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BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Red the color in Eighth Region girls again

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Simon Kenton blue could derail Lady Cats' march to state

By John Herndon

Anderson County or Simon Kenton playing for the Eighth Region girls' basketball championship has become about as predictable Taylor Swift writing a song about her latest beau.

Since a massive statewide realignment, which included Simon Kenton's move to the Eighth Region, took effect in the 2005-2006 season, either Simon Kenton or Anderson County has advanced to the regional final six out of eight years. Simon Kenton has made it at least that far five times, winning the big trophy twice.

Anderson's numbers? Five finals appearances, two titles.

The programs have faced each other in the finals four of the last six years, with each winning twice.

Barring a catastrophic injury or the luck of a draw that could have the powerhouses tangling in the semi-finals, the Lady Bearcats and Pioneers are expected to make it five times for the big prize and a repeat of last year.

Last March, Anderson overcame a red-hot Simon Kenton team, rallying from 10 points down with 90 seconds left to win the regional championship in overtime. It would surprise no one if the final step to Diddle Arena turns out to be a similar showdown.

Like a Taylor Swift concert, the Eighth Region should be Red in 2014, as Anderson not only goes for its third regional crown in five years, but also the first Eighth Region team to take the state championship since Scott County did it in 1995.

Oldham County, in 1986, is the only other Eighth Region team to claim the state championship since girls' basketball was revived in 1975.

Current Oldham coach Jace Bryant, who saw his first season in Buckner end with an 80-31 loss to Anderson in the regional semi-final round, summed up the feelings of most around the region when his said, “Our league this year is Anderson and Simon and then everybody else.”

While Anderson is considered one of the favorites for the state championship, many are touting Simon Kenton as a Top 10 team, maybe even Top 5. On paper, it could look like a battle to see which team lost more when centers Kali Whiteside (Anderson) and Paige Bosse (Simon Kenton) graduated.

But Anderson might have the trump card with a pair of Division I recruits, Makenzie Cann and Eriel McKee.

Simon Kenton has a fighter in senior guard Abby Owings, who joined Cann and McKee on the Kentucky Junior All-Star team in the summer. Owings averaged 13 points a game last year, but seems to be her best when the stakes are the highest. She torched Anderson for 22 points and three 3-point bombs in the regional final.

Simon is expected to have all of its main cogs, other than Bosse, back. Guard Christina Cook is considered one of the Eighth's better players and junior Kelsey Schmiade burned Anderson off the bench last year, is also back.

Few believe the rest of the region has much of a chance to advance to Diddle Arena but if both of the heavyweights falter, the winner would most likely come from the trio of Oldham, Gallatin County or a resurgent Shelby County.

Oldham upset Gallatin in the regional opener last year and has most of the team back, including guard Ashley McMurtrey.

Gallatin might be the most dangerous team to the Big Two as guards Brooke Dossett and Hannah Dossett can fill the nets. Catch them on a hot night, and the Wildcats can sink anyone. But, as Oldham showed, when the shots are not falling, Gallatin is vulnerable. Still, Gallatin won 27 games last year and has two of the region's best.

Shelby will be the region's biggest team with MacKenzie Raisor, Hannah Raisor and Justus Martin all standing over 6-feet. Point guard Katie Hudgens is also solid. Shelby, however, has not been to the regional tournament since 2008 and must overcome inconsistency and a lack of depth to be a threat to Anderson County or Simon Kenton.

In the end, that might be true of every team in the Eighth. Finding enough weapons in the arsenal to knock off Anderson County or Simon Kenton is practically an impossible task.

 

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