Region: 1st Record: 26-8 Enrollment: 1,436
Terry Birdsong is 141-56 in six seasons at Graves County. He was an assistant on the 1995 University Heights Academy team that reached the Sweet Sixteen and, as head coach, led Calloway County to the 2003 state tourney. This is his second trip as coach of the Eagles.
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Player Height Class Points
Peyton Puckett 6-3 Jr. 13.9
Mason Beale 5-10 Sr. 8.0
Jake Williams 6-3 Jr. 11.5
Tyler Starkey 6-2 Sr. 7.8
Zach Kimbler 6-3 Jr. 9.8
A balanced attack presents problems for opponents. "When you look at our stats, we don't have a 25-point-a-game guy," Birdsong said. "We have five or six guys that all average between eight and 14 points a game. That's been our biggest strength all year. And I think the other thing is our defense. That's ... what we always hang our hat on, is what we do on the defensive end. And that's really carried us." The Eagles play mostly man-to-man, but will mix in some zone.
Birdsong, who played for Western Kentucky and Murray State, is making his third state appearance as a head coach, his second with the Eagles. As a player for Marshall County, he was a standout in the 1987 tournament, when Marshall led nearly all the way before falling to Ballard in the final seconds in a first-round game. Birdsong put up 35 points in the loss, one more than Ballard standout Allan Houston. More than ever, he says he appreciates a return trip: "As a coach, it just means so much more. The older you get, you realize how hard it is to get there. It's hard to win the region."
Player to watch
Peyton Puckett leads Graves in scoring (13.9) and rebounding (5.6). The junior surpassed 1,000 career points this season, having started since his freshman year. He's a three-sport athlete, also playing baseball and football. "He's just one of those guys that really has an ownership in our school, and he's Graves County through-and-through," Birdsong said. "He's been a real solid player for us. ... We don't run a lot of things to him (but) he's a very good offensive rebounder and he has a nose for the ball. He's a good shooter. He can knock it down from the three-point line. He's good in transition. He's a good defender. You hear people say, 'Well, he's a shooter; he's a slasher.' He's just kind of an old-school basketball player. He gets a lot done. A lot of activity, but a lot of productivity as well."
Graves County is making its eighth tourney appearance, and its first since 2009. The Eagles are 3-7 all-time.
Region: 3rd Record: 25-7 Enrollment: 1,103
Paul Decker is 144-90 in eight seasons at Ohio County, after three years as an assistant.
Player Height Class Points
Preston Lambrich 6-4 Sr. 16.2
B.J. Morse 6-7 Jr. 7.7
Jonathan Wortham 6-4 Sr. 12.8
Trevor Lewis 6-0 Jr. 16.5
Trent Hall 6-0 Jr. 4.9
Decker likes his team's scoring balance and its ability to shoot (48 percent as a team). "We're pretty long, athletic," he said. "Might not compare to teams up there, but for around here we are." The Eagles prefer to play up-tempo, but will slow the pace when matchups dictate. Ohio County also plays mostly man-to-man, mixing in an occasional zone. As for the first-round task against Graves County, "I think it will be a good matchup," Decker said. "They play extremely hard. They're well-coached. It will be a good first-round game for us."
Madness in March
Hartford is buzzing over its Eagles. "It's big for our town," said Decker, who played for Ohio County in the 1991 state tournament. "The last time we went was '05; I was an assistant coach."
Player to watch
Look out for Jonathan Wortham, who sat out the regional championship game due to a concussion. "The first two games of the region, he was great," Decker said. "He plays above the rim. He had probably more dunks this year than anybody in the history of Ohio County basketball. He's just long and he's athletic." Wortham is drawing interest from Transylvania University, according to Decker. Wortham also plays goalie for Ohio County's soccer team.
Ohio County is in the tournament for the first time since 2005 and for the fourth time overall. The Eagles finished second to Central in 1969.
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Sweet Sixteen tournament bracket
Pre-season team, player ratings
Game 1 (Noon, Wed.): Wayne Co. vs. Madison Central
Game 2 (1:30 pm, Wed.): Holmes vs. PRP
Game 3 (6:30 pm, Wed.): Graves Co. vs. Ohio Co.
Game 4 (8 pm, Wed.): Hopkinsville vs. South Oldham
Game 5 (Noon, Thu.): Warren Central vs. Montgomery Co.
Game 6 (1:30 pm, Thu.): Fleming Co. vs. John Hardin
Game 7 (6:30 pm, Thu.): Johnson Central vs. Ballard
Game 8 (8 pm, Thu.): Knott Co. Central vs. Clay Co.
Region players and coaches of the year
Past boys' Sweet Sixteen champions