February is fast approaching, and if Friday is any indication, the 16th Region boys basketball crown might just have two hands tugging on it at the moment.
After suffering a 64-51 loss to Russell at home, Ashland coach Buddy Biggs suggested that the Red Devils and Fleming County are “head and shoulders” above the rest of the pack right now.
“And we’ve got six weeks to close the gap,” he said.
The Panthers pulled away to blow out two-time defending region champions Rowan County, 80-61, on Friday in Morehead. They've taken two in a row over the Vikings after dropping seven straight in the series.
Russell used tough defense to distance itself from Ashland.
Teams that go to Rupp Arena typically have these three ingredients: Good guard leadership, overall team experience and defensive flexibility.
Fleming County and Russell have shown these qualities more than others, making them the frontrunners for region supremacy.
‰ Fleming County and Russell didn't just beat their rivals on Friday, they rolled them with relative ease. The Panthers hadn't beaten the Vikings by that much since Dec. 1, 2009, when they throttled Rowan County 85-51. Russell hadn't cleared the Tomcats by such a margin since Feb. 23, 2007, when it also won by 13.
‰ Ashland didn’t do region foes Boyd County and East Carter any favors in the Kitten Shootout on Saturday. The Lady Lions and Lady Raiders lost very close games to solid competition (Perry County Central, Montgomery County). The tough games should only help them though.
‰ Battling for a loose ball, Russell's Kyle Skaggs broke his nose when he bumped into Ashland’s Logan Salow on Friday. According to Red Devils coach Merle Kidwell, Skaggs will likely not miss any time.
‰ Boyd County’s seniors made the most of their only opportunity to play in the new high school’s gymnasium. Both the boys and girls won in a doubleheader against Fairview. Senior Brandon Lowe made his night extra memorable by becoming the 26th player in Boyd County history to reach 1,000 career points. Senior Morgan Kenser scored the first two points at the gym. The middle school will continue to be the main host for Boyd County basketball.
‰ By drilling Fairview, Boyd County's boys made a statement that they are prepared to supplant Fairview in the 16th Region Tournament next month.
‰ One of the highest-scoring offenses in the region has been quieted of late. Ashland (69.9 points per game) has been stuck on 51 the last two games. Sometimes, with a slump, it’s best to simply shoot your way out of it.
‰ With Russell's boys the clear favorite to win the 63rd District, It’s likely going to come down to a three-horse race for the No. 2 spot and a ticket into the region tournament field. Raceland has beaten both Lewis County and Greenup County in the last two-plus weeks, a major stride for the young Rams.
‰ Some questions will be answered inside the 62nd District this week. For instance, is Elliott County better than East Carter? The Raiders won the first meeting in thrilling overtime fashion, but the Lions have won six in a row. They clash again on Tuesday in Sandy Hook.
‰ The QB and area football followers had an eventful week. On two straight days, head coaching positions opened up for both Ashland and Boyd County. Which direction will the Tomcats and Lions go? We’ll wait and see.
‰ Some might be wondering why Lawrence County isn’t included in my Super Seven, girls and boys both, since the Bulldogs are included in the QB's football polls. In basketball, the PG just ranks 16th Region teams. That being said, Lawrence County would definitely be in, perhaps near the top, if it was in the region.
1. Fleming County (10-2)
2. Russell (12-4)
3. Morgan County (11-3)
4. Ashland (9-5)
5. Rowan County (8-7)
6. Boyd County (9-7)
7. Elliott County (8-5)
1. Ashland (9-2)
2. Boyd County (10-4)
3. East Carter (9-5)
4. Rowan County (7-7)
5. Lewis County (6-8)
6. Fleming County (6-6)
7. Greenup County (10-9)
West Carter’s Kyle Brown continued to be the bright spot for the 1-11 Comets. He scored 36 points against East Carter on Saturday.
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AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.