High school basketball's post-season — February Fever leading into March Madness — begins in 24 days. A few story lines that have my attention during the countdown to district tournaments:
Chasing perfection: Can Holmes become the first boys' basketball team in 24 years to reach the Sweet Sixteen undefeated? Jason Booher's Bulldogs have a shot. They are 21-0 with seven regular-season games left. If they run the table, then make it unscathed through their district and region tournaments, they will be 33-0 and headed to Rupp Arena. The last team to accomplish that was Bobby Keith's Clay County Tigers in 1989. They were 33-0 and No. 1 in the state going into the Sweet Sixteen. (They lost to Marshall County in the first round.) In 1982, Allen Feldhaus Sr.'s Mason County Royals took a 30-0 record into the state tournament. (They lost to Virgie in the quarterfinals).
Booher said dealing with a perfect record is new to him. "I've never been 21-0 before, so we're in uncharted territory," he said. "But going undefeated in the regular season is not our goal. Our goal is to get to Rupp Arena. That's what we're talking about — trying to be really good by the end of the season. We're trying not to worry about getting beat."
That said, Booher would love to stay unbeaten. "Somebody told me (former Marquette coach and TV analyst) Al McGuire said it's always good to get beat once or twice. Me and Al McGuire don't agree on that. I never like to lose.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"High school football teams, like Highlands and Trinity, are good enough to win out (as undefeated) state champs. I don't see why basketball teams can't do it."
Brewers was Kentucky's last unbeaten boys' basketball champion in 1948.
Mountain brouhaha: The scramble for supremacy in 14th Region boys' basketball is fascinating to watch. Perry County Central, Knott County Central, Hazard and Breathitt County have been considered the top four teams, but now along comes Cordia threatening to crash the party. A pair of talented Canadian transfers — Emmanuel Owootoah and Marlon King — have gotten an injunction that has gotten them on the court after they were ruled ineligible by the KHSAA. They combined for 30 points in a win over Letcher County Central on Tuesday. "They can guard anybody in the region now with their quickness and athleticism," Letcher Central Coach Robert Hammonds said.
Battle for Miss Basketball: A strong case can be made for both Becca Greenwell of Owensboro Catholic and Makayla Epps of Marion County for player-of-the-year honors. Greenwell, who has signed with Duke, has the higher national profile despite sitting out her junior season recovering from a knee injury. Epps, who has signed with Kentucky, has more in-state mojo. She's the daughter of former UK player Anthony Epps; she led Marion County to a state runner-up finish last season, and she's the brightest star for this year's Knights, who are undefeated, rated seventh in the nation by USA Today, and solid favorites to win the state championship.
All "A" veteran
■ Grant Brannen has been involved in all 11 of Newport Central Catholic's boys' All "A" Classic appearances over the last 22 years. He was the ball boy for Ron Dawn's Thoroughbreds when they made the small-school state tournament in 1991 and '92. Grant's brother John starred on those teams. Grant was an assistant to Dawn and Rob Detzel when they guided NewCath to the All "A" five times, and he's taken the Thoroughbreds to the tournament four times in seven years as head coach. Oddly enough, NewCath never made it to the All "A" in Grant's playing days (1996-98).
■ Morgan County freshman Jordan Perry scored 30 points against Elliott County this week, giving him 1,000 in his career. The son of Cougars Coach Matthew Perry, Jordan has been playing on the varsity since he was a seventh-grader. "He has worked relentlessly since the third grade to improve his skill level without complaining," his dad said in an email. "His humble demeanor keeps him grounded and focused on getting better."
■ When Collins played Montgomery County in the Toyota Classic last week, it was the first time Collins Coach Chris Gaither had matched X's and O's with his college coach, Happy Osborne, who's in his first year at Montgomery County. Gaither, who played for Osborne at Georgetown College, downplayed the significance of their matchup. "The game is always about the players," Gaither said in an email. "The only times I realized Happy was on the other side was before and after the game. During the game you get wrapped up in your team and adjustments that need to be made. You don't think about anything else." As for Osborne's influence at Montgomery County, Gaither said, "Happy is going to be concerned about the future of his players, from their best player, Omar Prewitt, to the last man kept on the freshman team."
■ Tyler Abshear reached 1,000 points in only his 48th game at Madison Southern. The 6-foot-2 senior is averaging 22 points a game. He had 30 against Rockcastle County on Tuesday despite playing with a sore shoulder. Abshear will visit Lincoln Memorial this weekend.
■ Powell County's girls outlasted Leslie County 80-78 in overtime in a game that featured an individual shoot-out. Powell County junior Keeley Rogers had 38 points. Leslie County sophomore Katie Moore had 47.
■ On Saturday, defending state champ Trinity revisits the gym where it suffered its only in-state loss last season. The Shamrocks play host Montgomery County in the Joe B. Hall Kentucky Prep Classic. Trinity lost to Madison Central 78-77 in this event last January. Saturday's schedule: Fleming County vs. Harlan County, noon; Montgomery County vs. Trinity, 1:45; Perry County Central vs. Covington Scott, 3:30; Henry Clay vs. Southwestern, 5:15; Madison Central vs. John Hardin, 7; Bullitt East vs. Pulaski County, 8:45.
■ Pairings for the boys' and girls' state basketball tournaments will be drawn by the KHSAA on Friday. The draw show will be televised by CWKYT-27.2 in Lexington at 1 p.m., and will also be available on www.khsaa.tv. The boys' Sweet Sixteen is March 6-10 in Rupp Arena. The girls' Sweet Sixteen is March 13-16 in Western Kentucky's Diddle Arena in Bowling Green.
■ The Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association has awarded $1,000 scholarships to Ryle's Mark Downs (Cincinnati), West Jessamine's Dalton James (WKU), Murray's Sawyer Lawson (Murray State) and Apollo's Wesley Purcell (Austin Peay). Covington Scott brothers Andrew Laughlin (UK) and Jared Laughlin (Northern Kentucky) each got a $500 scholarship.
■ The Fayette County public schools championship swim meet is Saturday at Transylvania. Bryan Station, Henry Clay, Lafayette, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Tates Creek will compete from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Henry Clay won last year's combined title. Dunbar has won it eight of the past 10 years.
■ Madison Central football/basketball standout Ken-Jah Bosley has gotten a football scholarship offer from Eastern Kentucky. Bosley, a wide receiver/defensive back, had 2,030 all-purpose yards last fall, including 1,340 yards on 68 catches. He had five interceptions on defense. "(EKU) offered him as a cornerback. That's what kind of athlete they think he is," Madison Central Coach Bert Browne said. Bosley is averaging 19 points for the Indians' basketball team.
■ North Laurel hosts the United States Energy Coal Basketball Classic on Saturday. The schedule is: North Laurel vs. Southwestern (girls), 2 p.m.; Johnson Central vs. Knox Central, 4; North Laurel vs. Whitley County, 6; Oak Hill Academy vs. Faith Baptist Christian (Ga.), 8.
■ Former Scott County star A.W. Hamilton, the coach at Hargrave Military Academy, will bring his national powerhouse to Kentucky for two games this weekend. Hargrave, led by Louisville signees Terry Rozier and Anton Gill, plays Action Sports Academy in the Louisville Hoopfest at Iroquois on Saturday at 8:30 p.m., following Lexington Catholic vs. Butler. Hargrave plays Spire Prep at Royal Spring Middle School in Georgetown on Sunday at 6:30.
■ Rick Thompson, who spent most of the last 30 years with Boone County football, the last 15 as head coach, is leaving the Rebels to become an assistant at College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati.
■ Caleb Ervin, a three-time state wrestling champ at Union County, is having a solid redshirt freshman season at Illinois. Competing at 149 pounds, Ervin has an 18-6 record after upsetting Minnesota's Dylan Ness, ranked seventh in the nation, on Monday night.
■ The inaugural KHSAA Competitive Cheer Championships are Saturday in WKU's Diddle Arena. There are divisions for all-girls and coed, and three classes for different size schools. Tickets are $10, with children 10 and under admitted free.