Paul Laurence Dunbar’s loss to Lexington Christian in the semifinals of the 43rd District Tournament begged the question, “How often does the defending state champion not advance to the regional tournament?”
It’s uncommon, but not unheard of: Dunbar became the third reigning titlist to fall before the district finals this century and the second straight champion to do so.
Owensboro, the 2015 winner, followed that up with a 9-14 campaign and a loss to Owensboro Catholic in the 9th District semis. Lafayette, which won it all in 2001, went 12-16 the next year and fell to Tates Creek in the 43rd District semis.
Owensboro graduated seven players from the 2014-15 season, four of whom led the team in scoring (among them was current Mississippi State player Aric Holman). Dunbar faced a similar challenge this season after losing five seniors from last year’s championship unit as well as returning players Dontell Brown, a senior who injured his knee during football season, and Tre Homer, who moved to Texas during the season.
Considering all that, going 21-9 against one of the toughest schedules in the state — even with Taveion Hollingsworth putting up 28.3 points per game — is something the Bulldogs can hang their hats on.
▪ Final ballots for the Mr. Basketball and Miss Basketball awards were to be accepted by the Kentucky Lion’s Eye Foundation until 11:59 p.m. (EST) Friday.
I selected Hollingsworth for Mr. Basketball. I don’t care that his team lost its final three games; winning the Sweet Sixteen MVP as a junior and breaking a 28-year-old scoring record while playing in what many consider the state’s toughest region was more than enough to convince me that the Western Kentucky University signee deserves to be Lexington’s first Mr. Basketball since Henry Clay’s Steve Miller won it in 1984 (coincidentally, Miller also went on to play at WKU).
Harlan’s Jordan Brock received my Miss Basketball vote. This year’s Donna L.J. Murphy recipient as a junior led the Dragons to their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1999 and this season led them to their first All “A” Classic finals. She was averaging 24.6 points (ninth in the state) entering Harlan’s matchup with 13th Region favorite Harlan County in the 52nd District finals on Thursday. Brock had made 109 threes entering that contest, tying the girls’ mark for 10th-most in a single season.
▪ Frankfort’s boys defeated Woodford County, 64-60, in the 41st District semifinals Wednesday night to punch their first ticket to the 11th Region Tournament since 2007.
“Other than my children being born and marrying my wife, I’m not sure I’ve ever been this happy,” Panthers Coach Nick Barton, a Frankfort graduate, told the Frankfort State Journal of the milestone.
▪ Mason County girls’ seniors Briana McNutt and Jordan Frodge each crossed 1,000 points for their careers during the Royals’ 89-17 win over Augusta in the 39th District semifinals on Monday.
▪ Fourth-seeded Dawson Springs defeated top-seed Hopkins County Central, 71-62, in the boys’ 7th District semifinals to advance to the 2nd Region Tournament for the first time since 2006. Hopkins Central had won 17 straight games against the Panthers before that streak ended last season. The Storm won two previous meetings this season.
▪ Leslie County freshman Hailee Mullins scored a career-high 25 points in the Eagles’ 78-66 win over Hazard in the 54th District girls’ semifinals Monday.
▪ Fulton County, an also-ran in the boys’ 1st Region for several seasons, advanced to the regional for the first time in six years thanks to a buzzer-beater by freshman Caleb Kimble for a 60-59 win over favored Carlisle County in the 1st District semifinals.
▪ Menifee County’s girls made the 16th Region for the first time since 2001 by defeating Rowan County, 59-51, in the 61st District semifinals.
▪ Metcalfe County senior MacKenzie Coleman, a Miss Basketball candidate who’s signed with Tennessee Tech, broke the school record for scoring in the Hornets’ 61-52 win over Cumberland County in the 16th District semifinals. Coleman, who had 31 points and 22 rebounds in the victory, became the first boy or girl in school history to reach 3,000 points. She passed former boys’ star and University of Kentucky player J.P. Blevins, who ended his high school career with 2,994 points.