It’s a little easy to forget, what with the recent heat wave, but ’tis the season for family get-togethers, eggnog and basketball.
This stretch of the calender never disappoints when it comes to assembling dozens of top teams and players at various locations around the state. Let’s take a look at some approaching holiday events that’ll leave you looking to move your family dinner to a local gymnasium (Note: Separate previews will be released for the boys’ and girls’ holiday tournaments at Lexington Catholic):
▪ The conversation has to start with the boys’ King of the Bluegrass tournament, which begins Friday at Fairdale. There’s a case to be made that the 16-team field — which includes four out-of-state teams — is stronger than the one that’ll vie for the state title in March.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, living up to preseason expectations as the 11th Region favorite, brings a 6-0 record into its opener against host Fairdale (2-4). Trinity and Owen County square off in a pairing of undefeateds favored to reach the Sweet Sixteen. Bullitt East, the 6th Region favorite, opens against Waggener, the coaches’ pick to win the 7th Region. Taylor County, coming off its first loss of the year, gets a Central team looking to pick up its first high-caliber win after dropping close ones to Eastern and Covington Catholic. Fourth-region front-runner Bowling Green faces Fern Creek, a 6th Region hopeful that’s dropped two straight by a combined 13 points. And that’s all just over the first two days.
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▪ Henry Clay will be a favorite to win the boys’ Berea Holiday Classic, which starts Monday. Isaiah Tisdale is off to a good start for the Blue Devils, averaging 21 points and eight rebounds. In Henry Clay’s 73-70 loss to 8th Region favorite Owen County — its first and only of the season — Tisdale had 37 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Fellow senior Leander Ridgeway is averaging 15 points, four rebounds and three assists. East Jessamine, Frankfort and Madison Southern will vie for the title in addition to host Berea.
East Jessamine will be without star Emma Young for the girls’ event (it begins Friday) after she suffered a chipped bone in her right ankle against Mercer County on Tuesday. Young, who has signed with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, was averaging 23.5 points before being carted out early in that game. Jaguars Coach Jacqueline Coleman said Young will be out two to six weeks, the Jessamine Journal reported.
Lafayette, Madison Central and Madison Southern are also part of the girls’ field.
▪ Tates Creek’s boys will play Eminence then Paris will meet Frankfort in the Mingua Beef Jerky Hoopfest at Paris on Friday. It is a one-day event. The Commodores then travel to the eight-team Woodford County Invitational tournament, which starts Monday. Tates Creek opens with the host Yellow Jackets (3-3), Bryan Station gets Eastern (3-2), West Jessamine meets Scott County and Lexington Christian plays Scott.
If Scott County wins, whoever wins between LCA and Scott will meet the Cardinals for the second time this month. LCA lost at Scott County on Dec. 10; Scott travels there on Friday.
▪ Several Central Kentucky teams will take part in the Kentucky Bank Challenge at Rowan County. Lexington Christian, whose only losses were to Dunbar and at Scott County, will be there, as will Clark County, East Jessamine, Madison Central and Madison Southern. A rising player to look out for there? Torell Carter of Letcher County Central. The junior set a school record with 49 points in the Cougars’ 106-86 win at Jackson City on Dec. 4 and had 46 in an 88-85 win at Belfry on Tuesday. He’s averaging 31.4 points through seven games and has LCC out to a 6-1 start.
▪ The overall depth of the field doesn’t tantalize, but the matchup between Shelby Valley and Lawrence County in the Hi-Tech Signs/Graphix Holiday Classic at Prestonsburg could be a 15th Region championship preview worth checking out. They play at 7 p.m. Friday. Magoffin County is off to its best start under under fourth-year coach Robbie Russell and could contend in this tournament (it opens with the host Blackcats) as well as the Mountain Schoolboy Classic, which begins Dec. 28 at Belfry.
▪ New coach Frankie Smith has 2nd Region favorite Christian County out to a 6-0 start. The Colonels are beating opponents by an average of 24 points. You can see them in the Owensboro Invitational Tournament, a pool-play event beginning Monday (the girls’ event begins then, too). Senior Tyrik Edwards is averaging 17.7 points on 68.4 percent shooting for the Colonels while Jaylen Sebree, a junior whose offers include Indiana, NKU and WKU, has posted averages of 16.2 points and four rebounds.
▪ The girls’ Gateway Holiday Classic at Montgomery County features Sweet Sixteen hopefuls Henry Clay and Simon Kenton. It also brings Whitney Creech to Central Kentucky for those hoping to catch her putting up video-game numbers. The Jenkins senior and WKU signee is averaging 50.9 points a game. That event, along with the boys’ edition, begins Dec. 27. Mercer County, Madison Central, Montgomery County and Paris are notables involved on the boys’ side.
▪ The Bryan Station girls open with the hosts in the Boyle County Invitational (starts Monday). Destiny Cozart and Carah Burdette are each averaging more than 14 points a game for the Defenders. The Rebels have three players putting up double-figure scoring: Emmie Harris (24.2), Marlee Smith (17.2) and Gracie Edmiston (14.2).
▪ The Lafayette and LCA boys could meet in the semifinals of the Lake Cumberland Holiday Hoops Classic, which is being played at Somerset, Pulaski County and Southwestern. It gets underway on Dec. 27.
▪ Sayre’s boys will play in the North American Stainless Tournament at Carroll County (Dec. 21-23) and the Nelson County Classic (Dec. 28-30) over the holidays. After its home game against Whitefield on Friday, the girls’ team is off until Jan. 2.
South Oldham runner races in California
South Oldham runner Cole Dowdy raced in the national boys’ Foot Locker Cross Country Championship in San Diego on Saturday. Dowdy wasn’t thrilled with his performance — he finished 38th out of 40 runners with a time of 16:25.6 — but that didn’t sour his feelings about a trip he called “unbelievable.”
It was Dowdy’s first trip west of the Mississippi River. It was also his first ride on a plane, the jet lag from which he jokingly said might have affected his performance. At the end of the day, there were “no excuses” and ultimately it was a rewarding experience overall because of the competition level.
“It really humbled me and showed me what I need to work on,” said Dowdy, who will run for the University of Kentucky next season. “ ... I think it was a unique introduction to what the next level’s gonna be like. It really opened my eyes to what the rest of the country has to offer. Back home in Kentucky, there’s really good runners and they’re awesome, but at the same time you don’t get to race some of the nation’s best.”
Dowdy’s twin brother, Tanner, also will run at UK next year. He finished 21st in the Foot Locker south regional; only the top 10 from each region advanced to nationals.
“We were both wanting to qualify for this together,” Cole said, “but one is better than none.”
Cole said the runners were treated like kings at the Hotel Del Coronado, which featured an ice rink he looked forward to using before he left. He’d never ice skated before.
“Now that the race is over I can do whatever I want. If I twist an ankle, it’s not a big deal,” he said with a laugh.
▪ Samford’s Matt Rose, who starred at Lexington Christian, was named the Southern Conference’s player of the week for games played from Dec. 8-14. The freshman scored a career-high 17 points, had seven rebounds and a block in just 23 minutes in the Bulldogs’ 86-67 win at Florida A&M on Saturday.
Former St. Xavier and University of Kentucky standout Scott Padgett is the head coach at Samford. The Bulldogs are off to a 7-3 start, all three losses coming on the road.
Christen Cunningham, who played at Henry Clay before transferring to Cordia, also plays at Samford. He scored a team-high 18 points in the win against Florida A&M.
▪ Mykasa Robinson, the top-ranked point guard in the class of 2018 and the No. 7 player overall according to ESPN, had 23 points, 10 assists and 10 steals in Ashland Blazer’s 68-29 win over Raceland on Monday.
▪ Malik Dow is averaging a double-double with 11.2 points and 11 rebounds for Mercer County, which was 6-0 entering Friday. Dow transferred from Ballard at the beginning of the school year.
▪ Caverna star Mason Faulkner, who has committed to Northern Kentucky University, is averaging 40.5 points through seven games.
▪ Woodford County posted a pair of double-doubles during its 58-55 win over Berea on Wednesday night. Caitlin Ferguson, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, had 23 points and 10 rebounds. Delaney Enlow, a 5-11 eighth-grader, put up 19 points and 15 boards.
▪ Woodford County, ranked No. 6 in the state by KentuckyWrestling.com, headlines the 5-Star General Invitational at Lafayette on Saturday. Host Lafayette, ranked 11th, Bryan Station, Lexington Catholic (No. 33) and Paul Laurence Dunbar will compete from the city. Other participants: Anderson County, Bourbon County, Boyle County, Central Hardin, Danville, Franklin County, Grant County, East Jessamine, Jeffersontown, Madison Central, Madison Southern, Montgomery County, North Hardin, Scott County, South Oldham and Taylor County.
▪ Lexington Christian named William B. Frye as its new girls’ golf coach Wednesday. “B” takes over a program that had its best finish in program history in the All “A” Tournament and sent senior Hannah Griffith to the state tournament.
▪ Kenyon Meyer stepped down Thursday as the girls’ soccer coach at Assumption. Meyer guided the Rockets to a record of 210-91-28 with trips to the state semifinals in 2004 and 2012 and the state finals in 2005.
▪ Male football coach Chris Wolfe was selected as one of the coaches for the Under Armour All-American Game, which is to be played at noon on Jan. 2. It will be broadcast on ESPN2.
▪ West Jessamine swimmer Michael Peck announced Wednesday that he will swim collegiately at Lindsey Wilson.
ALL-CITY FOOTBALL TEAMS
(Players of the year selected by Josh Moore; teams as voted on by the coaches)
Lexington Player of the Year: Mason Alstatt, Lafayette
Offensive Player of the Year: Walker Wood, Lafayette
Defensive Player of the Year: Davonte Robinson, Henry Clay
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
Specialist—Mason Alstatt, Lafayette
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
K—Evan Works, Henry Clay