Remember that joy ride Woodford County's basketball team took on its way to the boys' 11th Region finals last season? Nine months later, the Yellow Jackets are still cruising and having fun.
Despite graduating six of its top seven players, Woodford County is 6-1, including victories over pre-season No. 8 Lexington Catholic and No. 18 Paul Laurence Dunbar.
The Jackets' latest Lexington victim was Tates Creek. They rallied from a nine-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the host Commodores 55-48 on Friday night.
Is Woodford County Coach Scott Hundley surprised by this early-season success?
"Heck yes. Absolutely," he said. "I think this team has a little bit of a chip on their shoulder because they read the papers before the season (and they weren't rated in the top eight in the region).
"They want to prove we've got a good team, and so far they've responded to the challenge of a tough schedule."
Woodford County's only tried-and-true veterans are junior Eli Boggess and senior Landen Young. But Chase Henderlight, Curtis Ham and George Cole, who saw limited time last year, and newcomers Chris Honabach and Jalin Raglin have stepped up as reliable contributors.
Boggess said he's "a little surprised" by the Jackets' December surge, "but I knew if these guys got a chance to play, they'd play as hard as they can. Plus, we like playing with each other."
Hundley also thinks the experience of last year's region tournament, where Woodford County knocked off Lexington Catholic and Madison Central before falling to Scott County in the finals, was invaluable.
""Not only for the players that played in it, but the ones who were there and part of it," Hundley said. "I think that's sparked confidence in them this year."
Woodford County showed that confidence by not getting frustrated in the first half against Tates Creek. The Jackets shot 8-for-28 (29 percent) and trailed 29-22.
"We were trying too many threes, too many long shots in the first half," Hundley said. "We started attacking the basket in the second half."
They also started attacking Tates Creek with half-court pressure, with Raglin out front. He had a couple steals to ignite a 16-3 run that put his team in front.
Woodford County went ahead to stay at 43-41 on Young's three-point play.
Honabach led the winners with 13 points. Raglin came off the bench to get 12. Young had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Boggess added eight points.
Raglin explained the Jackets' rally succinctly: "Good attitude and positive energy."
Jordan Fucci finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for Tates Creek. Braxton McFarland had 12 points and seven rebounds. Vincent Mattox had nine points and nine rebounds.
Coach Wayne Breeden said the game reflected his team's 2-5 season so far.
"We'll do a pretty good job for a while, then we show an inability to make proper decisions, and understand time and score.
"But give Woodford County credit. Their strength is they play together as a team, and play hard."
And play with a chip on their shoulder.
TATES CREEK (2-5) — Fucci 15, Mattox 9, McFarland 12, Duke 4, E.Davis 6, I.Davis 2.
WOODFORD COUNTY (6-1) — Boggess 8, Henderlight 6, Young 11, Honabach 13, Raglin 12, Howell 3, Cole 2.
Woodford County 9 13 14 19—55
Tates Creek 11 18 5 14—48
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com