Posted On: 03/4/19 3:11 PM

Yesterday, the final two regional championship games concluded, which set the state tournament field for the 2019 season. Again, if you’re not familiar with how the Kentucky High School state tournament works, here it is. Each of our 16 member regions field 8 teams for their regional tournament, from there the teams compete in bracket play until the region finals. The winner of the region finals earns one of the 16 spots at Rupp Arena, the host site for the Sweet Sixteen style tournament. Also, if you’re out of state reading this, Kentucky has no classes for basketball, so only one team our of 270 teams, will win a state champion in our state. Below is a preview of the state tournament and each of the sixteen teams represented.

Knox Central (30-4) v. Walton-Verona (27-6) - March 6th, 12pm.

Knox Central Panthers (13th Region) the Panthers come in with an impressive 30 wins and 4 losses. Also, they have one thirteen straight games leading up to the state tournament. With the upset of regional favorites South Laurel, Knox Central cruised to the sweet sixteen. Typically, 13th Region schools have trouble in the state tournament, with South Laurel being the furthest team to advance to the final four in 2016. This year could be different, led by Asbury commit and senior F Nick Martin who is averaging almost 18 a game from the floor and leading his team in rebounds (7.2). Unfortunately, Knox Central is going against one of the tallest teams in the state first round, which Walton-Verona has taken advantage of and dominated opponents in the paint this year. It will be an uphill battle for this mountain team, who are known for their grit and fight.

Walton-Verona Bearcats (8th Region) known as "Dub-V" in their area, the Bearcats have had tremendous success lately, winning the 8th Region "All A" the past two years and the State A final four in each of those seasons. Now with an opportunity to compete at Rupp Arena (for the first time since 1942), I personally don't think their run is over yet. Led by one of the tallest front-courts in the state, their height is what pushed them to win in a star packed 8th Region. Top 5 player in the 2019 class, 6'11 Xavier commit Dieonte Miles and 6'8 F/C Ethan Brook combined for almost 20 points per game and over 10 rebounds per game. They also have great guards and support players. I believe WV has the advantage in this matchup, but its Rupp Arena, more surprising outcomes have happened.

John Hardin (35-0) v. Campbell County (29-4) - March 6th, 6:30pm.

John Hardin Bulldogs (5th Region) the Bulldogs have pulled off one of the most impressive feats in KHSAA History, an undefeated regular season & post-season play (so far). John Hardin has played a difficult schedule to certain extents, also won the first ever 2A State Tournament in Owensboro back in January. Regardless of all the drama surrounding their regional tournament games, its still safe to say the 5th is represented well in Lexington. I also don't think their success stops after this season, two of their top 3 scorers are juniors, returning next year to defend their undefeated regular season record. 2020 W Alex Matthews leads this team, averaging a double-double per outing with 17.6 ppg and 10.8 rpg. I also don't think their season stops after the first round.

Campbell County Camels (10th Region) after cruising in the 10th Region Tournament, the Camels look to continue their run like last season when they went to the final four. Campbell County is one of those teams you look at in warmups and you doubt them, but then when they get in a game they completely run on teams and shoot you out of the gym. Led by 6'5 senior F Reid Jollywho won the 10th Region POY and from what i've last heard is being looked at by hometown D1 Horizon League powerhouse Northern Kentucky. Also, he's complimented by 6'4 senior G Drew Wilson who hit 5 threes in the region championship. Campbell can make another run in the state tournament, but first faces off against one of the toughest teams in the state.

Owensboro (23-7) v. Ashland Blazer (17-16) - March 6th, 8pm.

Owensboro Red Devils (3rd Region) Owensboro were the favorites entering their regional tournament and also had an undefeated record versus 3rd Region opponents (17-0). This team has the ability to make it to the Elite Eight, but I'm afraid their lack of overall athleticism will hurt them in advancing any further. The Red Devils are led by the Wimsatt brothers, SR Darrion and FR Gavin who combine for 30 points per game and 10 rebounds per game. Their play elevated them over powerhouses like Breckinridge County and Owensboro Catholic, who aren't pushovers. To a degree I believe this team has some experience against some of the top teams in the state and if any team can be a darkhorse, it's them.

Ashland Blazer Tomcats (16th Region) the 16th Region was filled with upsets and disappointing outcomes. Before the tournament started, Rowan and Elliott Counties were heavy favorites to win. Both of those teams lost in the semifinals and were decided by OT or less than 4 points. Then prevailed the Tomcats who had a .500 season and were lucky enough to advance. Ashland is led by senior F Devaunte Robinson who puts up 15 ppg and 5.6 rpg. This team has a great feat to overcome in order to advance at Rupp Arena. But they have already shocked so many last week that anything can happen. But the splits in team %'s are pretty uneven, Owensboro averages 65 ppg and Ashland averages 48 ppg, already with an almost 20 point differential in points per game, the Tomcats will need someone to step up and put the ball in the basket... a lot.

Trinity (26-8) v. Johnson Central (27-7) - March 6th, 1:30pm.

Trinity Shamrocks (7th Region) this matchup is one of my favorites in the opening round, two traditional powerhouse programs who have great teams this year. Trinity comes in to Lexington from Louisville absolutely dominating some of the best teams in the state, winning their region games by 10-25-22 points. Led by Louisville commit David Johnson who is a true PG and floor general. Johnson after returning from his fluke injury is averaging 16.2 ppg and 7.2 rebounds per game, leading his team in both categories. He is also a finalist for the Mr. Basketball award which is announced tomorrow. Trinity, which I would assume, are favorites to win this matchup, but their opponent isn't going to lay down easily. Out of all of the games on 3/6, I think this will be the most entertaining.

Johnson Central Golden Eagles (15th Region) a storied program, I believe they were favorites to win the 15th this season. They defeated Shelby Valley and Pikeville to get to where they're at and that alone is impressive. The Golden Eagles have a wide variety of players who can take over games, in terms of raw talent they are the best team in their region. Senior G Jacob Rice is the leader on their team (13.1 ppg) but they have two top sophomores; Cory VanHoose & Isaiah May who contribute heavily to their success. If Johnson Central is able to get past Trinity, their chances of advancing to the final four are extremely high. Regardless of who wins, I think the winner of this game will get to the final four.

My Predictions 

Walton-Verona over Knox Central
John Hardin over Campbell County
Owensboro over Ashland Blazer
Trinity over Johnson Central

John Hardin over Walton-Verona
Trinity over Owensboro

Trinity over John Hardin