Basketball fans in the state capital will get an early-morning dose of the 16th Region in the next two days.
West Carter’s girls and Russell’s boys will play in the Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic starting today at the Frankfort Convention Center.
For Russell’s coach, and players, it’s their first tournament experience on the state level. Coach Merle Kidwell said not only his team, but also the community, have embraced the chance to play in Frankfort.
“It’s really a win-win,” Kidwell said. “I feel like this is a good chance for our program to get respect at the state level ... It’s nothing but positive for them and hopefully when they get a taste of this it makes them want that ultimate goal to play in Rupp Arena in March a little bit more.”
Russell will play Region 3 representative Butler County (14-8) on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. The Bears have won nine of their last 10 games.
Kidwell said Russell coaches went down to watch the Region 3 All “A” championship and said they came away very impressed, but optimistic.
“We’re expecting a battle,” Kidwell said. “But this is a very winnable game. We have a thorough scouting report and we’re not going in blind.”
Butler County, which is also making its first appearance in the All “A” Classic, is led by senior guard Elijah Flener. The senior powered Butler County past Owensboro Catholic in the region final.
The Bears also feature 6-foot-7 Trevor Jenkins, who can play inside and also step out and shoot the 3.
Kidwell said he hopes to counter Jenkins with 6-foot-5 forward Lance Evans.
“Lance is very athletic,” Kidwell said. “The good thing about him is he’s big, but he can step out and guard guys on the perimeter. (Jenkins and Flener) will probably be our focus.”
Russell’s defense hadn’t allowed more than 55 points a game in the past eight contests heading into Tuesday night’s matchup with Boyd County.
The Red Devils are featuring a team that hasn’t won any major tournament in their careers.
Kidwell said while the nerves will be there, he doesn’t seeing it affecting his team that much.
“We have seniors that stay focused,” Kidwell said. “They just play who is in front of them. It’s a very goal-oriented basketball team. They’re really a throwback high school basketball team in the idea that winning is No. 1 priority.”
For the West Carter girls, they have the honor of opening the Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic.
The Lady Comets will play Region 11 champs Frankfort (12-4) at 8:30 a.m.
West Carter coach Bart Stevens said when he told his team what time they had to wake up today, they kind of just looked at him.
“When I told them they had to wake up at 5 a.m. they just looked at me funny,” Stevens said. “We’re just going to have to wake up and move around to get our legs moving. Then when we get on the bus in the cold weather, that will wake us up.”
Frankfort has a big task ahead of them. It’s the first time a team from the capital city has represented the 11th Region in All “A” history.
They are led by Shanae and Shauntae Brown, and according to Stevens, the Lady Panthers like to run.
“They’re just a typical Bluegrass team,” Stevens said. “They’re not a big team, but they’re quick, athletic and like to run. They like to move up and down the floor and press most of the time.”
For West Carter to stand a chance, Stevens said his team will have to stay away from the fast pace, and move towards West Carter’s grind-it-out style.
“If the game stays in the 30s we’ll have a chance,” Stevens said. “We’re going to try and be patient and handle their pressure. We’re going to have to get the ball past halfcourt and run our sets to get open looks.”
West Carter traveled to Frankfort on Tuesday, while Russell will make the trip tonight.
If West Carter wins today, it plays again on Friday at 8:30 a.m. If Russell wins, the Red Devils play Friday at 6:30 p.m.