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The real basketball season does not get started for another month, when the district tournaments tip off, but Anderson County and South Oldham should give some insight about who really is at the top of the Eighth Region on Friday night.
South Oldham, the pre-season favorite to dethrone Simon Kenton as regional champion comes to town to tangle with Anderson, the team sitting atop the computer rankings in both the Lexington Herald-Leader and Courier-Journal.
“To me, pre-season picks are only good for newspaper and magazine columns, website discussions, and fan and coach gossip,” South Oldham coach Frank Wright said in an e-mail.
“But I’ve been coaching too long to put much validity in them. More than anything, though, is that opposing coaches and players are able to use this stuff as motivational fodder to get jacked up to play the teams that are highly ranked. If you are highly ranked, teams always give you their best shot, so there is no sneaking up on anybody.”
Anderson’s Tony Kays rarely talks about rankings, preferring to point to the post-season when it is all on the line. He side-stepped a question about the rankings, then grinned and said, “Our goal is to beat them both times.”
In other words, Kays expects both teams to be in the thick of things for the Eighth Region title. At least he should.
Anderson is 12-5 against a rugged schedule while South Oldham is 11-6 and winners of six of its last seven.
Both teams are young, with South Oldham relying heavily on sophomores Jasmine Whitfield and Mary Dye, while Anderson’s leading scorer is often an eighth-grader, Eriel McKee, while her classmate, Mackenzie Cann runs the show at the point.
The comparisons are obvious. South was a bit of a surprise last year, making it to the regional semifinals with Whitfield and Jordann McGuffin, now a senior, leading the team.
Wright, however, sees a major difference. “To me, the main difference is that Anderson’s players began the year with the expectation of having to fill starting roles, while our kids mostly evolved into their prominent playing-time roles as the season unfolded last year,” he said.
Last year, South upset Anderson late in the season, but the Lady Bearcats returned the favor with a rousing performance in the regional tournament on South Oldham’s floor.
“They have a lot of nice players,” Kays said. “McGuffin is giving them a lot of good leadership. Whitfield is very athletic.”
“Friday night’s game with CAL was the first time that I have personally seen the Lady Bearcats,” Wright said. “I feel that Anderson County has a great deal of potential for future development and, don’t take this wrong, from a totally selfish perspective, I’m sorry that they are playing as well as they are at this early stage in their careers. We will no doubt have our hands full this Friday night in Lawrenceburg.”
Bardstown visits Tuesday
Bardstown (12-6) visits Anderson on Tuesday, Feb. 2, in the renewal of an old series. “They are very athletic and think they can win this game,” Kays said.
Bardstown owns significant wins over Tates Creek and Oldham County.
Oldham game reset
The Lady Bearcats’ game with Oldham County, originally set for Jan. 8, but postponed because of a snowstorm, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 6 p.m.
The contest, originally set as a double-header, will be girls’ only with the junior varsity playing at 6 p.m., varsity at 7:30.
E-mail John Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org.