One thing is certain in the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic.
There will be a new girls' basketball champion.
Walton-Verona didn't make it out of the 8th Region tournament, ousted by Owen County (which also didn't advance).
The rest of last year's Final Four is back for another try.
That includes Newport Central Catholic, which fell to Walton-Verona 38-36 in overtime in last year's finals. Also back are Bishop Brossart and Owensboro Catholic.
Dave Cantrall's Rating the State puts 4th Region champion Monroe County (15-3) in the role of favorite, as was the case last year.
"I don't know about that," Lady Falcons Coach Dwayne Murray said. "We're a good team, but there's a lot of good teams, and a lot of teams are getting their players back from injuries — like Owensboro Catholic; Magoffin County's getting their point guard back. So the Cantrall and LIT ratings are good but sometimes they don't take into account when they've got players out. I know it's going to be pretty tough this year."
Play tips off in the 5,465-seat Frankfort Convention Center at 8:30 Wednesday morning with Frankfort (12-4) taking on West Carter (7-10). Seven games will follow, ending with Monroe against Magoffin (10-7) at approximately 9:30 p.m.
"I think every time we've been up there it's been late so I like that better," said Murray, whose Monroe squad was runner-up to Owensboro Catholic in 2011. "And I think my team likes it better because it gets you in the routine like you play a normal varsity game, so that kind of helps."
Murray (17-3), with Janssen Starks averaging 25.6 points, is seeded second. The Lady Tigers will meet Bishop Brossart (16-4) in Wednesday's second game.
Third-seeded Webster County (16-2) will go next, facing Collegiate (7-5). Webster has the top defensive team in the field, allowing just 40.4 points a game.
Then, fourth-seeded Newport Central Catholic (15-4) will go against Pineville (14-7).
Having come so close last year serves as motivation, NewCath Coach George Stoll says.
"We've talked about that before. I mentioned it at the very beginning of the regional tournament," he said. "I said, 'Don't forget that feeling, how that felt losing that and how close you were. You guys got a taste of it, and this is where it starts today.'"
Nicole Kiernan, a 5-foot-10 junior, leads the 'Breds with 19.2 points and 10 rebounds a game. She's shooting 51.2 percent from the field, 53.6 from three-point range and 81.7 at the free-throw line.
Leslie County (19-5) has the top offensive team, averaging 65.6 points, and will face Louisville Holy Cross (11-10) in Wednesday's fifth game.
Then it will be Gallatin County (17-2) against Danville (11-6) and Owensboro Catholic (12-5) versus Green County (13-6).
Owensboro Catholic is in the tourney for an eighth year in a row. The Aces won in 2011 and were in the 2010 and '12 Final Fours.
They are led by 6-1 Duke signee Becca Greenwell.
She missed last season with a torn ACL. She tweaked the knee in her third game this season but has returned to play four games since.
Greenwell is averaging 27.3 points and 6.9 rebounds, shooting 56.6 percent from the field, 53.5 from three-point range and 75 percent at the foul line.
Coach Ray Zuberer says Greenwell is playing at about 50 to 60 percent, "but a lot of it's more mental than anything now, about worried about getting it hurt again."
"So she's actually playing more on the perimeter now and not getting inside and not driving the ball to the basket like she was earlier in the year, just trying to protect her knee a little bit until she gains some confidence in it."
Monroe and Magoffin will wrap up the first day.
Monroe, making its third straight appearance, returns five starters — Madison Clements (18.4 ppg), Molly Harlin (10.9), Kayla Murray (10.6), Lauren Turner (9.4) and Kelsey Kirkpatrick (3.8).
"Yeah, they feel like they've got some unfinished business because we were put out last year by Walton-Verona," Murray said. "We've got a good chance to make it to the finals. We've got as good a chance as anybody else does, I think.
"We'll surprise people because we're not very big. ... But they play with a lot of heart."
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @markmaloneyhl. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com