The gray, cold days of early February are the worst part of the high school basketball season. Players, coaches and fans are weary of the winter grind by now, and tournament time is still a couple weeks away.
One bright spot on the calendar is the Jock Sutherland Classic at Lafayette on Saturday. The four-game schedule features some of the best teams and players in the state:
■ No. 22 Paul Laurence Dunbar vs. No. 19 Doss, 3 p.m.
■ No. 7 Taylor County vs. Lincoln County, 4:45.
■ No. 15 Scott County vs. No. 9 Wayne County, 6:30.
■ Lafayette vs. Perry County Central, 8:15.
Taylor County is the headliner of the event. The Cardinals are the highest-rated team and have the highest-profile player in Quentin Goodin. The 6-foot-2 point guard, the top-rated junior in the state, has scholarship offers from Louisville, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma State and WKU, among others. Goodin recently eclipsed 2,000 points, and is on pace to become the school's all-time leading scorer by the end of the season. He's averaging 22 points.
"He's had a terrific year," Coach Richard Gatewood said. "By the end of the season he'll also have over 500 assists and 700 rebounds. Next year he'll have a great shot at getting Mr. Basketball. He's a special player."
Taylor County (20-4), which beat No. 5 Henderson County 83-80 last weekend, also has gotten solid play from senior Brandon Berry (16 ppg), a transfer from Ballard, and sophomore David Sloan (13 ppg). Berry's family is originally from Taylor County and he's Goodin's cousin. Sloan is Gatewood's adopted son.
Taylor County, which hasn't been to the Sweet Sixteen since 1983, is the favorite to win the 5th Region, "so people are going crazy around here," Gatewood said. "We've definitely got a good shot, but we've got to keep our minds on the prize."
Gatewood may not coach Taylor County on Saturday. His wife Tori is scheduled to give birth by C-section to their third son — whom they've named Jett Joseph — early Saturday morning.
Besides Quentin Goodin, the Jock Sutherland Classic has some other top juniors, including Braxton Beverly of Perry Central, Darius Williams of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Trey Blevins of Wayne County. Among the senior standouts are Jacob Conway and Timmy Taylor of Lincoln County, Dujuanta Weaver of Doss and Peyton Woods of Wayne County.
■ Whitney Creech and Camron Justice continue to climb the lists of the state's all-time leading girls' and boys' scorers. Creech, a junior at Jenkins, has 3,762 points which ranks fourth behind Highlands' Jaime Walz (4,948), McDowell's Geri Grigsby (4,385) and Knox Central's Kim Mays (3,952). Creech is averaging 41.5 points this season. Justice, a senior at Knott County Central, has 3,357 points, seventh all-time behind Wayland's King Kelly Coleman (4,337), Flat Gap's Charlie Osborne (3,647), Earlington's Harry Todd (3,567), Tollesboro's Chris Harrison (3,542), Elliott County's Jonathan Ferguson (3,377) and Harlan's Charles Thomas (3,365). Justice is averaging 24 points this season.
■ Anderson County's Austin Cummins had a school-record 51 points in an 82-76 overtime loss to Clark County Tuesday night. The 5-11 senior was 19-for-39 from the field, including 7-for-20 on threes, and 6-for-10 from the foul line. Cummins followed that up by scoring 38 points in a 95-78 win over Gallatin County Wednesday night. He was 13-for-14 from the field, including 4-for-5 on threes, and 8-for-8 from the line. Cummins is averaging 25 points this season.
■ Clark County beat Anderson County despite giving up 51 points to Austin Cummins. Cardinals Coach Scott Humphrey noted it wasn't the first time his team has surrendered a bunch of points to an opposing player and still come out victorious. Last Saturday, Sheldon Clark's Dylan James had 36 points in a loss to Clark County. And earlier this season, Johnson Central's Mason Blair had 30 points (including eight threes) in the second half, and finished with 32 in a loss to the Cardinals. Clark County can counter with a star of its own in Damion King. The 5-10 senior had 34 points against Anderson County, and is averaging 18. King is also a defensive stopper. "He's a phenomenal high school basketball player," Humphrey said. "It's amazing what he gets done for us."
■ Two weeks after Dunbar junior Darius Williams scored 40 points in a loss to Wayne County, Dunbar sophomore Taveion Hollingsworth had 40 in a win over Manual. I can't remember two players on the same team going for 40 or more in the same season. Anybody out there have any examples of it happening before? Dunbar Coach Scott Chalk said he's never had two players combine for 70 points in one game like Hollingsworth (40) and Williams (30) did against Manual.
■ Woodford County's girls have had an eventful couple of weeks. Chelsey Ford, a 5-9 senior, scored her 2,000th point in a win over Oldham County. She's the school's second-leading all-time scorer behind Destiny Mattingly (2,805). Woodford County senior Anastayzia Reed reached the 1,000-point plateau in a loss to Lafayette this week. And Jay Lucas, in his 19th season as coach of the Yellow Jackets, got his 350th career victory when they beat Scott County 75-74, thanks to a last-second shot by Ford.
■ Franklin County will host the Gary Moore Classic on Saturday: Western Hills vs. Whitefield Academy, 12:45 p.m.; Knott Central vs. Southwestern, 2:15; Franklin County vs. Simon Kenton girls, 4; Frankfort vs. Anderson County, 5:45; Franklin County vs. Cooper, 7:30. The Flyers' 1995 11th Region championship team, which was coached by Moore, will also be honored.
■ Alexis Nelson, a freshman guard at St. Francis (Louisville), attempted a state-record 42 free throws in a loss to Brown last week. Nelson made 21 of the 45 and had a school-record 45 points. The previous record for free throw attempts in a game (boys or girls) was 37 by Ashley Bell of Wayne County against Lincoln County in 2003. Nelson is the second-leading scorer in the state with a 29.3 average.
■ Jordan Green, an all-state basketball player at Henry Clay last year, has enrolled at Coppin State in Baltimore. Green signed with Western Kentucky but left before the season began.
■ Jack Upchurch, a star player, longtime coach and selfless supporter of Kentucky high school basketball, died this week. He was 76. Upchurch was an all-state player at Wayne County in the 1950s, and set a school scoring record with more than 2,400 points. He played college ball at EKU, then went into coaching. He guided Anderson County, led by Jimmy Dan Conner, to a state runner-up finish to Male in 1971. Upchurch's coaching stops also included a stint as an assistant at Morehead State. He last coached at Lincoln County. Upchurch was among the founders of the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches 25 years ago. "He was a strong, forceful man who had a heart as big as a mountain," said close friend Ken Trivette. Visitation is Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Preston Pruitt Spurlin Funeral Home in Danville, and Saturday from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at First Church of God in Danville. Funeral services will follow Saturday's visitation.
■ Bill Newton, who coached Washington County girls' basketball for 26 years and had an overall record of 446-270, died this week. He was 66. Newton led Washington County to the 5th Region title in 1983 and 2003, and to three All "A" Classic state tournaments.
■ Male boys' coach Larry Miller will retire at the end of the season. He has a 73-50 record in four years with the Bulldogs. He previously coached at Moore.
■ Henry Clay track star DeQuan Robinson, who won the 200-meter dash state title last year and anchored the state champion 4X200 and 4X100 relays, signed with Lindsey Wilson. Robinson was ranked 25th in the nation in the 200 in 2014.
■ Bryan Station offensive lineman Dermonte Bond will sign on Monday to play football at Kentucky Wesleyan. Defenders lineman Brannon Sturgeon will sign with Morehead State Monday.
■ Harlan County has promoted Eddie Creech from assistant to head football coach. He'll succeed Tom Larkey, who started the Black Bears program in 2008.
■ Lexington Catholic signees: Monica Rios (EKU soccer) and Anthony Ethington (Wabash Valley baseball).
■ Paul Laurence Dunbar soccer standout Reilly Teal signed with Indiana State on Wednesday, and her first-team all-city teammate Alyssa Montgomery will sign with Tennessee Tech Friday.
■ Tom Leach, voice of the Kentucky Wildcats, is looking for nominations for his fifth annual All-Resilient Team. It's for high school male and female athletes who overcame adversity to compete in the 2014 calendar year.