Everybody will have to wait a few extra days to find out if rivals Boyd County and Ashland will once again meet up for 16th Region supremacy in girls basketball.
Teams tip off next Saturday, March 2, for a quadruple-header of opening-round matchups at Ellis T. Johnson Arena, giving coaches and players an entire week to prepare.
What opponents they’ll prepare for was determined during Saturday morning’s tournament draw on the campus of Morehead State University.
The first-round rundown goes as follows: Fleming County-Boyd County, noon; Russell-West Carter, 1:30 p.m.; East Carter-Lewis County, 6 p.m.; and Ashland-Rowan County, 7:30 p.m.
For the last three seasons, the first round has taken place at district winners’ sites before moving to Morehead State for the semifinals and finals.
Coaches have mixed feelings about the change of format. A few are thankful for the extra time because of injuries and sickness.
“For us, I like it,” said Ashland coach Bill Bradley, who earned his first region title last season. “We’re a little banged up after the district final, so I’m totally happy with it.”
East Carter coach Hager Easterling had a slightly different, and uncertain, view.
“You never know how it’s going to go, because I think we’re really ready right now. Will we lose our edge? I don’t know.”
Boyd County (24-8) didn’t play a game from Jan. 28 to Feb. 5 due to inclement weather. There were no negative effects as the Lady Lions reeled off eight straight victories before falling to Ashland (22-6) in Thursday’s district championship game.
The Lady Lions and Kittens split their regular season meetings.
Fleming County (19-10) was a 61st District surprise. The Lady Panthers, labeled by many in the preseason as the third- or fourth-place team in the district, are coming off a 57-36 blowout win over Rowan County in the title game. They’ve won seven in a row.
“One thing you see about (Lady Panthers coach Kristy Orem) teams is they will play their tails off,” Fraley said. “It’ll be a dogfight.”
Russell (14-16), the 63rd District champion, drew 62nd runner-up West Carter (12-17). The Lady Devils won the regular-season meeting handily, 69-52.
Lewis County coach Jay Fite hopes his group can rebound from its loss to Russell in the 63rd championship.
“That was a big hit on us emotionally, but I think our kids will do everything to bounce back,” Fite said. “For some reason, we’ve been a team that likes to come from behind and dig and claw.”
The Lady Lions (24-7) played from behind during most of its 50-34 loss to 62nd District champion East Carter (24-7) earlier this season.
Saturday’s 6 p.m. game will be a rematch of last year’s first-round contest in which Lewis County earned its first-ever region tournament win.
Easterling said that could provide additional motivation for his players, who dropped only three games inside the region — Ashland twice and Boyd County once — this season.
“Leading up to the district tournament, they were really upset over losing last year in the district,” Easterling said. “We had some great practices going into the tournament. I just hope we do the same thing this week.”
Ashland and Rowan County (15-14) will be doing battle for the first time all season. The Kittens knocked the Lady Vikings out in the semifinal round a year ago.
This year’s semifinals are scheduled for Monday, March 4, at 6 and 7:30 p.m.
The championship game is slated for Tuesday, March 5, at 7 p.m.
As for the prospect of a best two-out-of-three rubber match for Ashland and Boyd County, Bradley would only say this: “If it ends up that way, I’ll be happy because we’ll be in the finals.”
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.
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