No. 4 Scott County and No. 14 Lafayette are the highest-rated teams in the boys' 11th Region Tournament that tips off Thursday in the Frankfort Convention Center, but they also both come into the region as district runners-up.
Henry Clay upset Scott County 68-65 in the 42nd District finals, ending the Cardinals' state-best 21-game winning streak.
Lexington Catholic knocked off Lafayette 83-80 in double-overtime in the 43rd District finals despite Jackson Davis' 32 points and 31 rebounds.
A district runner-up winning the 11th Region isn't a rare achievement. It's been done three times in the last 10 years: Lexington Catholic in 2011, Henry Clay in 2005 and Lafayette in 2004.
Scott County Coach Billy Hicks even found silver linings in his team's loss to Henry Clay: "It was easy to get the kids' attention the next day in practice. Besides, it's kind of scary having a long winning streak going into the region."
Lafayette Coach Mike Mendenhall put the Generals' loss to Lexington Catholic in his rearview mirror moments after it was over: "The good news is, we get a chance to play again (in the region)."
Lafayette faces No. 16 Henry Clay on Friday. The Generals have beaten Henry Clay six times in a row, including three times this season.
Davis has been a one-man wrecking crew against the Blue Devils. The 6-foot-8 Mr. Basketball finalist had 30 points and 19 rebounds in Lafayette's 77-67 win over Henry Clay in the King of the Bluegrass in December. He had 26 points and 15 rebounds in a 71-51 rout in late January. He had 42 points and 17 rebounds in an 84-69 romp in February.
"To say he's dominated us would be putting it lightly," Devils Coach Daniel Brown said. "We've got to make every shot tough for him, and try to keep him off the glass."
Henry Clay has a senior standout of its own in Jordan Green, who had 27 points and 11 rebounds in the upset of Scott County. Brown said Green looks "refreshed and comfortable" after missing three weeks with an elbow injury.
Brown thinks Green's absence benefited the Devils' other players, who had to step up their games. Junior Jeremiah Tisdale, his brother Isaiah, a sophomore, and junior point guard Felix Wilson all have played well lately.
The Henry Clay-Lafayette rivalry couldn't be any closer. The Devils and Generals have been playing since 1939 and their series is tied 87-87.
Lexington Catholic and Scott County, who meet in Thursday's first round, also have a great rivalry going.
They've met 25 times since the 1998 Sweet Sixteen, with Scott County holding a 13-12 edge in the series. Scott County whipped the Knights 81-60 three weeks ago.
Hicks said he'd love his team's chances if this were a "seven game series. But it's one game, and in one game anything can happen."
Lexington Catholic Coach Brandon Salsman called Scott County "an awesome team, with a 7-footer (Raekwon Long) and a great shooter (Mr. Basketball finalist Trent Gilbert).
Defending state champion Madison Central plays Franklin County in the region opener Thursday night.
The Indians have rebuilt after graduating Mr. Basketball Dominique Hawkins, Sweet Sixteen championship game hero Ken-Jah Bosley and three other senior starters.
Madison Central has balanced scoring this season, with six players averaging between eight and 14 points.
Sam Jones and Demarcus George give the Indians a strong inside game, averaging 27 points and 21 rebounds between them.
Sophomore Cameron Thomas averages 14 points.
"I never thought we'd win 20 games with this team," Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. said. "But we've been very inconsistent. We've played some really good games against some really good people. But against some teams not that good, we've kind of played to the level of the competition."