High school basketball is a 31/2-month marathon, and late January is an especially challenging grind. Just ask Knott Central Coach B.B. King, whose team is among the favorites in the Touchstone Energy boys' All "A" Classic that starts Thursday in Frankfort.
King thinks his team is "a little tired" after playing 12 games in a 24-day stretch, and now faces the possibility of playing four games in four days in the All "A."
"But I'm old-school. Being tired is more mental than anything," King said. "I told my players they gotta get over it. They're young. Just play."
Newport Central Catholic Coach Grant Brannen has the same message for his players, who tuned up for the All "A" with a win over Highlands on Tuesday night.
"B.B. is right. You just gotta get through it," Brannen said. "I asked my guys, 'How many games do you play in AAU ball? Four in one day?' You may have to play five games this week. I wish I was in your guys' shoes. Just go do it."
NewCath, No. 18 in the state, is the highest-rated team in the All "A." The Thoroughbreds are led by senior shooting guard Michael Bueter, sophomore point guard Zack Pangallo, and a front line that includes 6-foot-8 junior Jake Schulte and 6-6 sophomore Drew McDonald.
"We're having a nice year, but so are plenty of other teams," Brannen said.
No. 23 Knott Central, which faced tough competition in Lexington Catholic's Republic Bank Holiday Classic and the WYMT Mountain Classic, has the state's top scorer in sophomore guard Camron Justice (27 points per game).
King said he's putting a lot of emphasis on the All "A." "I try to instill in my players that they're going to Frankfort to do a job and win it."
Bishop Brossart and Bardstown, who have a history of playing well in this event, have to be considered contenders. Brossart won the title in 2007 and was runner-up in '04. Bardstown, the 2006 All "A" champ and runner-up in '07, just missed winning it all again last year. It lost in the finals to Covington Holy Cross 52-51 on Jake Burger's last-second three-pointer.
Russell, one of the top teams in the 16th Region, has one of the top scorers in the state in Kyle Skaggs (26 ppg).
University Heights Academy, an eight-time champ, is making its 18th trip to the All "A."
Model, UHA's first-round opponent, is in it for the first time. But Patriots Coach Wes Scarberry's team isn't going to Frankfort just to put in an appearance: "Our seniors know this is their opportunity to do something great," he said.
Model's strength is its balance. All five senior starters — Jon Ballard, A.J. Hammons, Brendan Hill, Anthony Gerald and Zack Rice-Gordon — average in double figures.
"It's hard to defend us because you don't know what to try to take away from us," Scarberry said.
Model is on a 10-game winning streak, the longest of any team in the All "A."
BOYS' ALL "A" CLASSIC
At Frankfort Convention Center
8:30 a.m. — Carlisle Co. (14-7) vs. Bardstown (15-5)
10 a.m. — Model (17-3) vs. University Heights (8-9)
11:30 a.m. — Butler Co. (13-8) vs. Russell (18-5)
1 p.m. — Louisville Collegiate (11-6) vs. Bishop Brossart (17-3)
5 p.m. — Pikeville (13-7) vs. Louisville Holy Cross (5-15)
6:30 p.m. — Somerset (14-5) vs. Newport Central Catholic (18-2)
8 p.m. — Clinton Co. (13-6) vs. Knott Co. Central (18-3)
9:30 p.m. — Middlesboro (12-7) vs. Owen Co. (16-3), 9:30
■ Quarterfinals at 5, 6:30, 8 and 9:30 p.m.
■ Semifinals at 6 and 7:30 p.m.
■ Championship at 2:30 p.m.
Dave Cantrall's ratings
School (region) Power rating
1. Newport Catholic (9th) 78.5
2. Knott Co. Central (14th) 77.3
3. Bishop Brossart (10th) 73.6
4. Russell (16th) 72.8
5. Bardstown (5th) 71.1
6. Lou. Collegiate (7th) 66.6
7. Clinton Co. (4th) 65.8
8. Somerset (12th) 64.7
9. Owen Co. (8th) 61.6
10. University Hts. (2nd) 61.1
11. Model (11th) 64.8
12. Pikeville (15th) 59.8
13. Carlisle Co. (1st) 57.9
14. Middlesboro (13th) 56.7
15. Butler Co. (3rd) 53.7
16. Lou. Holy Cross (6th) 52.5