Defending state champion and preseason No. 1 Butler headlines a loaded field for this week’s Traditional Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic, an event that routinely features several contenders for each year’s Sweet Sixteen.
Five preseason top-25 teams and two more region title favorites will take part in the five-day tournament beginning Monday. Teams with first-round byes will play Wednesday and include No. 1 Butler, Simon Kenton, Eastern, No. 5 Murray, East Carter, Bowling Green, No. 8 Elizabethtown and No. 4 Sacred Heart.
Butler got blown out by Elizabethtown last year in the event finals in what turned out to be a Sweet Sixteen quarterfinal preview for the eventual state champion. The Bearettes (5-1) return 5-foot-10 senior and Indiana commit Jaelynn Penn, who is averaging 17 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Butler will face the winner of Monday’s Boone County-Boyle County match.
Paul Laurence Dunbar (4-2), led by senior Autumn Herriford (15.3 ppg) and junior Mashayla Cecil (14.3 ppg), takes on the 6th Region’s Fairdale (4-4) on Monday. The winner gets 8th Region favorite Simon Kenton (4-2), led by 5-9 junior Ally Niece, a Division I prospect averaging 15.2 points and five rebounds per game.
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Murray’s only loss, so far, came at the hands of Butler on Dec. 10. The 1st Region favorite might get another chance at them in Thursday’s semifinals if it can navigate through the winner of Monday’s Louisville Christian-Scott matchup, and then knock off whoever comes out of the Danville-Ryle vs. Eastern bracket. Murray (5-1) is without injured senior star Maddie Waldrop until January, but has plenty of firepower, led by junior guard Macey Turley’s 17.2 points per game. Murray easily handled 11th Region favorite Franklin County on Dec. 4 and will be a favorite to win the All “A” Classic later this season.
Sacred Heart (5-0) sits on the other side of the bracket with its own Indiana commit in 5-10 junior Grace Berger. Berger averages 13.5 points and seven rebounds per game for the Valkyries. They’ll face the winner of Tuesday’s South Warren-Somerset game.
In Sacred Heart’s way to the semifinals lies Elizabethtown (6-1), the three-time defending champion of the event. The 5th Region power is led this season by senior guard Jada Stinson, who averages 19.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game and makes better than 37 percent of her three-point tries. The Panthers face the winner of Tuesday’s game between host Lexington Catholic (2-3) and Monroe County.
Manual (6-0), ranked in the preseason as the No. 10 team in the state, is the only ranked team not to receive a first-round bye. The Crimsons have crushed all opponents leading into the event, led by Jaela Johnson’s 23.3 points per game. They’ll face Russell County (6-1) on Tuesday for the right to take on perennial 16th Region contender East Carter (5-2).
Russell (6-2), the coaches’ pick to win the 16th Region, takes on Lincoln County (5-1) on Tuesday for the right to play Bowling Green.
Traditional Bank Holiday Classic
Where: Lexington Catholic’s Alumni Gym and Beuter Gym
When: Various times Monday through Friday. Semifinals at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Friday. Finals at 6:30 p.m. Friday.