"Doomsday" has turned out to be sunny and full of promise for Clark County boys' basketball.
Many people expected the Cardinals to struggle mightily this season after graduating eight of the top nine players from last year's Sweet Sixteen team. With Robbie Stenzel, Vinny Zollo, Corey Rogers, Jaylen Daniel and Travis Purvis gone, Coach Scott Humphrey had to replace 95 percent of his scoring and rebounding.
"Most of our fans, understandably, expected doomsday," Humphrey said. "But inside our locker room, we didn't."
Despite playing 13 of their first 14 games on the road, Clark County is 13-2. The Cards won Mercer County's Fort Harrod Classic and the Ashland Invitational Tournament and are ranked No. 12 in the state. "We've won 11 games in a row, and some people didn't think we'd win 11 games all season," Humphrey said. "But nothing's changed in our program. We feel we should always compete for the district and region titles."
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This group of seniors had to bide its time while Stenzel, Zollo, Rogers and Co. established Clark County as a state power the past few years. Now Bopper Stenzel (Robbie's brother), Adam Fatkin, Charlie Rogers (Corey's cousin), Taylor Howard and Dominic VanCleve are winning big.
Bopper is bopping along, averaging 17 points, five assists and five rebounds. "He's as tough as anybody I've been around. He'll fight and claw to the end," Humphrey said.
The 6-foot-7 Fatkin has transformed himself into one of the best big men in the state. He's averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds. "A late bloomer, a real talent," Humphrey said. "He's athletic and strong around the rim."
Rogers also developed his game in the off-season. VanCleve is a terrific on-the-ball defender. Howard is playing hoops for the first time since he was a freshman and is a three-point shooting threat.
"What makes this group special is they don't take anything for granted," Humphrey said. "They're still eager to learn and anxious to play."
■ Frederick Fraize, a small school in Cloverport (Breckinridge County), hadn't won a girls' game on the court in almost eight years before it beat Louisville St. Francis a few weeks ago. The Aces had been dealt 133 consecutive losses (not counting two wins by forfeit in the 2004-05 season). But all of that was forgotten with the win at St. Francis in mid-December. First-year coach Jeff Patton said the Aces' parents who made the trip to Louisville "were crying and excited" after the win, "and the kids were the same way, very emotional. There was a lot of anxiety over getting the (losing streak) off their back." Frederick Fraize has about 100 students in its high school. Patton's 11-player roster has two juniors, four sophomores and five eighth-graders. Katie Brown, a junior, leads the team with a 7-point average. Patton, who coached for 28 years at Breckinridge County and a year at Whitesville Trinity, was an assistant at John Hardin last season. He wanted to be a head coach again, and decided to take over the Aces. "I was looking for a challenge, and this was probably the biggest challenge I could find," he said. Frederick Fraize got its second victory of the season by beating Christian Fellowship last week. Has winning become routine? "I don't know about that," Patton said with a laugh. "But at least the attitude here has shifted a little."
■ Madison Central (12-0) and Anderson County (11-0) are the only unbeaten boys' teams in the state. Manual (14-0) and Perry County Central (13-0) are the only girls' teams with perfect records.
■ Woodford County star Jay Johnson, who had knee surgery in July, is scheduled to make his senior season debut at district rival Franklin County on Jan. 13, according to Yellowjackets Coach Scott Hundley. Meanwhile, Bourbon County junior standout Chris Gillispie's comeback from knee surgery in late June has been delayed. Colonels Coach Jay Bordas said Gillispie's next doctor appointment is Jan. 25, and he could be released to play after that. Bordas said he told Gillispie to "stay positive" and "be ready" when he returns.
■ UK signees Archie Goodwin of Sylvan Hills (Ark.) and Alex Poythress of Clarksville (Tenn.) Northeast will play in the Dunkin' Donuts National Shootout at Lexington Catholic on Saturday. Goodwin's team faces Lexington Catholic at 7 p.m., followed by Poythress leading his team against Lafayette. Advance tickets ($9) are available at Lexington Catholic on Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission at the gate will be $10. In one of the preliminary games on Saturday, Wolfe County, led by the state's top scorer Sawyer Denniston (30.5 ppg), plays Sayre at 3:30 p.m.
■ Pulaski County's Taylor Gover was the best long-range shooter in the Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic. Gover hit 18 of 31 three-pointers (58 percent) in four games. As a team, the Maroons made 40 of 77 threes (52 percent). Last season Gover hit 74 of 177 (42 percent) from behind the arc.
■ Franklin County rallied from 21 points down late in the third quarter and beat Frankfort 67-66 Tuesday night. The Flyers were led by Ryan Timmons' 27 points, including a game-winning free throw in the final seconds. Franklin County's big rally reminded Coach Scott Chalk of last year's game against Madison Central in the first round of the 11th Region tournament. The Flyers fell behind by 21 but came back to tie it in the final minute before losing 73-72.
■ No. 1 Trinity plays its first home game of the season Friday against No. 22 Newport Central Catholic. The Shamrocks are the top seed in the Louisville Invitational Tournament next week.
■ Woodford County girls' basketball coach Jay Lucas got his 300th career victory when the Yellowjackets beat Madisonville in the Bourbon County Holiday Classic. Lucas, who guided Woodford County to the 2002 Sweet Sixteen, is in his 16th season as head coach. He won more than 400 games in 20 years as Woodford County's baseball coach before stepping down this summer.
■ Jaylen Beckham had 13 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and four turnovers in his debut with Bryan Station on Tuesday night, helping the Defenders beat Lafayette 70-61. Beckham was a standout at Lexington Catholic as a freshman and sophomore, but then left for St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J. He stayed there briefly before transferring to Huntington Prep in West Virginia. That didn't pan out either, and he returned to Lexington and enrolled at Bryan Station. He became eligible this week.
■ Former Scott County star A.W. Hamilton, coach at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, returns home this weekend. Hargrave (18-0) will play True Academy on Saturday at Scott County at 8:45, following the Cardinals' game against Bell County. Hargrave will play Rise Academy on Sunday at Georgetown College at 3:30. Hamilton has five Division I signees, and his staff includes Lexington Catholic grad Derrick White.
■ Johnson Central's J.J. Jude, undefeated state wrestling champ at 171 pounds last winter, is off to a strong start this season. He is 15-0 after winning a tournament in Grundy, Va., last week. Jude beat Jake Kite in the semifinals. Kite is an all-state wrestler in Virginia and, like Jude, a football star. Jude beat Virginia state champ Tyler McClanahan in the finals.
■ The fifth annual National Guard Border Bowl all-star football game between Kentucky and Tennessee is Saturday at 12:30 at University of the Cumberlands. The Kentucky roster includes: Everett Talbert and Jaysuma Webb of Bryan Station; Kurt Wilhelmus of Lexington Catholic; Chad Hall of LCA, and T.D. Jemison of Tates Creek. For complete rosters and more information, go to http://ky-tn-borderbowl.com.
■ Bernie Barre, who laid the foundation for Beechwood's powerhouse football program, has retired after 21 years at Cincinnati Wyoming, his alma mater. Barre won 135 games in 16 seasons at Beechwood, including a state title in 1984, before he left for Wyoming in 1991. Mike Yeagle, his assistant, took over at Beechwood and led it to eight state titles in 14 years. Noel Rash has coached Beechwood to two more titles since then. Barre's overall record at Beechwood and Wyoming was 317-108.
■ Ralph Asher, an all-state football player at Evarts who went on to play at UK for Paul "Bear" Bryant, died this week. Mr. Asher was 76. He had been an assistant coach at West Carter since the school started its football program 39 years ago.
■ Interested in umpiring fast-pitch softball in the 10th and 11th regions? Contact J.T. Taylor at (859) 707-6507 or email@example.com.
■ Frankfort High School grad Zack Lawson, a senior goalkeeper at Thomas More, earned third-team all-Great Lakes Region soccer honors and was first-team all-Presidents Athletic Conference. He had 81 saves and eight shutouts this season.