RICHMOND — A battle between No. 16 Paul Laurence Dunbar and No. 18 Henry Clay will highlight the first round of the boys' 11th Region Tournament at EKU's McBrayer Arena this week.
Dunbar Coach Scott Chalk admitted he felt bad vibes before the pairings were drawn Saturday.
"Going in, you can't help but think what might happen, and it's usually toward the negative," he said. "I had a feeling we'd get either Henry Clay or Franklin County because of the story lines."
Chalk didn't want to play Franklin County because that's where he coached for nine years before leaving for Dunbar last summer.
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Henry Clay was the toughest first-round opponent Dunbar could have drawn. The Blue Devils were rated in the top five in the state before hitting a rough stretch late in the season.
Henry Clay beat the Bulldogs 64-61 on Jan. 10. Dunbar won the rematch, 64-62, on Feb. 7.
Chalk thinks five teams in the region have "equal talent" — Madison Central, Scott County, Henry Clay, Lexington Catholic and Dunbar. "So however the draw came out, you're going to have to beat those teams to win it."
No. 4 Madison Central, led by senior star Dominique Hawkins, is considered the favorite, but Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. said the Indians remember last year when they were No. 5 in the state and Woodford County upset them 60-55 in the region semifinals.
No. 15 Scott County is defending region champ. The Cardinals have rung up impressive victories recently: 64-53 over Lexington Catholic, 74-64 over Dunbar, and 83-64 over Henry Clay in the 42nd District finals.
Region play begins Monday.
Girls' 11th Region
No. 12 Madison Central is the highest-rated girls' team in the region, but that's no comfort to Indians Coach Robbie Cooksey. "I don't think rankings have anything to do with it at this point," he said. "This region is like a mini-state tournament.
"(No. 18) Lafayette and (No. 23) Dunbar are really coming on. Scott County is always really good. Bryan Station just won their district. Franklin County and Frankfort are playing well, too.
"Hopefully we'll be playing our best basketball."
Madison Central's four losses have been to No. 1 and Marion County (twice), No. 8 Ballard and Dunbar.
The girls' region begins on Wednesday at EKU.
Defending region champ Dunbar drew Frankfort. If the Bulldogs win, they could face Madison Central in the semifinals. They beat the Indians 67-57 in last year's finals, and prevailed by that same score less than two weeks ago.
Brackets for all 16 boys' and girls' region tournaments