High School Basketball

Sweet Sixteen preview: Rowan County vs. North Laurel

Game 1

Rowan Co. vs. North Laurel

Rowan County

Region: 16th Record: 25-7 Enrollment: 883

Coach's résumé

Shawn Thacker is in his fourth season (79-42) at Rowan County. He previously coached at Somerset and has an overall record of 240-145.

Starters

Player Height Class Points

D.J. Townsend 5-11 Sr. 18.1

Trevor Newsome 5-10 Jr. 4.6

Matt Brown 6-11 Jr. 4.6

Adam Wing 6-4 Sr. 15.0

Jason Egan 6-3 Sr. 13.5

Scouting report

Thacker said Townsend, Wing and Egan, key players in Rowan County's run to the finals last year, have all improved their games. Townsend, a point guard best known for his mid-range jumper and taking it to the rim, now has a reliable three-point shot. Wing has gotten better at putting the ball on the floor. Egan is no longer just a catch-and-shoot guy. He's found other ways to score. Brown, Newsome and sixth man Tyler Thacker (the coach's son) have provided consistent play, too. The Vikings have ramped up their rebounding, and have been playing solid man-to-man. "We've kind of hit our stride with our defense and rebounding the last few weeks," Thacker said. "That's the main reason in us getting back to Rupp Arena."

Rupp remembrances

Rowan County's players were to be reminded of last year's state tournament run — victories over Daviess County, Wayne County and Bullitt East before a double-overtime loss to Christian County in the finals — the night before their opening game against North Laurel. Thacker has a highlight video of the Vikings in the 2011 Sweet Sixteen, and he planned to show it to the team Tuesday night. "We'll reminisce a little bit, and plant seeds that it's possible we can do it again," he said.

Player to watch

Can Wing come close to matching his epic performance in Rupp Arena last year? Wing had 73 points and 28 rebounds in four games, but is best remembered for hitting 12 of 13 three-pointers in the semifinals and finals. The Evansville signee is averaging 14.7 points (40 percent on threes) and 10.6 rebounds. "He's still too unselfish at times," Thacker said. "I think he's been waiting to get to Rupp Arena again. I look for him to step up and be ready for the spotlight again."

Sweet history

This is the Vikings' sixth trip to the state tournament. They lost to Christian County in double-overtime in last year's finals.

North Laurel

Region: 13th Record: 21-14 Enrollment: 1,381

Coach's résumé

Brad Sizemore is in his first season at North Laurel. He was an assistant to Steve Wright at South Laurel before becoming head coach at Garrard County. He was there one year before leaving for the Jaguars.

Starters

Player Height Class Points

Marcus Carson 5-9 Jr. 14.3

Ethan Eversole 6-1 Sr. 7.6

Ryan Shears 6-3 Sr. 6.9

Jake Allen 6-8 So. 14.2

Austin Rush 6-6 Jr. 4.6

Scouting report

It was often a struggle for North Laurel this season, but everything finally clicked for the Jaguars in the region tournament. "We put three great games together at the right time," Sizemore said. The Jags' win over Clay County in the region finals illustrated how far North Laurel has come. Clay County whipped the Jags 88-52 in late January, but North Laurel lost to the Tigers by only seven points in the district finals. In the region title game, the Jags wiped out a nine-point deficit and won 52-50 in overtime. Defense and rebounding, led by Allen, Shears and Rush, have been constants for North Laurel this season. The Jags' offense has improved, with Carson, Rush, Allen and sixth man Kendrick Henson providing the scoring punch.

Friendly foe

The pre-game handshake between Sizemore and Rowan County Coach Shawn Thacker will be genuine. When Sizemore played at South Laurel, Thacker was his freshman and AAU coach. Now they're coaching peers. "We've stayed in contact this entire time," Sizemore said. "I talk to him five or 10 times a season, asking advice about things. It's going to be neat to go against him in the state tournament."

Player to watch

Allen, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound sophomore averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds a game, has a big upside. "He's really skilled offensively," Sizemore said. "He plays like a European big man, able to step out and hit the three." Allen's presence inside and out has opened things up for his teammates.

Sweet history

This is North Laurel's first region title since the school opened in 1992.

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