Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

February 26, 2012

Girls 16th Region Tournament: Can anyone cool Kittens?

MOREHEAD — Fleming County girls coach Kristy Orem isn’t crazy about drawing defending champion Boyd County in the opening round of the 16th Region Tournament.

Then again, Orem put it this way Saturday morning after the tournament bracket took shape at Morehead State University.

“I think it’s all right,” Orem said. “We’ll take it. To be honest, everybody wants to be on the opposite side of Ashland.”

No arguments there. The Top 20-rated Kittens are perfect — 19-0 — inside the 16th Region this season.

Ashland, 26-5 overall, will host Raceland in one of four regional quarterfinal games Monday night at the home of district champs. The tournament moves to MSU for Thursday’s semifinals.

Ashland, both talented and deep, entered the season with high expectations and coach Bill Bradley continues to be pleased about the team’s willingness to share the ball and accept roles.

Last Thursday, the Kittens blitzed 20-game winner Boyd County 70-41 in the 64th District finals.

“It think it really culminated in the game with Boyd County the other night,” Bradley said of a performance in which Ashland shot 55 percent and used a 25-4 run in the third quarter to break it open.

At the same time, Bradley warned that any of several teams in the regional field are capable of quickly ending Ashland’s season.

“We’ve been geared up every single game,” he said. “The girls know what can happen if we don’t come out of the gate with the right frame of mind.”

Rowan County coach Scott Tackett likened the Kittens to a dominant 16th Region team from three years ago that wore green.

“This is probably the best compliment I can give Ashland,” Tackett said. “They remind me of our 2008-09 bunch with Jennifer Brockman, Katie Martin and Amber Riddle. The starting lineup was strong and we had a good bench.”

The Lady Vikings reeled off 16 wins to start that season and beat all three regional tournament opponents by at least 19 points. The title came in a three-year run at the top for Rowan County.   

“Ashland hasn’t shown any chinks in the armor so far, and they may not,” said Tackett, whose Lady Vikings lost to Ashland 76-51 earlier this month.

Rowan’s first-round opponent, Morgan County, knocked off East Carter for the 62nd District title.

“Morgan has three kids that can score the ball,” Tackett said of Brittany Stamper, Faith Slone and Cheyenna Ferguson.

He calls Stamper the most underrated player in the region.

“She’s a 5-11 kid that can handle the ball and get to the rim,” Tackett said. “She also has a nice mid-range game, plus the ability to knock down a three.”

Rowan County (24-6) defeated Fleming County twice this season but fell to the Panthers 53-49 in the 61st District finals.

All three games followed the same pattern.

“The first one, we were up 20 and then cut it to five,” Tackett said. “The second game, we were ahead 23 and ended up winning by six.”

In the district tournament, Fleming County overcame a 21-3 deficit after one quarter.

“The thing about those kids, they are fearless,” Tackett said. “We were still up four with 2 1/2 minutes to go. Robbie Allex made a three-pointer in transition. A little later, Morgan Jett hit a step-back three from the corner to put them ahead.”

Fleming County (26-5) is tied with Ashland for most wins entering the regional tournament.

“I’m proud of the kids,” Orem said. “We don’t usually start games well, but we’ve been a second-half team.”

The Panthers overcame one of those poor starts to win 58-51 at Boyd County in mid-January.

“They just keep playing,” Boyd County coach Pete Fraley said Saturday. “That’s the mark of a good team.”

Orem kidded Fraley at the draw meeting about having to make the trip to Flemingsburg.

“We knew we were going to get on the bus Monday and go somewhere,” Fraley said. “I don’t particularly like the bus ride to Fleming County.”

The Lady Lions are hoping for a repeat of 2010, when they made the same trip and came home with a first-round victory.

Lewis County (19-11) will host East Carter in the opening round after making a district championship breakthrough by defeating Greenup County and Raceland for the 63rd crown.

“Greenup County is solid and Raceland won 20 games, so we feel really good about that,” Lewis County coach Jay Fite said. “We are looking forward to thematchup with East Carter. Hager (Easterling) does a good job with their program and we know defensively they will get after you.”

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.

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