rd district which had 4, yes 4, teams ranked in the top 25 in the state. Arguably no team had a tougher road to Rupp from game one to the region championship then the Knights. Coach Brandon Salsman makes his 4th trip to Rupp in 8 years searching for that elusive first state championship ring. Salsman was a player on the Knights 1992 state runner up team and an assistant coach on the Knights state championship team of 2002.

The Knights are led by 5 seniors and these kids were sitting on the end of the bench as 8th graders the last time the Knights made it to Rupp. It’s hard to pick out a star for this year’s version of the Knights but if you need somewhere to start look no further then senior Tanner Johnson. Johnson the Knights leading scorer at 20.7 points per game, has unlimited range and the green light to go with it for the Knights. Johnson shoots the 3 at an average of 39.3% but when he is hot, he is white hot! Not to be out done by Johnson is senior point guard and 11th region tournament MVP Michael Talbott. Talbott is a hardnosed pass first point guard, but can take anyone off the dribble and score when given the chance. The rest of the starting lineup is made up of Jarod Griffin, Reese Ryan, and Walker Booth. Any team that starts 5 seniors is dangerous but that’s not all the Knights are, they are a team that starts 5 seniors that have played together since the 6th grade! Look for the Knights to make a run at title number 2 this week and never count them out of any game!

Region 12 – Boyle County 

Record: 26-6

Coach: Steve Adams

Last Trip: 2006

Championships: 0

Coach Steve Adams and the Boyle County Rebels had one goal when the season started like most teams do, make it to Rupp Arena. The Rebels felt they had an outstanding shot at this with the return of Hagen Tyler and Colton Elkins, add in the addition of point guard Jeremiah Bell and the Rebels knew they finally had the ingredients to get the Rebels back to the promised land.

Hagen Tyler is not only the leading scorer for the Rebels but he is the unspoken leader of this squad. If you ask most people in Boyle County they will tell you Hagen is arguably the best player to even come through Boyle County High School. Tyler, a NKU signee is pacing the Rebels at 21.5 points per game and shooting a scintillating 40% from the 3. Not to be outdone is senior point guard Jeremiah Bell. Bell averages just at 20 points per game and has the ability to attack the basket from anywhere and against anybody. The two headed monster that is Tyler and Bell is as impressive of a duo as you will see anywhere. The X Factor for the Rebels is big man Colton Elkins. Elkins not a prolific scorer, only averaging 7.2 points per game, is an absolute game changer protecting the rim. If you bring in the paint against the Rebels expect it to be sent right back out if Elkins can get to it. Elkins is arguably the state’s top shot blocker and if they can get a big game from him offensively then the people of Boyle County will have more to talk about then just football!

Region 13 – Williamsburg 

Record: 25-4

Coach: Patrick Robinson

Last Trip: 1946

Championships: 0

1946! I repeat 1946! That is the last time the Yellow Jackets of Williamsburg made the trip to the state tournament. It’s safe to say the Yellowjackets are this year’s surprise entrant to the state tournament, but don’t tell them that. The Yellowjackets were the state’s last remaining unbeaten team this season after starting the season at an impressive 17-0.

The Yellowjackets are led by senior Corey Shelton and his 17.3 points per game. Shelton is a solid 3 point shooter and shoots right at 42% from the 3 on the season. Andrew Griffith and Fred Massey anchor the load down low for Williamsburg and combine to average 12 rebounds per contest. Guard Skyler Griffith adds 14.3 points per game to round out a solid balanced scoring attack for the Yellowjackets. Williamsburg is going to be hard pressed to be the team cutting down the nets on Sunday night but there is one thing you can almost guarantee. The Rupp Arena crowd will rally behind this small eastern Kentucky school and as we have seen in the past anything can happen at the state tournament.

Region 14 – Knott County Central 

Record: 30-2

Coach: BB King

Last Trip: 2014

Championships: 0

The Patriots make their return trip to Rupp Arena with only one thing on their mind, cutting down the nets on Sunday. After being upset in the first round by Bowling Green last year, the Patriots have been on a mission all season long. Viewed as one of the favorites and led by top Mr. Basketball candidate and Vanderbilt signee, Cameron Justice , anything less than a championship will be viewed as a failure to these boys from Knott County.

Cameron Justice enters this year’s state tournament averaging a crisp 23.8 points per game and on the brink of being one of the top 2 scorers in Kentucky high school basketball history. Considered the favorite for this year’s Mr. Basketball by most people around the state, Justice looks for the one thing that has eluded him, a state title. Justice, however won’t have to do it alone. Helping along the way will be big man Evan Hall. Hall an outstanding player in his own right, brings his 14.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, to Rupp Arena looking to help lead the Patriots to a state championship. What most would say was a good draw for the Patriots, most people don’t expect much of a test for them until the Saturday semi-finals. Never expect not to be surprised when it comes to the state tournament, but most people will be shocked if the Patriots aren’t playing on Saturday night.

Region 15 – Johnson Central 

Record: 23-9

Coach: Tommy McKenzie

Last Trip: 2014

Championships: 0

The Eagles make their 4th straight trip to Rupp Arena as 15th region champions. An up and down season for the Eagles saw them lose start Kyle Gullett to injury in the middle of the season just to get him back and go on an absolute tear through the 15th region before falling to Sheldon Clark in the district championship game. Like all good teams, the Eagles bounced back less than a week later to claim yet another 15th region championship.

Kyle Gullett might be one of the more under rated players in the state of Kentucky, especially at first sight but don’t let appearances fool you Gullett can play. A great shooter for his size Gullett can do a little bit of everything and he does for the Eagles. Gullett enters the state tournament averaging 18.8 points and 8 rebounds per game. A set of cousins provide the rest of the scoring for the Eagles — Braxton and Mason Blair. Mason is an outstanding 3 point shooter and Braxton is the straw that stirs the drink and runs the show for the Eagles. Braxton runs the point while Mason spots up and knocks down the 3 when teams try and focus too much on Gullett. You can’t end this without mentioning Dalton Adkins. Adkins adds about 10 points per game but has been a starter for 4 years as an Eagle, including all 4 years in the state tournament. A fun fact with the Eagles, former Paintsville star and Mr. Basketball J.R. VanHoose, is an assistant for the Eagles and makes his return to Rupp Arena on the sidelines coaching for a former rival. Johnson Central is always a competitive team and a tough out at this level. Although odds might not be in their favor having to play Ballard in the opening game, don’t expect these Eagles to go down without a fight — if they go down at all.

Region 16 – Elliott County 

Record: 22-7

Coach: Greg Adkins

Last Trip: 2009

Championships: 0

The Elliott County Lions make a return trip to Rupp Arena for the first time since 2009. The last time we saw the Lions on this stage they were led by a set of twins, a prolific shooter, and a long lanky athletic wing that could do it all. Well this might not be the Lions of old but the comparisons are eerily similar.

These Lions aren’t at the same level of those previous teams that stole the heart of the masses at Rupp for so many years, but they do have their own style and exciting level of play. Leading the way for the Lions is Senior Hunter Holbrook and sophomore Chase Porter. Holbrook leads the Lions in scoring at 13 points a game with Porter right behind him at 12.6 points per game. As for the mention of twins above, the Lions have a set of twins on this team as well in Junior’s Landon and Reece Griffith. These two youngsters can fill it up from the 3 for the Lions as well as almost everyone else on the team. When the Lions get hot they are a tough team to beat, just ask anyone in the 16th region. They made an impressive run through the regional tournament beating both region favorites Boyd and Rowan County on their way to the title game where they outlasted district rival Morgan County. These Lions may not stack up to the Lions of old but expect them to keep Rupp on the edge of their seats.

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