What to watch for in the Girls' Sweet Sixteen

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMarch 11, 2014 

Lafayette's Ashanti Thomas battles with Anderson County's Eriel McKee as Anderson County hosted Lafayette in Lawrenceburg, Ky on February 20, 2014. Photo by Mark Mahan

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  • CANTRALL RATINGS

    Dave Cantrall's Rating the State numbers for teams in the Girls' Sweet Sixteen:

    Elizabethtown (29-4) 89.5

    Butler (28-3) 84.2

    Anderson County (27-4) 83.9

    Lafayette (27-3) 83.1

    Henderson County (24-5) 82.9

    Sacred Heart (27-7) 81.3

    Glasgow (29-6) 79.8

    Marshall County (30-5) 77.8

    Danville (24-7) 77.7

    Corbin (26-7) 77.6

    Newport Catholic (29-4) 76.6

    Clark County (25-7) 73.8

    Perry Co. Central (23-6) 72.3

    Ashland (24-8) 72.0

    Shelby Valley (24-6) 69.5

    Meade County (16-15) 65.7

The Houchens Industries/KHSAA Girls' Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament tips off Wednesday at Western Kentucky University's E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green.

Here is a primer for what to expect:

Best first round game: Sacred Heart vs. Elizabethtown. The Valkyries came out of Louisville's powerful 7th Region and now have to open against the top-rated team in the field.

The favorites: Based on Dave Cantrall's ratings, E-town, Butler and Anderson County are a solid 1-2-3.

Players to watch: Five of the seven Miss Basketball finalists will be on display: Nicole Kiernan (Newport Central Catholic), Makenzie Cann and Eriel McKee (Anderson County), Kayla Rankin (Perry County Central), and Dai Jia Ruffin (Sacred Heart).

Been there, done that: Anderson County, Ashland Blazer, Corbin, Henderson County, Marshall County and Shelby Valley all are back after participating in last year's Sweet Sixteen

Sweet history 1: Ashland Blazer won state titles in 1921, '22, '24, '28 and '29, and placed second in 1931. This marks the Kittens' 12th trip in the modern era and third in a row.

Sweet history 2: Marshall County won state titles in 1982 and '84, and was runner-up in '81. The Marshals are in the tourney for the 22nd time and third in a row.

Quote from the favorite: "There's probably eight, 10 teams up there that have a legitimate chance, I think, to win it. Yeah, I would certainly put us in that boat; I'm not going to sit here and lie to you about that. But I also think there's a lot of teams up there that can beat us on any given day." — Elizabethtown Coach Tim Mudd

Family affair: Lafayette Coach Allison Denton is carrying her second child, due to be born May 6. The boy, to be named William Tate, has a 5-year-old sister, Anna Clay.

Team to watch you may not know about: Henderson County has four starters back from last year's Sweet Sixteen team, but no seniors. Backcourt play is a strength with Maci Brown, Kacie Wallace, Samantha Carter and Callie Francis.

Strong bloodline: Lafayette standout Dee Givens is a cousin to 1978 NCAA Tournament hero Jack "Goose" Givens.

Story line to keep an eye on: If rankings hold in the first round, look for a Titanic second-round clash when No. 1 Elizabethtown would meet No. 3 Anderson County.

Small schools that could make some noise: Three of the All "A" Classic's Final Four are in the field — champion Glasgow, runner-up Danville and semifinalist Newport Central Catholic.

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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