Region: 6 Record: 19-11 Enrollment: 1,640
Shawn Purlee (121-81, seven years), who coached four seasons at Doss before moving to his alma mater, made it to the Sweet Sixteen as an assistant at Butler in 1997 and 2002.
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Jalen Wesson 5-9 so. 9.2 ppg
Austin Fuqua 5-11 sr. 3.3 ppg
Darius Stone 6-1 sr. 9.3 ppg
Quinton Smith 6-2 sr. 3.0 ppg
Thomas Blakemore 6-1 sr. 17.6 ppg
Although Butler prefers a fast-paced game, Purlee knows his team can't always win that way. "We're not like a Ballard, where we can run with anybody," he said. "If anything, I feel like we're diverse, that we can play different styles. If we feel like we can run on a team, then we play up-tempo. If we feel like we need to control the tempo more, we can do that. ... We've got smart ballplayers that can adapt to the game and a game plan, then go out and execute it." Blakemore leads Butler with 17.6 points and 6.4 rebounds. Stone adds 9.3 points and 7.2 rebounds, while Wesson averages 9.2 points and 3.2 assists.
learning to win
Butler's state tournament roster isn't that different from last year's 9-17 team; only one starter and two reserves graduated. "Basically, this nucleus of kids has learned how to win this year," Purlee said. "They've had to make a lot of sacrifices, and they've just had a lot of perseverance about them. That's the thing that us as coaches and the players are, I think, most proud of — is that they've finally developed themselves into winners. ... We've got eight seniors. They haven't had a whole lot of success all the way up until right now. It's just fun to watch them latch on to that."
Player to watch
Wesson has been running the point for the Bears "pretty much since the day he walked in here as a freshman," Purlee said. "He probably has the highest basketball IQ of any of our players. He just really understands the game." No wonder — his father, Anthony "Gip" Palm, was an All-Sun Belt Conference player for Western Kentucky and went on to play in the CBA. Said Purlee: "I think it's going to be very important for him to get down there in these big games, recognize game situations and take over in terms of leading our team and making the right decisions."
Butler is making its fourth Sweet Sixteen appearance. The Bears are 0-3 in tourney play, the most recent trip coming in 2002.
Knott County Central Patriots
Region: 14 Record: 26-6 Enrollment: 709
David Fraley (664-234, 31 years) took Powell County to the 1974 Sweet Sixteen, then guided Pulaski County to the tournament in 1979, '84, '86 and '92. His 1986 team won the title.
Tate Cox 6-1 sr. 14 ppg
Stuart Stamper 6-1 sr. 18.4 ppg
Zack Davis 6-2 so. 9.2 ppg
Nason Roberts 6-5 jr. 6.8 ppg
Braxton Ratliff 6-3 sr. 4.6 ppg
Look for full-court pressure and man-to-man defense with some "help." "Of course, everyone knows about Stuart Stamper and Tate Cox, their guard play," Fraley said. "But how we've gotten better is our kids on the baseline. Nason Roberts and Braxton Ratliff have developed into good defenders under the basket and have the ability to score some points, too. As they've gotten better, we've gotten better."
Stamper of excellence
Leading scorer Stamper (18.4 ppg) is the fourth member of his family to play in the Sweet Sixteen, following behind his father, David Jeff, and uncles Herbie and Joe. The Patriots' gym has a banner to commemorate their last regional title, in 1993. Fraley related this story: "(Stuart) said, 'I've looked at that 1993 banner my whole life, and I really want to put another one up there, a regional championship banner, before I leave.' And so they did."
Player to watch
Cox (14.0 ppg) stepped up his game by scoring more than 70 points in the regional tournament, including 29 in the finals. "He wasn't selfish enough on the point, so we've asked him to keep the ball in his hands a little longer," Fraley said. "I think if you watch him a little bit and see how he goes, it'll tell a lot about how we're going to go. ... He is a good leader on and off the floor, does the right things."
The Patriots have appeared in seven state tournaments, but none since ending a three-year run in 1993. KCC has never advanced past the second round.