Three weeks into the high school basketball season, just before the holiday tournament rush, all is calm, all is bright for the best teams in the state.
Ballard is playing up to its No. 1 billing among the boys. The Bruins are 3-1, including victories over Scott County and Jeffersonville, Ind. Ballard junior star Quentin Snider was sensational in a 78-76 loss to Travis Fort Bend, Texas, and UK signees Aaron and Andrew Harrison.
No. 2 Bullitt East is 6-0, with wins over top 20 foes Henry Clay, Hopkinsville and Lafayette. Rusty Troutman has been terrific for the Chargers. Mr. Basketball favorite and UK signee Derek Willis missed two games, but Bullitt East won without him.
No. 3 and defending state champ Trinity is 3-0. The Shamrocks have been a terror on defense while dismantling Bowling Green, DeSales and Seneca. Darryl Hicks and DeMarcus Page are Trinity's leaders while James Quick continues to recover from rib injuries sustained in football.
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No. 4 Madison Central is 5-1, including wins over top 20 opponents Collins and Montgomery County. The Indians lost to Travis Fort Bend 64-57. Dominique Hawkins had 29 points, but Madison Central was 1-for-16 from three-point range. Coach Allen Feldhaus said his team has won with defense so far. Its offense isn't clicking yet, partly because four starters — Hawkins, Ken-Jah Bosley, Hunter Stocker and Daniel Parke — played football until early November. Madison Central plays host to Lafayette on Friday, takes on Bullitt East at Louisville Valley on Saturday, then heads to the King of the Bluegrass at Fairdale next week. "I love this type of schedule," Feldhaus said. "I hate it when we play somebody we know we're a lot better than. I'm the worst coach in the world in those situations because I can't get up for them myself."
Among the girls, No. 1 Marion County is 6-0, and has won every game by at least 31 points. Makayla Epps is averaging 22 points and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers is averaging 14 points and eight rebounds. The Knights will get their first tough tests in Lexington Catholic's holiday tournament next week.
No. 2 and defending state champ Manual is 3-1. Its loss was to Blackman, Tenn. The Crimsons play No. 6 Assumption on Friday.
■ Clinton County had its radar locked in against Metcalfe County last week. Todd Messer's Bulldogs hit 26 of 31 shots in the first half for 84 percent — the second-most accurate half in state history. They finished the night 38-for-52 (including six-for-12 on three-pointers) for 73 percent, sixth-best all-time. Sophomore point guard Keifer Dalton, already a three-year starter, had 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting, and 13 assists. Senior forward Frank England had 20 points in Clinton County's 89-34 romp. The state records for field-goal accuracy were set by Jackson City against Morgan County in 1982. Jackson City hit 17 of 17 in the first half, and 30 of 35 (86 percent) for the game.
■ Perry Central beat Johnson Central 66-57 on Tuesday, but both teams were missing their big stars. Justin Johnson, a 6-foot-7 junior who transferred from Sheldon Clark to Perry Central, is still awaiting a ruling on his eligibility by the KHSAA. He has yet to practice or play with the Commodores. Johnson Central's 6-8 junior Shane Hall is nursing a sprained ankle. "The game lost a lot of luster without those two," Perry Central Coach Kevin Spurlock said. Without Johnson, the Commodores have gotten strong play from freshman point guard Braxton Beverly and 6-7 senior Dalton Cornett.
■ Johnson Central's Shane Hall, who got a scholarship offer from Tennessee a couple of weeks ago, may not play in the Boyd County Roundball Classic on Saturday. Brad Hall, Shane's dad, said his son's ankle is still bothering him and it's doubtful he'll play against Portsmouth, Ohio. Hall also has scholarship offers from Butler, Indiana State, Miami of Ohio, Morehead State, Northern Kentucky and Alabama-Birmingham. Brad Hall said Dayton, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech are showing interest and have visited Johnson Central. While Hall may not play at Boyd County, UK recruiting target Andrew Wiggins of Huntington (W.Va.) Prep will draw a crowd. Huntington plays Cincinnati Walnut Hills on Friday night at 9, and Arlington Country Day (Fla.) on Saturday at 7.
■ A showdown between defending state champ Trinity, No. 3 in the pre-season ratings, and No. 5 Henry Clay is the big matchup in Saturday's Farm Bureau Classic at the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville.
■ Scott County's Hilton Garden Classic this weekend will feature Louisville signees Anton Gill and Terry Rozier of Hargrave Military Academy, which is coached by former Scott County star A.W. Hamilton. On Friday, it's Cooper vs. Bishop McConnell, Va., 6 p.m.; Ryle vs. Scott County, 7:30. On Saturday, it's Lafayette vs. Bishop McConnell, 4; Covington Holy Cross vs. Scott County, 5:30; Queen City, N.C. vs. Hargrave Military, 7.
■ Owensboro Catholic senior and Miss Basketball favorite Becca Greenwell injured her right knee against Owensboro last Friday, the same knee in which she tore her ACL in September 2011. Greenwell had ACL surgery and sat out her junior season. Owensboro Catholic Coach Ray Zuberer said this latest injury isn't "major." Greenwell had an MRI on Monday that showed a slight tear in her lateral meniscus. She is scheduled to meet Friday morning with the Louisville doctor who performed her ACL surgery before getting the green light to return to the court. In her first game this season, Greenwell had 37 points in a rout of Apollo.
■ Male and Manual have had a long and heated rivalry, but the schools' mascots took it to a new low by getting into a fight at halftime of last Friday's boys' basketball game. Male's 63-45 victory was overshadowed by a brawl between the Male Bulldog and Manual Ram that was captured on video and has made national news.
■ Bryan Station Coach Mike Allen had never experienced a marathon like the Defenders' five-overtime 81-78 loss to Henderson County in the Kentucky Bank Shootout at Bourbon County on Saturday. "It was a unique experience," Allen said with a laugh. "It was fun, but it was agonizing, too, because your guys are giving so much effort for so long, you don't want to lose." In high school basketball, an overtime is four minutes long, so Bryan Station and Henderson County played 20 extra minutes. Daquice Allen logged the most minutes (49 out of 52) for the Defenders.
■ Fleming County, led by junior standouts Troy Steward and Darion Burns, is 5-0 under new coach Mark Starns. The Panthers, pre-season favorites in the 16th Region, won the Eastern Kentucky Conference tournament, beating defending region champ Rowan County in the semifinals in double overtime, and Russell in the finals. They followed that with a double-overtime victory at Paducah Tilghman. "The kids have bought in. They're really eager to learn the system," Starns said. The 6-3 Steward, a cousin of 2004 Mr. Basketball Chris Lofton, is averaging more than 20 points. Burns, a 5-10 point guard, is averaging close to 20. Starns said Burns "is cut from the same cloth as Anthony Hickey," who led Christian County to the 2011 state title and was Mr. Basketball. Starns thinks both Steward and Burns should be on the radar of nearby Morehead State. "These two kids need to be recruited hard. They can play on some level somewhere."
■ Jackson County's boys served notice they could be a 13th Region contender by beating defending champ North Laurel 86-85 in triple overtime. Zach Lawson's two free throws with eight-tenths of a second left won it. The Generals' lineup includes Clay County transfer Steven Wagers, who had 27 points against North Laurel, and Jordan Fox, who's back at Jackson County where he played as a freshman before transferring and playing at Dixie Heights last season. He had 15 points in the victory.
■ Defenses ruled in the Best of the Bluegrass all-star football game at St. Xavier on Sunday. The Louisville-area stars beat a group of state stars 9-8. St. X's Kurt Roesler blocked two field-goal attempts, including one on the last play of the game that preserved the Louisville stars' victory. The Kentucky stars' points came on a 44-yard TD pass from Franklin County's Logan Woodside to Frankfort's Aaron Jackson. They also hooked up for a two-point conversion pass.
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar fired football coach Derrick Thomas this week, which means the Bulldogs will have their eighth coach in 14 years when the 2013 season begins. If Dunbar is at one end of the spectrum, Henry Clay is at the other end. The Blue Devils have had only two coaches — Jake Bell and Sam Simpson — over the past 45 years.
■ Baseball signings around town: Tates Creek infielder Javon Shelby (UK); Lexington Catholic infielders Trey Miller (Michigan) and Evan Fraliex (Tennessee Tech), and outfielder Logan Taylor (Louisville); Dunbar infielder Michael Marsh (Kentucky State); LCA pitcher/outfielder Taylor Blair (EKU). Also, Henry Clay junior infielder Wyatt Terrell committed to WKU.