High school basketball's regular season dribbles to the finish line this weekend. What have we learned from several thousand games over the past three months?
■ The pre-season ratings based on coaches' votes were spot on. Trinity was the runaway No. 1 boys' team in late November, and the Shamrocks are still firmly entrenched there in mid-February. Ballard, Bullitt East, Madison Central, Moore, Pleasure Ridge Park and Scott County were in the pre-season top 10, and all are still rated among the elite by Dave Cantrall's computer. Marion County's girls were No. 1 in the pre-season and Manual's girls were No. 2. They've flip-flopped positions since, but are still favored to meet in the state finals. Boone County, Madison Central, Mercy, Perry County Central and Ryle have also kept their spots in the top 10.
■ The most surprising teams of the regular season?
Bowling Green, Clark County, Southwestern and Warren Central have played their way into the boys' top 25. Southwestern has done it under new coach Steve Wright, who guided South Laurel to the Sweet Sixteen six times in eight years and won the state title in 2005. Warren Central has developed under first-year coach William Unseld, a former assistant who took over when Tim Riley left to join WKU's women's staff.
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Paul Laurence Dunbar's girls didn't even crack the top eight in the 11th Region in the pre-season, but first-year coach Sarah Van Horn has led the Bulldogs to 23 victories and a No. 9 state rating. Henderson County and Notre Dame were also overlooked in the pre-season.
■ Ohio County's boys took an 18-game winning streak (longest in the state) into Thursday night's visit to Breckinridge County. Covington Holy Cross, East Jessamine and Perry County Central have each won 13 in a row. Among girls' teams, Bowling Green, Manual and Mercer County have each won 12 consecutive games.
■ Burgin boys' coach Don Irvine is retiring after three decades of teaching and coaching at small schools, and he's going out in style. Burgin, led by Alex Beckerson (20 ppg, 10 rpg), is 21-8. This is the Bulldogs' first 20-win season in more than 40 years. "We're all very excited about that," Irvine said. "It's really special to do it here because it's so rare." It's also the first time Irvine has had a 20-win season in more than 20 years as a head coach at Augusta, McLean County and Burgin. Irvine, 53, said the highlights of his coaching career have been the friendships he's made, being able to coach his sons, Zack and Sam, and being able to make a living doing something he loved. Burgin will hold a reception for Irvine after Friday night's home game against Eminence. Irvine's dream scenario for this last season would include an upset of West Jessamine in the district tournament next week. That would qualify Burgin for the 12th Region tournament at Pulaski County, Irvine's alma mater. "You couldn't write a better script any better if that would happen," he said.
■ UK's Anthony Davis isn't the leading shot-blocker in the state. That distinction may belong to Oldham County's 6-7 senior Tyler Wesley, who has 169 blocked shots, averaging 6 a game in 28 games. He had 141 blocks in 33 games last season. "He's the best I've seen at it, better than anybody I played with or against," Colonels Coach Jason Holland said. "He knows how to block 'em. He waits until the ball's in the air, then goes and gets it." Wesley is averaging 12.4 points and 8.3 rebounds. Oldham County graduated three starters off last year's Sweet Sixteen team, but it's rated No. 1 in the 8th Region again and is on a 10-game winning streak. Besides Wesley, the Colonels are led by senior Kerry Smith (13 ppg) and junior Sam Gruber (14 ppg and shooting 56 percent from three-point range).
■ Fairview's Mike Terry has eclipsed 2,000 points in his career, joining his older sister Laura at that plateau. Mike reached the milestone while recording a triple-double (18 points, 12 rebounds, 10 blocked shots) in a win over Boyd County. The 6-7 senior is averaging 22.2 points and 10.4 rebounds.
■ Henry Clay honored three Lady Blue Devils stars from the 1980s — Leslie Nichols, Belitta "Bebe" Croley and Tracye Davis — at halftime of Wednesday's game against Lafayette. All three were first-team all-staters who led Henry Clay teams coached by Bob Tripure to the state tournament. All three earned all-Sweet Sixteen honors and all three signed with UK. Nichols and Croley were Parade All-Americans.
■ History tells us that in boys' basketball, the 9th District (Apollo, Daviess County, Owensboro and Owensboro Catholic) is one of the strongest in the state. But history would be lying about that this season. All four teams have struggled to reach mediocrity. "Never in my life have I seen it like this," said Owensboro Coach Rod Drake, who played on the Red Devils' 1980 state title team. "The 9th District is probably one of the weakest around in won-lost (records)." Owensboro has dropped six of its last seven games and is 8-18. Apollo has lost seven of its last eight and is 12-13. Daviess County has won three of four to nudge its record to 14-12. Owensboro Catholic has lost eight of its last nine and stands at 6-20. Drake said his Devils' problem is a lack of experience. He has no seniors. His roster has three juniors, four sophomores and the rest are freshmen. But regular-season struggles can be erased when tournament time arrives next week. "That's been my keynote speech all year," Drake said. "After Friday night, we're all back in the saddle again."
■ Marshall County Coach Gus Gillespie got his 300th career victory when the Marshals beat Calloway County last week. Gillespie, who previously coached in southern Illinois, is in his eighth season at Marshall County, where he's the all-time winningest boys' coach with 187 victories. The Marshals are 26-2, a school record for regular-season wins, giving them a winning record for the 36th season in a row.
■ This has been a streak-busting season in 11th Region boys' hoops. Lexington Christian ended a 37-game, 20-year losing streak to Lexington Catholic. Paul Laurence Dunbar halted a 20-game, seven-year losing streak to Bryan Station. Henry Clay stopped a 17-game, six-year losing streak to Scott County. Madison Central ended a 14-game, 11-year losing streak to Lexington Catholic.
■ Wolfe County's Jessica Hurt suffered a torn ACL after making the game-winning basket against Powell County last week. Hurt, a junior, was averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Lady Wolves lead the state in making three-pointers — no surprise since Coach Gary Brown set the school record with 337 career threes in his playing days (1988-91). His girls have hit 210 of 538 this season. Senior guard Keshia Prater has 93 threes, most in the state, and is averaging 24 points.
■ East Jessamine receiver/linebacker Sean Donaldson and safety-receiver Will Knight signed to play college football at Pikeville. Knight suffered a torn ACL early last season but is expected to be back running track this spring.
■ Five Lafayette football players announced their college choices this week: RB/LB William "Bubba" Johnson (Kentucky Wesleyan); FB/LB Zane Ramey (WKU); QB Jeremy Smith (Centre); OL/DL Kent Franklin (Hanover); RB/LB Colin Wilkins (Union).
■ Scott County LB Jordan Kindred and RB/DB Josh Walls signed to play football at Georgetown College.
■ Harrison County punter Jordan Kellione signed to play at Marshall. He was also recruited by Arkansas, Boston College and North Carolina State, among others.
■ Bryan Station wide receiver Tyus Alcorn will sign with Pikeville on Friday.
■ Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow will be the featured speaker at Graves County's "Night with a Champion" on April 20. Tickets ($25 to $100) will first be available to members of the Graves County Eagle Foundation. Any remaining tickets will be available to the general public on Feb. 27.
■ West Jessamine soccer standout Hana Henderson has signed with Marshall. She was a four-year starter with the Colts and helped them reach the state final four last fall before they lost to eventual champ Notre Dame.
■ Campbellsville's Kelly Baugh has been named a finalist for assistant coach of the year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. He has worked at Campbellsville for 40 years, 27 years as an assistant in boys' basketball. He's also been a football and baseball assistant with the Eagles. He was girls' head basketball coach from 1977-82.
■ Libby Leedom of St. Henry has been named Gatorade girls' soccer player of the year in Kentucky. She scored 86 goals and got 33 assists over three years, and also has a 4.28 weighted GPA.
■ Lexington Catholic grad Katie Breathitt, a junior at Ole Miss, was honored as a 2011 All-Academic cross country runner by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Breathitt was a top-15 finisher in the NCAA South Region and she has a 3.38 GPA in elementary education.