Green leads Enterprise all-region team
If a history of 13th Region basketball is ever written, the seasons from 2015 to 2018 will be remembered as belonging to the 52nd District. It’s been the longest run of success ever for the 52nd with Bell County winning the 13th Region title in 2015 followed by Harlan in 2016 and 2017 and Harlan County this year.
Before the current run, the 52nd District has produced back-to-back winners only twice (Cumberland and Harlan in 1986 and 1987 and Harlan in 1998 and 1999). The district had never produced more than two straight championships until now.
It’s also been an amazing run of individual talent, beginning with Bell County’s Maci Morris, the Miss Basketball in 2015 and current University of Kentucky standout. Harlan’s Jordan Brock and Harlan County’s Blair Green were both all-staters in 2017 with Green repeating in 2018. Brock was a Miss Basketball finalist in 2017 before moving on to Tennessee Tech and Green was a finalist earlier this month and plans to move on to the University of Kentucky.
Harlan County would have likely had a second Division I signee if all-state center Kaylea Gross had not gone down with a knee injury in December, but Gross and Harlan’s Mackenzie King both finished memorable high school careers this season and are ranked among the all-time best at their respective schools.
With Harlan losing four starters to graduation and Bell County and Middlesboro losing three each, it will likely be up to Harlan County next season if the 52nd District is to stretch its string of titles to five, but that won’t be easy with South Laurel bringing back three of the region’s top players.
The following is my look back at the best of the season just completed and what you can expect in 2018-2019. If anyone is keeping score, I’ve picked the 13th Region champ correctly each of the previous four seasons.
G — Ally Collett, South Laurel
G — Kaylee Mathis, Clay County
G — Blair Green, Harlan County
G — Madison Sheppard, North Laurel
C — Dianna Morgan, South Laurel
G — Abbey Estes, South Laurel
G — Hannah Lawson, North Laurel
G — Amerah Steele, South Laurel
F — Mackenzie King, Harlan
F — Lainey Cox, Harlan County
G — Phebe McHargue, Harlan County
G — Jill Enix, Pineville
G — Shelby McDaniel, Harlan County
F — Taya Davis, Jackson County
F — Sierra Feltner, Whitley County
G —Lillie Hall, Williamsburg
G — K.K. Johnson, Harlan County
F — Gracie Jervis, North Laurel
F — Isabell Gray, North Laurel
C — Brittney Cupp, Bell County
Dianna Morgan, South Laurel
Shelby McDaniel, Harlan County
Phebe McHargue, Harlan County
K.K. Johnson, Harlan County
Summer Parker, Clay County
Ally Collett, South Laurel
Kaylee Mathis, Clay County
Amerah Steele, South Laurel
Gracie Jervis, North Laurel
Isabell Gray, North Laurel
Taylor Asher, Clay County
Presley Partin, Knox Central
Whitney Caldwell, Pineville
Raigan King, Pineville
Reis Anderson, Whitley County
2018-2019 rankings (players listed by their grade for the 2019 school year) with last year’s team record:
1. South Laurel (26-6) — Led by three of the region’s elite players in junior guards Ally Collett (19.8 points per game last year, 2.4 rebounds per game last year) and Amerah Steele (15.3, 3.7) and 5-11 senior center Dianna Morgan (11.1, 8.2), the Lady Cardinals enter as the favorite after trailing only Harlan County for most of the 2018 season. Depth is the only question mark for the Lady Cards, who also bring back senior forward Mariah Anders (4.2, 4.3), a starter last year, and 5-10 junior forward Zoe Williams, last year’s sixth man, but have no one else who averaged at least a point a game.
2. Harlan County (28-3) — Losing Blair Green and Lainey Cox will obviously hurt, but the Lady Bears could feature an all-senior lineup next season that has known nothing but success. Phebe McHargue (8.1) and K.K Johnson (7.5) are back in the backcourt and 5-10 Shelby McDaniel (6.6., 2.3) can play several spots and will again be a leader on defense. Breann Turner (4.9, 4.2), at 5-8, is back for her fifth season in the post. Reanna Middleton (3.9), a guard who provides another 3-point threat, started to show flashes of being back to full strength late in the season after suffering a knee injury the previous year. Morgan Blakley and Hannah Wood, both juniors, were among the region’s top junior varsity players a year ago and should also play key roles.
3. Clay County (21-9) — The Lady Tigers will bring back basically the same team for the third straight season and will be among the favorites with a lineup led by junior guard Kaylee Mathis (18.3, 4.3) and sophomore point guard Taylor Asher (8.8), along with seniors Summer Parker (9.2, 5.8), Shelby Phillips (10.6, 3.5) and Kimberlyn Mills (4.0, 3.5) Sophomores Alexis Lewis (2.2), a 6-foot center, and Edwina Hacker (2.4), a 5-8 wing, provide depth.
4. North Laurel (27-8) — Like Harlan County, the Lady Jaguars lose two stars in Hannah Lawson and Madison Sheppard but bring back a solid core that helped North make it all the way to last year’s finals. Juniors Isabell Gray (7.7, 5.5) and Gracie Jervis (11.5, 3.1) and senior Courtney Carroll (4.4) are returning starters. Other candidates to round out the lineup are junior Taylor Combs (4.7, 2.8) and freshmen Emily Sizemore (6.2, 4.5), Katie Bruner (2.4) and Hailee Valentine (3.6, 2.4).
5. Knox Central (12-15) — One season after being the region’s most improved team, the Lady Panthers find themselves among the regional favorites with three starters returning. Presley Partin (17.3, 2.3) is coming off a breakout freshman campaign and will lead a lineup that also welcomes back 5-10 junior Ryleigh Swafford (5.7, 4.7) and 5-8 senior Emily Davis (12.2, 9.3). Junior guard Morgan Warren (3.3) also saw extensive action last season.
6. Whitley County (25-7) — Even though they lose three starters, including Abbey Estes and Sierra Feltner, the Lady Colonels should again be among the best teams in the region. Senior guard Kaelie Frazier (7.0) and 5-10 junior forward Lyndi Kate Lawson (5.5, 3.9) are returning starters and 6-1 senior center Mackenzie Smith was a key reserve. Whitley also features a strong sophomore class led by Reis Anderson (2.3), Sabrina Lewis (2.1) and Jaycee Monhollen.
7. Jackson County (13-18) — An upset of Clay County in last year’s 49th District Tournament put the Lady Generals back on the map and next year should be better with everyone on the roster returning, led by 5-10 junior forward Taya Davis (14.9, 6.1), along with 5-11 senior forward Lexis Creech (10.3, 8.5) and 6-0 senior guard Sara Mulligan (9.8, 4.2). Junior guards Amber Creech (2.6, 3.9) and Elizabeth Tyra (5.3) also return, along with 5-10 senior forward Raelon Creech (4.4. 4.5).
8. Williamsburg (19-11) — After breaking through for last year’s regional All “A” Classic title, the Lady Jackets are hungry to build on their success despite losing three starters to graduation. Williamsburg will feature one of the region’s best guard combos in senior Lillie Abbott (8.1, 5.0) and junior Lillie Hall (13.9, 3.2). Junior guard Madison Chapman (5.0, 4.4) will likely round out the backcourt, with 5-9 junior Allison Caddell moving in at center.
9. Lynn Camp (12-16) — A senior-dominated squad, led by point guard Bradi Coe (14.0, 2.1) and 5-10 forward Mackenzie Grant (12.3, 9.0), should make the Lady Cats one of the All “A” favorites and a contender in the 51st District. Seniors Molly White (7.4, 3.0) and Macie Miracle (3.1, 2.9) are also back, along with 5-10 junior center Jasmine Rogers (4.3, 2.9) and 5-7 senior forward Jayda Rogers (6.9, 4.6).
10. Bell County (19-10) — After winning 19 games last season, the Lady Cats wilted in the district tournament in an ugly loss to Harlan and will have to rebuild yet again with three starters graduating. Junior guards Abby Harris (10.6, 5.1) and Brittany Davis (9.9, 2.3) return and 5-9 junior forward Ashley Middleton could provide help after missing all of last season with an injury. Brea Browning (2.0, 3.1), a 5-9 senior, will likely take over at center.
Best of rest:
Corbin (8-23) — An improved offense could push the Lady Hounds back into the top 10 after a season in which no one on the roster averaged double figures. Returning starters include 6-0 senior center Jadyn Robertson (8.5, 5.5), 5-9 senior forward Meghan Mills, junior wing Marissa Scott (5.5) and sophomore point guard Shelby Stewart (6.2).
Middlesboro (12-15) — With a strong freshman class arriving, the Lady Jackets should contend in the All “A” Classic and perhaps challenge for a trip to the regional tournament. Senior guard Baylee Woody (10.7, 2.1) and 5-7 junior forward Grace Moles are returning starters in a lineup that could also inciude 5-10 freshmen post players Lakin Burke (13.6, 5.6) and Kailey Owens (3.1, 2.4).
Harlan (16-16) — Two seasons removed from a regional title, the Lady Dragons will be in major rebuild mode next year after losing five seniors. The Lady Dragons could still be competitive though with senior guard Payeton Charles (7.5, 2.2) and junior forward Natalee King (7.3, 4.1) back to provide leadership. Sophomore forward Alli Thompson showed flashes of potential last season, especially as a rebounder.
Pineville (18-12) — Three starters are gone, including star guard Jill Enix, but the Lady Lions can rebuild around two standout sophomores in guard Whitney Caldwell (9.9, 3.0) and 6-0 center Raigan King (9.5, 6.1). How quickly replacements are found at the other three spots will determine if Pineville can compete in the 51st District.
Barbourville (8-21) — Losing standout forward Anna Daniels to graduation could set the Lady Tigers back next fall. Junior guards Abbagail Smith (8.4, 3.9) and Grace Jones (2.0) and freshman guard Caylea Mills (10.0, 2.9) are returning starters. Freshmen forwards Briana Gallagher (3.0, 2.8) and Laura Smith (2.5, 3.2) will likely round out the lineup.
Red Bird (6-11) — Four starters return for the Lady Cardinals, led by freshmen guards Alyssa Gibson (9.0, 2.8), Lexi Bowling (2.4, 4.3) and Liberty Taylor (5.3). Sophomore forward Taylor Caldwell also returns, and 6-0 freshman Mackenzie Lawson (4.9, 3.6) could round out the lineup.
Oneida Baptist (3-28) — Everyone is back at OBI, including junior guard Emilie Field (10.6, 3.2), 5-10 junior center Erica Metzger (3.2, 4.4) and 5-11 junior forward Katy Schroeder (4.2, 7.8), but the Lady Mountaineers have a long road ahead to be competitive again in the 13th Region.