Fayette County

No. 2 LCA won't take region lightly

Lexington Christian has experience, history and a familiar venue on its side, but it is well aware that the favorite doesn't always win the 11th Region Tournament.

The Eagles, ranked No. 2 in the state, need only look back to last season when they were defending their Sweet Sixteen title and lost in the first round of their district.

Or, again last season, when top-rated Paul Dunbar and perennial power Lexington Catholic were both upset by upstart Henry Clay.

It's March and anything can happen when the girls' 11th Region gets under way Monday night at Eastern Kentucky's McBrayer Arena.

"In my mind, this is a very, very competitive region," LCA Coach Jason Seamands said. "There are three or four teams that could win it."

Seamands said he's never discussed the team's role as favorite or the rankings.

"They don't matter," he said. "You've got to be the best team on the floor that night, period."

The Eagles coach did acknowledge that playing in McBrayer Arena was a nice bonus. LCA won its third straight All "A" Classic championship there a few weeks ago. Over the last three years, the Eagles have won 14 straight games at EKU.

"We like that place," he said. "We know the locker rooms, the floor, the benches; the people down there are great. It's fun to go back down there. We have very good memories down there."

LCA, which has won 12 in a row this year, has yet to lose to a region opponent this season and should have no trouble against first-round opponent Madison Southern, which has lost 21 of its last 22 games and is 2-22 on the season.

But a tough second-round opponent could loom in No. 17 Franklin County, the only other ranked team in this week's tournament.

The Flyers, who have won six straight and 11 of their last 12, played LCA to within four points in mid-January.

Coach Joey Thacker's group is trying to make the school's second-ever trip to the state tournament and its first since 1980.

Franklin County will meet Bryan Station in the first round on Tuesday night. The Defenders have won two of their last three.

The upper bracket is strong, too, despite not having a top 25 team. Scott County is 15-14 but has won seven straight games. The Cardinals will face Western Hills, which has won four of its last five.

Madison Central is back in the region after winning 21 games, including five of its last six and three straight.

The Indians will meet Lexington Catholic on Monday. Year in and year out, the Knights have been a force in the 11th Region.

They have won seven of the last 10 region titles and four state championships since 1999.

Other highlights

The 5th Region Tournament is like a mini-state tournament of its own with four teams ranked in the state's top 12.

In order to defend its region title, top-ranked Elizabethtown may have to get through tournament host and third-ranked Nelson County and star Samantha Drake, a Kentucky commitment, in the semifinals. In that same region, No. 4 North Hardin will have to get through No. 12 Marion County in the first round on Tuesday.

The 7th Region at Bellarmine this week is evenly balanced, with No. 11 Sacred Heart likely facing No. 13 Mercy in one semifinal.

In the bottom part of the bracket, No. 7 Manual, the defending region champ, likely will face Louisville Christian in the other semifinal. The Centurions have been ranked most of the season. They split two regular-season matchups.

Defending Sweet Sixteen champion and 20th-ranked Butler could have its hands full getting back to Diddle Arena with No. 6 Iroquois looming in the upper part of the 6th Region bracket.

The Raiders and UK signee Adia Mathies have won both regular-season matchups, the last by 14 points.

It will be no cake walk out of the 12th Region at Pulaski County with No. 4 Rockcastle County, No. 8 Casey County and No. 14 Lincoln County all vying for a spot in the final field of 16.

Lincoln and defending region champion Rockcastle could meet in the semifinals with a chance to play Casey County if the rankings hold up.