Can anyone clip the wings of the Franklin County Flyers?
The 41st District champions have taken the previous two 11th Region girls’ titles and are a strong favorite to do it again this week. Franklin County, last year’s state runner-up, is ranked seventh overall in the latest edition of Dave Cantrall’s Rating the State.
Miss Basketball candidate and Xavier University signee Princess Stewart averages 15.7 points and 6.8 rebounds for the Flyers, who could become the first 11th Region team to three-peat since Lexington Catholic’s girls won four in a row from 2003 to 2006. It would be the region’s first public school to accomplish that feat since Henry Clay won seven in a row from 1986-1992.
Scott County, on the surface, seems the most likely threat to Franklin County’s throne. The Cardinals, rated 14th overall and just 3.2 points behind the Flyers, won their only head-to-head meeting, 73-69, as part of the Toyota Classic in Georgetown on Jan. 21. Scott County won that contest without the aid of senior Lauren Boehm, a double-double threat who was sidelined with a knee sprain at the time but has since returned. Peyton Riddle leads the Cards with 19.3 points a night while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor.
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Lafayette, which last reached the Sweet Sixteen in 2014, opens against Woodford County, whom it defeated on the road in the regular season. Senior star Kiara Pankins, who has scored more than 2,000 points and grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds in her career, played in the 43rd District finals after missing the Generals’ previous seven games with a concussion suffered against the Yellow Jackets. She averages 15.2 points and eight rebounds. Junior Caroline Bennett is the only other General with a double-digit scoring average at 12 points per game.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, which fell to Lafayette in the district finals, enters looking for its first regional win since 2014, when it went on to play the Generals in the region finals. Dunbar took down Madison Central, its first-round opponent, 56-55, on the road during the final week of the regular season. Mashayla Cecil, a junior, leads the Bulldogs at 18.3 points per game.
At least two teams from Lexington have reached the 11th Region semifinals each of the previous six seasons. A team from Lexington has played in the finals each of the last five tournaments. Dunbar and Lafayette could meet for the fourth time this season but not until the finals.
11th Region tournament
At Eastern Kentucky University
Monday: Lafayette vs. Woodford Co., 6:30 p.m.; Scott Co. vs. Madison Southern, 8:15 p.m.
Tuesday: Franklin Co. vs. Henry Clay, 6:30 p.m.; Madison Central vs. Paul Laurence Dunbar
Friday: Semifinals, 6:30 and 8:15 p.m.
Saturday: Finals, 7:30 p.m.