High School Basketball

Sweet Sixteen preview: Southwestern vs. Hopkinsville

Game 2

Southwestern vs. Hopkinsville

Southwestern

Region: 12th Record: 27-8 Enrollment: 1,126

Coach's résumé

Steve Wright is in his first season at Southwestern after 21 years at South Laurel, which included six region titles and a state championship in 2005. Wright got his 600th career win a few weeks ago.

Starters

Player Height Class Points

Justin Edwards 6-5 So. 13.3

Cody Epperson 6-4 Sr. 5.4

David Kapinga 6-0 So. 14.6

Justin Schulz 6-0 Jr. 5.7

Isaiah Collier 6-4 Fr. 7.2

Scouting report

It took a while for the Warriors to adjust to a new coach and new system, but everything started to come together in January. "We shored up our defense and rebounding, two things that give you a chance to win," Wright said. "But more than anything, the kids started believing in what we were doing." Southwestern's offensive balance has also been a key. It's had games in which eight players have had at least nine points. Kapinga and Edwards are the most reliable scorers, but Schulz, and Epperson are capable, too. Providing depth and leadership are seniors Rob Lewis and Justin Epperson.

Trading places

Wright said "it's been strange, I can't deny it" when asked how it felt to be heading to Rupp with a team other than South Laurel. "But the people here have been great. I've felt comfortable since the day I got here because the kids accepted me. It's been a good fit."

Player to watch

Edwards served noticed as a freshman last season that he was a player on the rise, highlighted by a last-second shot that beat Wayne County in the district finals. Edwards has been steady as a sophomore. He's averaging 13.3 points and six rebounds, and is hitting 86 percent of his free throws (113 of 131). "He's very versatile and can get points from any spot on the floor," Wright said. "He understands how to play."

Sweet history

This is Southwestern's first state tournament in the school's 19-year history.

Hopkinsville

Region: 2nd Record: 32-2 Enrollment: 1,030

Coach's résumé

Tim Haworth, in his second year as Tigers coach, played college ball at Murray State and was an assistant there two years under Mick Cronin (who's now at Cincinnati). Haworth was also an assistant at Murray High and Hopkinsville.

starters

Player Height Class Points

Jordan Majors 6-3 Jr. 16.3

Jaqualis Matlock 6-4 Fr. 12.3

Trá Edwards 6-1 So. 6.8

T.J. Elam 6-2 Jr. 5.0

Laurence Smith 6-7 Sr. 6.8

Scouting report

Hopkinsville is young, but very talented and relatively experienced. Majors is one of the top juniors in the state. He's a matchup problem because he's a good shooter (35 percent on threes) and terrific off the dribble. He had 35 points in the district finals win over Christian County. Elam, who missed 17 games with a back injury, is back in form and may be the best athlete on the team. Edwards has been steady running the point, while Smith has developed into a good big man. The Tigers could be unbeaten if not for some awful free throw shooting in a three-point loss to Bowling Green and a two-point loss to Muhlenberg County.

Title town

The city of Hopkinsville has high hoops standards. Its three high schools all own boys' state titles — Hopkinsville won the Sweet Sixteen in 1985, University Heights Academy won it in 1992 and Christian County took the title last year. "We've got so much competition in our own district, so when we play Louisville or Lexington schools, we're not intimidated," Haworth said.

Player to watch

Matlock isn't a typical freshman. He's 6-4 with a 6-10 wingspan and averages 12.3 points and 8.4 rebounds. In the region finals against Madisonville, he led the Tigers with 16 points and 13 rebounds. "He understands the game, and he never gets too high or too low," Haworth said. "He's been one of our most consistent players as a freshman. If he keeps improving, he'll pick his college."

Sweet history

This is Hopkinsville's fifth time in the state tournament, and first since 2003. The Tigers won the 1985 championship, beating Clay County in the finals.

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