So far, so fabulous for the Marion County girls' basketball team this season.
The Knights have been the most dominant force in Kentucky. They are 14-0 and have won every game by at least 21 points. Rated No. 11 in the nation by USA Today, they are led by Makayla Epps and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, who have both signed to play for the University of Kentucky.
Even Coach Trent Milby has been captivated by his team. "I'll be sitting there watching them get in a groove going up and down the floor, and I become a fan," he said. "It's been fun."
Epps, a 5-foot-10 point guard and the daughter of former UK player Anthony Epps, is averaging 22 points. Goodin-Rogers, a 6-1 forward and the daughter of former Louisville player (and 1992 Mr. Basketball) Tick Rogers, is averaging 15 points and eight rebounds. Their supporting cast is talented, too, with 5-11 Norfolk State signee Logan Powell, 5-9 Patrice Tonge, 6-1 junior Alexus Calhoun and 5-4 eighth-grader Haeli Howard.
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"We're sharing the ball, scoring from all spots on the floor and scoring in bunches," Milby said. "We're long on defense and we're experienced."
Madison Central Coach Robbie Cooksey, whose team has lost to No. 1 Marion County twice (66-35 and 59-37), thinks the Knights have a great shot at becoming the first undefeated state champions since Marshall County 29 years ago. "I see them being 20 points better than anybody in the state every night," Cooksey said.
After narrow losses to Manual in the state semifinals two years ago and in the state finals last March, Marion County is "playing with that mindset of 'unfinished business,' " Cooksey said. "They're great kids, they have a great attitude and great sportsmanship. I can't say enough good things about them."
The Knights have a challenging schedule this month. They play top-15 teams Elizabethtown, Mercy, Manual and Scott County, and strong teams from Ohio and Tennessee.
■ While Marion County is the only undefeated girls' team in the state, Holmes and Newport Central Catholic, both in the 9th Region, are the only unbeaten boys' teams. Holmes (15-0) has a showdown with region rival Covington Catholic (12-1) on Tuesday. NewCath (12-0) plays host to defending state champ Trinity on Friday.
■ Former Owensboro and UK football star Mark Higgs was an interested spectator at the Republic Bank Holiday Classic last week. Higgs came from his home in Florida to watch Henry Clay juniors Jordan Green and Trey Grundy help the Blue Devils win the tournament at Lexington Catholic. Higgs and Charles Grundy, Trey's dad, are cousins and grew up as neighbors and buddies in Owensboro. When Trey and Jordan were in the eighth grade, they went to Florida to spend a week with Higgs, who put them through cross-training. "It was the first time they'd ever done any kind of weights and stuff," Higgs said. "When they came to see me, they couldn't dunk. But when they got back home after that training, they called to tell me they could dunk." And after watching Green and Grundy last week, Higgs said, "Oh, they're flying now."
■ Knott County Central sophomore Camron Justice put on a show in the Republic Bank Holiday Classic, capped by his 62-point outburst in the Patriots' 95-93 overtime loss to Cincinnati Roger Bacon. In four tournament games, Justice had 141 points, hit 14 of 28 three-pointers and 41 of 45 free throws. Justice's 62 points brought back memories of other standout performances in the Lexington Catholic tournament, including Eastern's Rajon Rondo getting 44 in a loss to Wayne County in 2002; Bryan Station's Jaron Brown going for 40 points, 12 rebounds and eight steals in a win over Columbus (Ohio) Independence (and Kansas signee Kenny Gregory) in 1996, and Glasgow's Brandon Stockton scoring 39 in a win over Paintsville in 2000.
■ Knott Central set a state record when it made 41 consecutive free throws in an overtime victory against Hazard on Dec. 20. The Patriots hit 45 of 49 for the game, led by Camron Justice's 16 of 17.
■ Mercer County's Cassidy Martin, a 5-7 senior transfer from Pigeon Forge, Tenn., is averaging 26 points and has won over Coach Chris Souder. "I've never had a girl that can score consistently like Cassidy. After the game you think she might've had 18 or 20 points, then you find out she had 40," Souder said. In one three-game stretch Martin had 38 against Adair County, 32 against Tates Creek and 38 against Boyle County. She is shooting 52 percent from the field (38 percent from three-point range), and 84 percent from the foul line. Mercer County is 8-4.
■ Randy Napier and his Perry County Central's girls are ready for a kinder, gentler schedule in the new year. The Commodores logged a few thousand miles of travel in December, including trips to Myrtle Beach, S.C, and Daytona Beach, Fla. The quality of their competition is reflected in their 7-7 record. While on the road Perry Central celebrated six players' birthdays and Napier marked his 24th wedding anniversary. "I'm looking forward to being at home for a while," Napier said. Kayla Rankin is having an impressive junior season for the Commodores, averaging 23 points, 13 rebounds and four steals.
■ Betsy Layne boys' coach William Newsome Jr. got his 500th career win when the Bobcats beat Highlands in the Pikeville Invitational. Newsome led Betsy Layne to the 2011 Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic title. Led by Peyton Case (14 ppg) and Dylan Meade (13 ppg), the Bobcats are 10-3.
■ North Oldham's David Levitch had 28 points in a win over Tates Creek in the Henry County Invitational. That made him the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,429 points, eclipsing Alex Foley's 1,413.
■ Scott County junior Tereka Guyn got her 1,000th point and 1,000th rebound in a win over Bryan Station last month.
■ Newport Central Catholic junior Nicole Kiernan is averaging a double-double — 19.8 points, 10.5 rebounds — and reached 1,000 career points last week.
■ Caverna's boys, who went 5-25 last season, are off to their best start since their 2003-04 5th Region championship season. Coach Blake Button's Colonels (11-3) have been led by freshman Mason Faulkner (17 ppg) and sophomore Trevor Stephens (16 ppg).
■ No. 3 Bullitt East plays host Lexington Catholic in the Dunkin Donuts Shootout triple-header on Saturday. Bullitt East, which features UK signee Derek Willis and Bellarmine signee Rusty Troutman, is the only team to beat No. 4 Henry Clay. The Chargers have split two games against No. 10 Madison Central.
The status of Lexington Catholic's Jack Whitman is up in the air. Knights Coach Brandon Salsman said the 6-foot-9 senior suffered a concussion and broken finger in Sunday's loss to Henry Clay. He will see a doctor on Friday and find out if he can play against Bullitt East. Harlan County plays Lincoln County in the 5 p.m. Dunkin Donuts opener, followed by Bullitt East-Lexington Catholic. Lafayette takes on defending 12th Region champ Southwestern in the 8 p.m. finale.
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar will host the annual S.T. Roach Classic on Thursday (Jan. 10) with a girls/boys doubleheader between Dunbar and Henry Clay starting at 6 p.m. The late Coach Roach will be honored for his induction into the new Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame. Dunbar will also wear green Dunbar Bearcat uniforms.
■ Owensboro Catholic senior star and Duke signee Becca Greenwell, who injured her knee in early December and has missed the Aces' last eight games, is expected to play against Owensboro on Friday.
■ Eugene "Puck" Puckett kept the scorebook for his 1,000th Paris boys' basketball game last week. Puckett has missed only one home game in 37 years. He was honored for reaching the milestone before Wednesday's game against Montgomery County.
■ Pairings have been drawn for the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic girls' and boys' state tournaments in Frankfort later this month. Girls' first-round matchups for Jan. 23: 16th Region vs. 11th; 1st vs. 10th; 7th vs. 2nd; 9th vs. 13th; 14th vs. 6th; 8th vs. 12th; 3rd vs. 5th; 4th vs. 15th. Boys' first-round matchups for Jan. 24: 1st vs. 5th; 11th vs. 2nd; 3rd vs. 16th; 7th vs. 10th; 15th vs. 6th; 12th vs. 9th; 4th vs. 14th; 13th vs. 8th.
■ Trinity receiver James Quick, Mr. Football, is supposed to announce his college choice on Saturday at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. The all-star game will be nationally televised at noon on NBC. Quick is expected to pick either Louisville or Ohio State.