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February 27, 2013

Direct Kick: Who will win the region?

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — And we say bye-bye to the Corbin Redhounds. Weeks before this year’s 13th Region Tournament started, I was talking with some other people about who was going to win the region, and we all came to the same conclusion: Anybody could.

Monday night was proof of that, as the Corbin Redhounds, the team with the best record in the 13th Region, were upset by Middlesboro in the opening game of the tournament at Harlan County, 86-80. The Redhounds were on a roll heading into tourney, winning 14 of their last 15 games, the lone loss coming to South Laurel in double overtime on Jan. 22. In fact, Corbin was 14-2 in 2013, the other loss coming at the hands of Pulaski County on New Year’s Day. During that stretch Corbin also beat Middlesboro. Ironically, the Maroons, the team most people picked to win the 12th Region, were upended by Wayne County Monday night.

What does this mean for the rest of the region tournament? It means, like I said before, the title is there for the taking.

Clay County’s path to the finals was made easier with Corbin’s loss, as the Tigers rolled over Barbourville, 91-64. Clay looks very strong, and are out to avenge last year’s region final loss to North Laurel. For fans looking forward to a Corbin-Clay semifinal you will now have to settle for Clay-Middlesboro. The Tigers beat the Yellowjackets, 78-53, back on Feb. 13.

Defending champion North Laurel will be looking to make its second straight trip to the region finals, providing the Jaguars got past Knox Central last night and then beat the winner of the South Laurel-Harlan County game, also played last night. If both North and South won, that means they will meet Friday night in the semifinals and it also means that one of our county teams will play in the finals.

The Jaguars rolled over the Panthers in the season finale in probably North’s best performance of the season. This time around Knox Central has all of its players back healthy, which will mean a tougher game for North Laurel but one the Jags are still very capable of winning. They just need their big men, Jake Allen and Austin Rush, to control the action inside the paint on both ends of the floor.

South Laurel lost to Harlan County earlier in the season in a game that the Cards didn’t have their full line up and shoot poorly from the floor. Now that South is healthy, anything goes. I’ve told people I believe it will be hard to beat Harlan County at Harlan County. I still believe that. I also believe that South Laurel is capable of doing so, if they come to play and force the Black Bears to shoot from the outside. Let Harlan County drive to the basket and you’re beaten. South also needs to limit its turnovers and hit free throws.

Yes, the boys’ region is wide open.

As for the girls’ I still say it’s Clay County’s to lose. The Lady Tigers have to play Whitley County, a team that beat them earlier in the season, in the first game. In that earlier meeting the Lady Colonels had all their players healthy. Several of those players are coming off illness and injuries, so I don’t know if they can pull off another win over the Lady Tigers.

Don’t overlook Corbin. The Lady Redhounds are playing some fine basketball right now and are capable of winning it all, along with Bell County.

sports@sentinel-echo.com

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