As the new year dawned, only six undefeated high school basketball teams were left in Kentucky.
The boys' teams still sporting spotless records: No. 7 Covington Catholic (8-0), No. 9 Montgomery County (12-0) and No. 14 Wayne County (12-0). The girls' teams still perfect: Bishop Brossart (10-0), No. 11 Newport Central Catholic (10-0) and North Bullitt (10-0).
It's been 66 years since the last undefeated boys' state champion (Brewers). It's been 10 months since the last undefeated girls' state champion (Marion County).
CovCath's boys, led by senior guard Nick Ruthsatz (21 points per game), visit defending 9th Region champion Holmes on Tuesday. Holmes won its first nine games before losing to Long Island (N.Y.) Lutheran.
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It's not outlandish to think defending 10th Region champ Montgomery County and defending 12th Region champ Wayne County could both still be undefeated when they meet in the Joe B. Hall Prep Classic at Montgomery County on Jan. 25.
Montgomery County first-year coach Jason Holland isn't thinking that far ahead, though. The Indians have six games before then, starting with archrival Clark County on Friday. But then Holland never expected Montgomery County to be 12-0. "Not with the competition we've played," he said.
The Indians are led by senior point guard Bryan Wallace, who's averaging about 20 points. He hit a last-second three-pointer to beat defending state champ Madison Central early in the season. He also had 13 steals (fourth-most in state history) against Ashland Blazer. "Bryan's the best player I've ever coached," Holland said.
Holland, who came from Oldham County to succeed Happy Osborne as Montgomery County's coach, is still getting to know his personnel. "We're still finding out who's our best team against a zone, who's our best ball-handling team, who should be on the floor for free throws," he said. "We've got so much to learn. We're definitely not playing our best. I'd give us a C-plus team grade so far."
Wayne County is led by junior guard Peyton Woods (26 ppg), son of Cardinals Coach Rodney Woods, and Corey Stearns (19 ppg). The Cardinals can play fast or not-so-fast as they showed in back-to-back wins in a holiday tournament in Gatlinburg. They beat Carter (Tenn.) 115-103 in the semifinals, and East Hamilton (Tenn.) 67-52 in the finals.
Rodney Woods hasn't won more than 700 games by looking ahead either. Wayne County has eight games between now and Jan. 25. Among the Cards' upcoming opponents are Bryan Station and Clay County.
While we have to wait to see if that showdown of undefeated boys' teams materializes, there'll likely be a clash of undefeated girls' teams next week. Bishop Brossart, rated 34th in the state by Dave Cantrall, hosts NewCath on Wednesday.
North Bullitt's girls, No. 59 in the state, risk their perfect record against No. 5 Ballard on Friday.
■ UK recruiting target Jayson Tatum, will lead St. Louis Chaminade against host Lexington Catholic in the Goodfellas Pizzeria Shootout on Saturday. The 6-foot-7 Tatum is one of the top prospects in the Class of 2016. The Goodfellas Shootout opens with Simon Kenton taking on Perry County Central, led by Western Kentucky signee Justin Johnson and sophomore standout Braxton Beverly, at 5 p.m. Lexington Catholic plays Chaminade at 6:30, followed by Lincoln County facing Taylor County and its sophomore point guard Quentin Goodin. He already has offers from Indiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, WKU and West Virginia.
■ Scott County's Trent Gilbert is averaging 30.3 points after 12 games. He's hit 46 of 119 three-pointers (38.7 percent) and 117 of 128 free throws (91.4 percent). Once a spot shooter, Gilbert has expanded his game. He can create off the dribble, has a pull-up jumper and, as shown by his frequent trips to the foul line, can attack the rim. Gilbert might remind fans of former Cardinals guards Casey Alsop and Rick Jones. But Coach Billy Hicks likens Gilbert to Phil Cox, whom Hicks coached at Loyall Junior High. Cox went on to star at Cawood and was Mr. Basketball in 1981. "Trent plays so hard and can't get enough of basketball. You can't keep him out of the gym," Hicks said. "Phil Cox was the same way." Cox went on to have a solid career at Vanderbilt.
■ Lafayette's 6-9 senior Jackson Davis worked on his mid-range shooting and ball handling in the off-season, and it showed in the Republic Bank Holiday Classic. Davis averaged 23.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in four games. He made 23 of 28 free throws and also had nine steals and seven assists. After Davis led a Generals comeback that beat Newport Central Catholic in the semifinals, NewCath Coach Ron Dawn said he thought Davis was the best player in the tournament. Davis has committed to Rice.
■ Nicholas County's boys won the Bracken County Holiday Classic, rallying from nine down at halftime to beat Pike Central 61-57 in the finals. Junior guard Tyler Newton, son of Bluejackets Coach Roger Newton, was tournament MVP. He had 35 points against Newport, 15 against Burgin and 26 against Pike Central, including 20 of 22 free throws. Senior forward Scott Keaton had 47 points and 23 rebounds in the tournament. Senior center Logan Fryman was steady, too. He's averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds. Roger Newton is a head coach for the first time since he was at Lexington Christian Academy in 2001.
■ Johnson Central's 6-8 senior Shane Hall, a Marshall signee, keeps piling up school records. The latest is career free throws made (447) that he set last week. Among other Golden Eagles' records he holds are career blocked shots (386), career rebounds (941) and career dunks (172). Hall is averaging 19.0 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.4 blocks this season.
■ Betsy Layne, which won the 2011 Boys' Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic, tuned up for next week's All "A" 15th Region by winning the Pikeville Invitational Tournament. The Bobcats improved to 11-1 by sweeping Morgan County, North Laurel and Pikeville. Peyton Case had 30 points in the finals and was named MVP. Betsy Layne's Dylan Meade, Lako Daniels and Dustin Rogers also made the all-tournament team.
■ Here are Dave Cantrall's top contenders in the All "A" Classic going into regional play. Among the boys' teams: defending champ Newport Central Catholic, DeSales, Jackson County and Bishop Brossart. Among the girls' teams: defending champ Owensboro Catholic, NewCath, Glasgow, Monroe County and Shelby Valley.
■ Estill County junior Kennedy Flynn had 43 points against Hart County and broke the school record (for boys and girls) of 1,943 points set by Delmar McGee more than 50 years ago. Flynn, who is averaging 32 points this season, has 1,945 career points. "Kennedy has worked diligently on her game," Coach Mark McKinley said. "She continues to improve her game and is one of the leaders on our team."
■ Leslie County's junior Katie Moore got her 2,000th career point at the Bourbon County Holiday Tournament. Moore averaged 28 points in four games.
■ Jordan Fox was named MVP of the Cumberland Falls Invitational after averaging 20 points, four rebounds and three assists while leading Jackson County to the title. Fox had 22 points in a 59-47 win over Corbin in the finals.
■ Vee Sanford (Lexington Catholic), a 6-4 senior at Dayton, is averaging 9.8 points and 23 minutes a game for the Flyers. He had 14 points in a win at Illinois State. Dayton is 10-3, including an upset of Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational.
■ Dick Simpson and Mike Fannin will do delayed TV broadcasts of several high school games involving Lexington public schools over the next six weeks. The games will be shown on FCPS' local cable channel 13 the day after they're played. The schedule starts with a girls' game between Lafayette and Henry Clay on Tuesday.
■ Mr. Football should be based primarily on high school achievement, not how many stars recruiting services arbitrarily assign a player. That made Nacarius Fant of Bowling Green an easy pick for the award. He got my vote by being one of the most productive wide receivers in state history, and by being an unselfish standout and locker-room leader on three undefeated state championship teams. Fant has committed to WKU. The last Mr. Football to play for the Hilltoppers was Antonio Andrews, who won the award in 2009 after posting a 29-0 record over two years as Fort Campbell's starting quarterback.
■ Fast-pitch softball umpires are needed in the 10th and 11th regions. Anyone interested should attend a meeting at Bourbon County on Jan. 19, or contact J.T. Taylor at email@example.com. No experience necessary; training will be provided.