Wayne County barely beat his team and then was upset by Southwestern, a team with a losing record in the district championship game, but Boyle County coach Steve Adams still thinks Wayne is the team to beat in the 12th Region Tournament.
“They are so experienced and play so well together,” said Adams.
Yet even the Boyle coach wouldn’t go all-in with the Cardinals in the tourney that starts Wednesday at Lincoln County.
“Pulaski County can do something that Wayne County can’t — they can turn you over. They are athletic and quick,” Adams said.
Pulaski (25-6) has a difficult first-round matchup against East Jessamine (22-7) Thursday and then will get the Wayne (24-7)-Danville (19-9) survivor in the semifinals.
“East Jessamine can give anyone fits with that matchup zone,” Adams said.
What about Danville, the team that eliminated Boyle in the district?
“Danville has as good of talent as anybody in the region,” the Boyle coach said. “They could definitely get on a roll and win the tournament. They are very, very good."
The tourney opens Wednesday with Southwestern (14-16) facing Rockcastle County (7-22). That means one team with a losing record will be in the regional semifinals — another reason you have to love March Madness at the high school level.
The other game Wednesday matches area rivals Mercer County (21-8) against host Lincoln (15-15).
“Mercer is definitely in the mix,” Adams said. “I don’t know if they can guard well enough for three games to win the region or not. Mercer and Pulaski are the best offensive teams in the region.”
What about Lincoln, which seems to have tailed off slightly late in the season?
“Lincoln is kind of like us and some other teams. I don’t know if they quite have what it takes to put together three straight wins to win the region,” Adams said. “It will help a team like Lincoln if it wins that there are several days off before the semifinals and they’ll have more time to prepare for the next game. Lincoln can beat anybody in the region on a given night. It’s just a matter of whether Lincoln can win three straight.”
That’s what brings him back to Wayne.
“Wayne is just so smart. They can all score. They are experienced, solid and well coached (by Rodney Woods) and Gavin Dunagan (18.1 points, 8.7 rebounds per game) might be the best player in the region, and that always helps.”
How much does coaching help? Both Woods and Lincoln’s Jeff Jackson have coached regional championship teams. Is that an advantage?
“You have still got to have players. They would tell you that,” Adams said. “But they know what to expect. There’s something to having been there and done that. It’s just comforting to know what to expect. Still, you’ve got to have kids to make the plays.”
And that’s why I’ll go out on a limb — and against the wiser basketball mind of Adams — and go with Mercer. Remember, the Titans almost won the region last year, and I like a team that can score.
The Titans have four players averaging between 11.4 and 20.7 points per game — and they all can make 3-pointers. They have a star player in Clay Cinnamon (20.7 points, 4.6 rebounds per game) and Aaron Lee (14.1 points), Austin Sagraves (13.2) and Matthew Honchel (11.4) are all solid.
I keep hearing the Titans don’t play enough defense or that first-year coach Brian Britt won’t handle the pressure.
But many teams in this region have trouble scoring, and if the Titans get by host Lincoln to build a little more confidence after knocking off West Jessamine and East Jessamine in the region, then I think they’ll win the semifinal game and be ready for either Wayne, Danville or Pulaski in the final.
Then again, maybe Adams is right and Wayne will play like the favorite. Or Pulaski will win. Or Danville will win.
Again, that’s why March Madness is so much fun.
Six men with ties to area schools have been named to the 12th Region Boys Basketball Hall of Fame.
One player, two contributors and three coaches representing four local schools are part of this year’s class of 17 honorees who will be recognized March 8 at halftime of the boys 12th Region Tournament championship game at Lincoln County.
The inductees include former Boyle County player Jeff Orberson, coach Mike Pittman and contributor Steve Adams, former Casey County coach Jack Stanford, current Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson and current Burgin coach Don Irvine, who will be inducted as a contributor.
The complete hall of fame class:
Players: Paul Andrews, Laurel County; Brad Gover, Pulaski County; Julius Green, Wayne County; Larry Kinnett, Russell County; Bubby Napier, Pulaski County; Jeff Orberson, Boyle County; Steve Ormsby, London; Mac Washam, McCreary County.
Coaches: Jeff Jackson, Lincoln County; Chuck Marasovich, Russell County; Mike Pittman, Boyle County; Jack Stanford, Casey County.
Contributors: Jimmy Adams, Boyle County; Luid Gover, Somerset; Don Irvine, Burgin; Gerald Pratt, Wayne County; Bob Foster, Somerset.