March 7, 2014

On The Rebound: Better days ahead for teams, tourney

By Mitch Howard
Sports Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — There are seven counties that make up the teams in the 13th Region. After the first night of games, there was only one of those counties that did not have a team represented. That was of course Laurel County.

The North Laurel girls were the only Laurel County team to make it to the region tournament. It’s hard to fathom from a county that has produced so many state titles. It’s not just Laurel County that feels the pain, the attendance and atmosphere will not be the same at The Arena without North Laurel and South Laurel.

It’s not that Jackson County and Clay County will not represent their teams well. Bell County appeared to have the best turnout for their opening round girls’ game, although they had the longest drive. It’s just not the same without South and North. It’s Wrestlemania without Hulk Hogan.

If there was a year we didn’t advance to the region tournament, why couldn’t it have been last year when Harlan County hosted? I would not have complained about missing that drive. Corbin is closer with cheaper gas and better parking.

Maybe no one will miss us, but as a fan I would prefer Corbin, Clay County, and Bell County all to be there. It’s O.K. for a OBI or Red Bird to slip in. But no Laurel County teams is like going to watch the Heat play with LeBron getting the night off.

The good news is that this appears to be an unusual year. Order will return next season based on an informal poll of sportswriters conducted over pizza at the hospitality room.

Jackson County boasts the best record among the boy’s teams this year, but will have a big hole to fill with the graduation of Jordan Fox. Clay County loses Jake Allen and word is Chip McDaniel will graduate early to pursue his golf career. My opinion is that McDaniel is the best big-game player in the region. Bell County loses three seniors, including leading scorer Tyler Potter.

What the early returns show is that Knox Central will be a strong favorite entering next season. North Laurel and South Laurel are in a group that will be better and will be expected to challenge.

Much the same goes for the girls region with South Laurel and North Laurel young enough this season to be junior varsity teams. The Lady Jaguars have everyone back and South Laurel loses Bailey Miller. That might not be enough to catch a Bell County team led by the region’s best player, Maci Morris. It will be enough for two teams to get back to where they belong. And the 13th Region Tournament back to where it belongs as well.