RICHMOND — Shelby Valley's boys' basketball team is rated seventh in the state, but it has had a tough time escaping the shadow of Eastern Kentucky rival and top-rated Elliott County this season.
Shelby Valley will get a chance to eclipse Elliott County's star power when the teams meet in the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic semifinals Sunday morning in Eastern Kentucky's McBrayer Arena.
Shelby Valley beat Newport Central Catholic 55-36 in Saturday's quarterfinals after Elliott County manhandled Pineville 90-47.
The Eastern Kentucky powers haven't met since Elliott County beat the Wildcats in the first round of the 2007 Sweet Sixteen.
"Elliott County is a great team, and we're not bad ourself," Coach Jason Booher said. "Our players are excited, our fans are excited and our community is excited about being in the final four of the All 'A' and playing the No. 1 team in the state."
In Saturday's other semifinals, Hazard slipped by Shawnee 59-47 and Bardstown ripped Edmonson County 64-40 to set up their Sunday semifinal.
The semifinal winners won't get much rest. They come back for the title game Sunday afternoon at 2:30.
Booher thought Shelby Valley's defense was the key to beating NewCath, which had 20 turnovers in a relatively slow-paced game and shot only 31 percent.
The Cats were led by junior standout Elisha Justice, who had 18 points (including the 1,000th of his career), four steals and three assists.
Devan Adams, a 6-foot-10 senior, had 11 points, and Taylor Newsome added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
NewCath was led by Jeramie Connor, who was limited to nine points after scoring 27 against Danville on Friday.
Elliott County 90, Pineville 47: The top-rated Lions didn't have any trouble roaring to their 14th victory in a row.
After blowing away Whitefield 85-24 on Friday, Elliott County pounded Pineville and was able to give its starters plenty of rest again.
Jonathan Ferguson got 21 of his 23 points in the first half as the Lions built a 51-24 lead.
Ethan Faulkner, who had a triple-double in the first round, had 17 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and four steals against Pineville. Twin brother Evan added 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Timmy Knipp, a 6-7 sophomore, had eight points and 12 rebounds.
Pineville's James David Strange had all of his 15 points in the first half. Michael Cunningham had 14 points. Tyler Tuttle had 11 rebounds.
Evan Faulkner said Elliott County won't have any trouble adjusting to tougher competition.
"Our demeanor never changes," he said. "We treat every game the same. We play hard from start to finish."
Coach Rick Mays agreed: "It's not who we play, it's how we play."
Pineville Coach J.D. Strange hopes his team learned something from its struggles against Elliott County.
"I'm not thrilled with the way it came out, but if we handle it right it'll help us down the road," he said.
Bardstown 64, Edmonson County 40: Bardstown improved its record to 10-2 in the All "A" over the last four years. The Tigers won the title in 2006 and were runners-up in '07.
Bardstown used an 11-0 run in the first half to get the jump on Edmonson County, and then pulled away in the second half.
Jordan Hickman led the Tigers with 16 points. Demarco Phillips had 15 points and 14 rebounds. Damien Edelen had 10 points and seven rebounds, and T.J. Downs added eight points and eight assists.
Defending Edmonson County star Cody Rich was a key to the game. The 6-4 junior lit up Lyon County for 31 points and 15 rebounds on Friday. He had 14 points and 14 rebounds on Saturday, but was 6-for-18 shooting.
"He was the focal point of our game plan," Tigers Coach Gary Goode said. "We knew what he did to Lyon County, and that if we let him have that kind of night again they'd be tough to beat."
Bardstown will have an early wake-up call on Sunday for its 8:30 a.m. semifinal. Will the Tigers be ready to hoop it up that early in the morning?
Goode said it might be a problem if it were "practice or a normal regular-season game. But I think our kids will be excited about playing a big game like this."
Hazard 59, Shawnee 47: Hazard, which won the All "A" title in 2004 and was runner-up last year, earned another trip to the semifinals.
The Bulldogs will face Bardstown, which beat them in the 2007 semifinals.
Hazard started slowly against Shawnee, but its defense and Eric Back provided a spark.
"We finally started showing some intensity in the second quarter, and Eric hit some threes that helped get us going," said Bulldogs point guard Josh Whitaker, who led the winners with 17 points.
Back, a sophomore transfer from Perry Central who became eligible a few weeks ago, had 14 points, including 3-for-5 three-point shooting.
Robert Warren controlled the inside. The 6-3 senior had 13 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Hazard's defense kept Shawnee from getting into any rhythm. The Golden Eagles hit only 16 of 66 shots (24 percent).
Cory Jackson, Devon Thompson and Kendal Holt all scored in double figures but they were a combined 11 of 49 from the field.
Whitaker said the Bulldogs won't mind the early Sunday tip-off against Bardstown.
"Any time you get to play in a big game, you don't mind if it's 5:30 in the morning or 9 o'clock at night," he said.