So what have we learned after three months of regular-season high school basketball, with district tournaments ready to tip off Monday across Kentucky?
The teams we figured would be really good turned out to be really good, with only a few exceptions.
The Herald-Leader's pre-season polls in November are strikingly similar to Dave Cantrall's ratings in mid-February.
Among boys' teams, Eastern, Clark County, Christian County, Lexington Catholic, Scott County, Warren Central and Bowling Green were in both top 10's.
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Biggest surprise? Ballard, 18th in the pre-season because of a youthful roster, developed into a powerhouse, and DeVante Parker played himself into Mr. Basketball contention.
Among girls' teams, Manual, Rockcastle County, Mercy, Bowling Green, Butler, Elizabethtown, Marion County, Boone County and Perry County Central were in the top 10 at Thanksgiving and on Valentine's Day.
Biggest surprise? Calloway County, unranked in the pre-season, is 24-1, unbeaten in Kentucky, and has a bona fide star in Averee Fields.
■ After Jeffersontown's boys managed only 10 points in the first half of a loss to Tates Creek in January, Chargers Coach Jeff Morrow said he couldn't remember a team of his scoring so few points. Two weeks later, J-town had only nine points in the first half of a lopsided loss to Trinity. But help is on the way for the Chargers. Morrow expects 6-10 University of Louisville signee Zach Price to return to the lineup for Friday's regular-season finale against Central, or next week's district tournament. Price has been out with a deep thigh bruise since late December. In an e-mail, Morrow said Price "is doing everything now (running, jumping, individual workouts) except full contact." J-town was 13-0 heading into January, but is 8-5 since.
■ Owensboro Catholic sophomore star Becca Greenwell has scored 924 points this season. That's more than several teams, including Christian County and Hopkins Central.
■ Marion County's No. 8 girls got a psychological lift by beating No. 3 Mercy 51-47 this week in Louisville. Mercy dumped the Lady Knights in the first round of the Sweet Sixteen last year, and again in the Louisville Invitational Tournament last month. Bre Elder had 18 points and Makayla Epps had 16 to lead Marion County. "I told them before the game that if they can come up here and win this game, people are going to look at the score and say, 'Marion County is back,' " Coach Trent Milby told the Courier-Journal. The Lady Knights were ranked No. 1 in the pre-season.
■ Rowan County's boys were impressive last week, beating 16th Region rivals Ashland Blazer, No. 18 in the state, and Elliott County, and clipping No. 16 Moore on Adam Wing's put-back at the buzzer. Rowan County's strength is its defense, no surprise considering that's Coach Shawn Thacker's calling card. But the Vikings have also developed well-balanced scoring, led by Wing and D.J. Townsend. "Offensively, we've gotten a lot better the last month, with our decision-making, passing, everything," Thacker said. Townsend (15 ppg) has been consistent all season, as has Wing (14 ppg). Wing and Darrell Cross had to transition from football. Jason Egan has become a three-point threat, and Corey Hunter has learned his role as a banger. "All five guys have led us in scoring at some time this season," Thacker said. Rowan County hopes to reach the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2005.
■ Madison Southern's Aaron Ponder is one of the state's most prolific three-point scorers, and long-range shooting has accounted for more than half of his 1,000 career points. As a sophomore he hit 29 of 77 from behind the arc. As a junior he made 101 of 231, and this season the 6-2 senior is 73 of 171. Overall, he's 203 of 479 (42 percent), giving him 609 points on threes. "He's in the gym more than anyone I've coached in my 17 years," Shane Buttry said. Xavier University has asked for tape on Ponder, seeing him as a potential walk-on. "He's receiving some college interest, but I'm shocked he hasn't received more," Buttry said.
■ In Iowa high school hoops this week, West Burlington lost to undefeated Danville 109-25. West Burlington went down firing, though. It attempted a national record 103 three-pointers, but made only eight.
■ Scott County's boys close out the regular season by hosting Western Friday night. It's a rematch from last month's Toyota Classic when Ryan Taylor had 37 points and 20 rebounds in Western's 83-80 overtime victory. Do you figure Scott County Coach Billy Hicks will tweak his defense for Taylor, a 6-6 standout and University of Louisville recruit?
■ Warren Central's win over Elizabethtown last week gave Tim Riley his 300th victory as coach of the Dragons.
■ Kelly Gentry, a 12th Region basketball referee, has been penalized by the KHSAA for his conduct after he ejected Mercer County girls' coach Chris Souder from a Feb. 4 game against Lincoln County. Gentry made comments about the ejection on Facebook. Gentry was suspended for one week or three games, and he must make a written apology to Souder and make public presentations to coaches and officials on media relations and social networking.
■ Gus Gillespie last week became Marshall County's all-time winningest boys' basketball coach with his 153rd victory, one more than Allan Hatcher had. The Marshals are considered contenders to win the 1st Region for the first time since 1995.
■ Elliott County star Timmy Knipp had his sixth triple-double of the season with 21 points, 10 assists and 10 steals against Raceland.
■ Jordan Percell hit 11 of 15 shots and had 33 points as Campbellsville knocked off 5th Region rival North Hardin 74-71 in overtime. Matthew Davis had 22 points for the winners.
■ Lexington Catholic will honor Danny Haney by naming the basketball court in Bueter Gym after him in a ceremony before Friday's game against Wayne County. Haney was a star player for the Knights in the 1970s. He coached the boys' team for 17 years and won 414 games, including the 2002 state title. He also served as athletic director. He has been working in Florida the last eight years. Lexington Catholic is also starting a new program in Haney's honor. "High Marks" will be a free tutoring program for any student in need of academic support.
■ Clark County's boys had a senior night to remember. They trailed visiting Franklin County 33-14 midway through the second quarter, but rallied to win 73-57. Clark County blitzed the Flyers 49-19 in the second half.
■ Eugene "Puck" Puckett, who's been involved with Paris High sports' programs for decades, has been on an emotional roller coaster lately. His mother, Phyllis Ann Hatcher Puckett, died Feb. 9. She was 71. The next night Puck missed the Paris basketball game against St. Patrick, the first home boys' game he missed in 35 years, ending a string of 364 in a row. Earlier this week, the Greyhounds surprised Puck and four others by hanging a banner with their names on it in the Paris gym before a victory against Augusta. Also honored were bus driver and clock operator Doris McFarland; Paris sportswriter Ivan Rice and the late W.B. Stiles, a longtime supporter. Photographer Liz Yeiser was also recognized.
■ On cue, warmer weather greeted the start of baseball and softball practice this week. In Harrison County, baseball is never out of season. Since winning their fourth state title last June, the Thorobreds have gotten their championship rings, Mac Whitaker has been named national baseball coach of the year by the National Federation of State High School Associations, and the team has been invited to the Kentucky state legislature in Frankfort next week to be honored. "It's like we've never stopped celebrating," Whitaker said. But they will as the new season approaches and Whitaker starts to mold another state contender. The 'Breds, who finished last season with 24 consecutive wins and a 36-4 record, graduated their entire infield and their center fielder. They do have return outfielders Eric Sanders and Shane Fowler, and pitching ace Logan Dailey. In his 34th year as coach, Whitaker has an overall record of 913-260.
■ Paris alum Dewayne Rice is the Lady Greyhounds' new softball coach. He formerly coached at Lexington Christian and Henry Clay.
■ Rockcastle County point guard Angie Lawrence (14.1 ppg, 5.3 apg) signed with Georgetown College. Rockets football lineman Dylan Thacker is headed to Campbellsville where his brother Derek signed last year.
■ Pikeville College football, under new coach Dudley Hilton, signed four Lafayette seniors: wide receiver Tanner Napier (district player of the year), athlete Marlon Johnson and linemen Bruce Robinson and Malcolm Relford.
■ Joey Cecil, a football assistant at Lawrence County the last 10 years, will succeed Luke Salmons as the Bulldogs' head coach.
■ Arin Gilliland of West Jessamine was named girls' soccer player of the year in Kentucky by Gatorade. Gilliland earned Miss Soccer honors last fall. She will play college soccer at UK.
■ Lafayette's senior first baseman Alyssa Oakley signed to play softball at Transylvania. She hit .538 with 46 RBI and set eight school records last season. Oakley also excels in the classroom with a 4.7 weighted grade-point average.
■ Lafayette volleyball star Catherine "Cat" Starr will sign Friday with Asbury College.
■ Sayre's Anne Eason will sign to run cross country at EKU, and Bea Cameron, a multi-sport athlete, will play soccer at Georgetown.