Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

February 26, 2013

AARON SNYDER: Calling names and the games

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

MOREHEAD — I’m not sure if I want to risk being called a weenie again.

A local coach who shall go unnamed recently smacked me with that label.

The coach said this: “You had Boyd County ranked No. 1 for the past month and then you picked Ashland to beat them!”

He or she was referring to the 64th District girls championship game, and yes, I picked the Kittens. I was right, by the way, but that’s beside the point.

The coach jokingly called me a weenie for allegedly backing down from my Super Seven rankings. But, in truth, I was just calling what I deemed a slight upset.

After that game, though, I have the Kittens back on top (just barely, I might add) in the Super Seven. And I’ve predicted a back-to-back 16th Region titles for Ashland on a few occasions this season.

I’ve done the same with Fleming County, picking the Panthers to make the westward trip to Rupp Arena in March.

Will I stick with the Panthers and Kittens? Or will I give you a reason to roast this weenie?

Notes of Interest

Many of you may not know him, but the unsung Most Valuable Player at The Independent is local statistics/information guru Curtis Crye.

According to Crye, there are five schools entering the boys 16th Region Tournament with 20 or more wins this season, the most since 1973.

This year, they are: Ashland (22-9), Fleming County (25-6), Russell (25-7), Boyd County (21-11) and Morgan County (22-7).

In 1973: Ashland (20-4), Russell (20-7), Boyd County (23-6), Breckinridge (28-8) and Sandy Hook (21-9).

The record, said Crye, is six (1950, ’53).

Now, The Picks …

GIRLS

FIRST ROUND


I’m experiencing a case of double déjà vu. There are two first-round rematches from last season in this tournament — Fleming County-Boyd County and East Carter-Lewis County.

Saturday’s four-game slate tips off at noon. Semifinals are scheduled for Monday, while the championship game will be on Tuesday night at 7.

Fleming County-Boyd County: Boyd County coach Pete Fraley and company haven’t had a first-round exit since 2008.

Boyd County 56, Fleming County 48.

Russell-West Carter: It was a matchup both schools had hoped for in Saturday’s draw.

Russell simply has a more complete team, though, and I can’t see the Lady Devils faltering here.

Russell 50, West Carter 36.

East Carter-Lewis County: Time to zap those bitter memories, East Carter.

The Lady Raiders fell victim to the Lady Lions and suffered one of the poorest-shooting outings of the season in 2012.

In ’13, they get luckier.

East Carter 54, Lewis County 47.

Ashland-Rowan County: The Kittens and Lady Vikings have locked up in some classic duels in recent years, both in and out of the postseason.

Interestingly enough, they didn’t meet this year. I give that edge to the Kittens because not having faced this talented team yet is a clear disadvantage.

Ashland 70, Rowan Co. 51.



SEMIFINALS

Boyd County-Russell: A 75-43 thrashing at the hands of the Lady Lions set the tone for a forgettable 7-12 start for Russell this season.

However, once things started to click and defense began to improve tremendously, Russell overcame that rough patch with a 7-4 finish over its final 11 games.

The Lady Lions’ overall experience on this stage is entirely too powerful.

Boyd Co. 48, Russell 34.

Ashland-East Carter: The Lady Raiders are out to derail the notion that they’re too young to win the big one.

In each of the two meetings this season, East Carter has been decidedly overmatched by the Kittens.

Kristen Mayo and Alexis Robinson are two of the most entertaining point guards to watch.

Ashland 59, East Carter 53.



CHAMPIONSHIP

Ashland-Boyd County:
Since Bill Bradley took over at Ashland 12 years ago, here are the numbers between his teams and good friend Pete Fraley’s groups:

Head-to-head: 22-17 Ashland

District titles: 6-4 Ashland

Region titles: 2-1 Boyd County

Even after having to play just one day following a tough battle with East Carter, Ashland gets even with Boyd County in the category that matters most.

Lady Lions duo Taylor Wheeler and Logan Fraley are hard to guard but the Kittens’ defense, led by Allie Slone, Sydney Cullop and Robinson, is often overlooked. They’ll come up with key plays on that end of the floor in the final moments.

Ashland 54, Boyd Co. 52.



BOYS

FIRST ROUND


The action tips off tonight at 6, with two games today and two more Wednesday. The semifinals will be Thursday, followed by Friday’s final game.

Ashland-West Carter: Kyle Brown goes out with a bang, but Ashland drops his Comets with a boom.

The Tomcats are too long for undersized West Carter.

Ashland 64, West Carter 46.

Fleming County-Lewis County: Regulation ended in strange fashion as Fleming County won in overtime during these teams’ regular-season matchup. The Panthers won’t let this one be nearly as close.

Fleming County 71, Lewis County 44.

Russell-Boyd County: Can we play best-out-of-three in this matchup? These 20-win teams deserve it. I knew we could count on this year giving us a couple unbelievable first-round pairings, and this should be a thriller.

Throwing all the intriguing subplots aside, a game like this typically comes down to factors such as turnovers and free throws. Russell gets the slight edge in both categories because of senior leadership across the board and the possession of two of the better foul shooters (Kyle Skaggs and Jacob Porter) in the area.

Russell 65, Boyd Co. 61.

Rowan County-Morgan County: Rowan County, albeit a team with a much different look, is going for its third consecutive region crown. Meanwhile, Morgan County graces the Ellis T. Johnson Arena floor for the first time in eight years.

Both teams have big post players — Rowan County’s tallest is 6-foot-11 (Matt Brown) while Morgan County has 6-8 Aleksander Malinic. Both figure to play zone defense. It will be a low-scoring, tight affair.

Rowan County 49,

Morgan County 45.




SEMIFINALS

Ashland-Fleming County:
The combination of Darion Burns, an excellent driving point guard, and Troy Steward, a streaky but smooth shooter, will crack the code of Ashland’s zone defense.

The Tomcats must hit some outside jumpers and Dikembe Dixson will have to stay free of foul trouble in order to keep it close.

The Panthers’ firepower will pack too much punch in the end.

Fleming County 59,

Ashland 56.


Russell-Rowan County: Russell overcame a subpar offensive effort in the first meeting to win a close contest at home.

Everything flows much more fluidly as the Red Devils push forward to their first region final since 2006. The prideful Vikings won’t be an easy out.

Russell 61, Rowan Co. 57.



CHAMPIONSHIP

Fleming County-Russell:
Having to play three straight days will take a toll on Russell, thin in the depth department.

Two emotional, hard-fought victories on back-to-back nights will drain too much from the Devils.

The quick, athletic guards of Fleming County will help the Panthers avenge their only 16th Region loss this season. And they’ll have first-year coach Mark Starns leading his troops into Rupp.

Fleming County 57,

Russell 50.


AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com.



or (606) 326-2664.