Trying to figure out who's the team to beat for the boys' state basketball title after No. 1 Eastern was toppled by Tates Creek this week?
Only 17 days remain in the regular season, but plenty of revealing showdowns are still on the schedule:
■ Clark County at Mason County, Friday.
■ Scott County at Henry Clay, Friday.
■ Jeffersontown at Trinity, Tuesday.
■ Ballard at Clark County, Feb. 9.
■ Eastern at Ballard, Feb. 11.
■ Scott County at Lexington Catholic, Feb. 12.
■ Eastern at Scott County, Feb. 15.
■ Clark County at Henry Clay, Feb. 17.
1,082 and counting
North Hardin boys' basketball coach Ron Bevars reached a milestone this week. He marked his 1,082nd game as the Trojans head coach, eclipsing the state record of 1,081 set by Pearl Combs 40 years ago. The significance? "It makes you feel a little bit old," Bevars said with a laugh. "Time has gone by so fast." Bevars is in his 40th year at North Hardin, the last 36 as hoops boss. He's led the Trojans to 767 victories, including 12 region titles. He remembers his first win — a 78-76 squeaker over East Hardin in 1975. "It didn't take me long to figure out the better the players I had, the better the coach I was."
According to the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches, Bevars' 767 victories tie him with Clay County's Bobby Keith as the state's all-time winningest boys' coach. But that should be marked with an asterisk. Billy Hicks of Scott County, by his own count, has 775 victories, but the KABC is still verifying that number. Then there's the late William Kean, who had more than 850 victories at Louisville Central, many of those coming before integration and before Central was admitted to the KHSAA. Bevars said the KABC is in the process of verifying Kean's victory total.
Also, Bevars is happy to report that North Hardin junior Jermaine Ruttley is on the road to a full recovery. Ruttley, who shone in the Sweet Sixteen as a sophomore, broke his leg in a pre-season scrimmage last fall. He had complications following surgery, and his kidneys shut down. He was in serious condition and on dialysis for several weeks, but Bevars said Ruttley has improved enough that he hopes to play AAU ball this spring.
■ When Kendall Noble transferred from Breathitt County to Perry County Central, Commodores Coach Randy Napier knew he was getting a great player. But after watching her every day this season, he's even more impressed. "When she was at Breathitt County, I kind of thought she was on cruise control," Napier said. "But now I realize I mistook her. She's just so smooth, so good, and does everything in such an effortless manner that it's kind of deceiving. She's fantastic." Noble, a 5-11 junior guard, has had 10 triple-doubles and a quadruple-double this season. She's averaging 19.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 7.7 steals and 6.3 assists for Perry Central, which is 18-3 and rated 10th in the state. "She's really taken to our up-tempo, full-court style," Napier said, "and that's improved her college stock." Napier said UK, Louisville, WKU and Purdue are among those recruiting Noble.
■ Nolan Barger was more than just a casual fan watching Tates Creek beat Eastern on Wednesday. Barger was Tates Creek's longtime coach, winning 540 games in 28 years, highlighted by a state runner-up finish in 1991. Barger had a rooting interest in Eastern, too. He and Eagles Coach Jason Couch are cousins. (Barger's dad and Couch's grandmother were siblings.) Couch grew up in Scottsburg, Ind., but as a kid he always kept tabs on Tates Creek. He also regularly attended Barger and Kyle Macy's summer basketball camp. Eastern and Tates Creek were supposed to play the first week of the season, but the game was snowed out. Some people wondered why Couch was so intent on rescheduling such a tough game. "I told them I wanted to go coach in Nolan Barger Gym," he said.
■ Two weeks after Warren Central lost to 4th Region rival Bowling Green 70-59, it pounded the Purples 85-64 last Friday in front of more than 5,000 fans. George Fant had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the winners. The difference between the first game and the rematch? "I think we were too caught up in the emotion of it all the first time," Dragons Coach Tim Riley said.
■ Henry Clay will retire the jersey of former Blue Devils and UK star James Lee at Friday's game against Scott County. Henry Clay has previously honored coaches Al Prewitt, Kirk Chiles and Bob Tripure, and 1983 Sweet Sixteen MVP Steve Miller. Lee had 1,662 points and 1,253 rebounds in his career. He averaged 25 points and 16 rebounds as a senior.
■ Before Lexington Catholic's game against Clark County on Tuesday night in the Knights' old gym, the hosts honored former star Shawn Fields by retiring his jersey. Fields started every game of his career — 138 in a row — and finished with 2,022 points and 800 rebounds.
■ Former Lexington TV sports anchor Denny Trease is sometimes on the bench as a volunteer assistant for the Lexington Christian boys' basketball team. "Just trying to find things to do in my retirement," Trease said with a laugh. Trease, who also worked with the Kansas City Royals baseball organization as a broadcaster and director of communications, coached his son Chad's youth basketball team years ago in Kansas City. Back in Lexington and bitten by the basketball bug, Trease contacted LCA to see if it needed "the official encourager," Trease said. "This is a great bunch of kids and I like being around them. Back in the heyday (former UK Coach) Joe B. Hall let me hang around practice some, and I went to clinics over the years, so I feel I can help a little. It's fun to be involved."
■ West Carter senior Kristen Perry, who's averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds, committed to Morehead State.
■ Elliott County's boys handed Ashland Blazer its first loss in the region this season by beating the Tomcats 77-75 on Tuesday. Timmy Knipp had 42 points for the Lions. "He's the best player around here by far," Ashland Coach Buddy Biggs told the Daily Independent.
■ Riverside Christian is hosting the fifth annual Riverside Prep Showcase on Friday and Saturday, with 56 teams playing games at Riverside and Breathitt County.
■ Adair County senior McKenzie Martin and older brother Blake (Class of 2005) are the only sister and brother to reach 1,000 career points in school history.
■ Madison Southern has hired Jon Clark as its new football coach. Clark's experience includes stints as an assistant at Ohio University, Auburn, Syracuse and Idaho State. Madison Southern athletic director Doug Sallee said Clark, 30, was "tired of college coaching" and wanted a high school job. Sallee said Clark, who has family in Lexington, "has already created a buzz about football here. He's holding 6:30 (a.m.) workouts, and we had 50 kids there the first day. We finished last season with 27 kids."
■ Wayne Mills will succeed Dudley Hilton as Bell County football coach. Mills has been at Knox Central the last seven years. Before that he was Hilton's assistant at Bell County. Knox Central was 1-19 in the two seasons before Mills took over. It went 10-3 last fall, and twice made it to the region championship before losing to Bell County.
■ Former Murray High football coach Rick Fisher said he "knew we had something special" when he got Tim Masthay to come out for football his junior year. Masthay, an exceptional athlete, also played soccer, basketball and baseball for Murray. He turned out to be a top-notch kicker and receiver in football. He went on to shine as a punter at UK, and now he's in the Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers. "Tim's always had the drive to be No. 1, to be the best at whatever he does," Fisher said. Murray High had the distinction of having two kickers in the NFL this season. Tiger alum Shane Andrus was the San Francisco 49ers' field-goal kicker for a few games.
■ Henry Clay pitcher Walker Buehler has committed to Vanderbilt. The junior right-hander was also being recruited by UK, Louisville, Arizona and Wake Forest. Buehler's career numbers: 8-4 record, 3.38 ERA, 69 strikeouts and 40 walks in 60 innings.