1. South Laurel (14-4 overall, 8-2 vs. 13th Region opponents)
The Cardinals are sitting atop the Fear ‘Les’ Rankings for the first time this season after upending Harlan, 74-60, on the road on Monday.
Jeff Davis’ squad can flat-out play defense and is led by Mr. Basketball candidate Matt Cromer who is averaging 33.5 points per game, 11.3 rebounds per game and 5.5 assists per game during South Laurel’s past four contests.
2. Clay County (12-6, 6-1)
The Tigers are winners of four of their last six games and the wins are impressive. They’ve beaten Scott County, North Laurel, Jackson County, and South Laurel.
Clay County has another tough stretch of games coming up, and if the Tigers get through those without any losses, they’ll for sure be the team to beat heading into postseason play.
3. North Laurel (13-5, 6-1)
Freshman Reed Sheppard turned in a quadruple-double (24 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds, and 10 steals) during the Jaguars’ 82-34 win over Jackson County while freshman Ryan Davidson continues to shine with a 15.6 scoring average.
The key to North Laurel’s success is to continue to turn in solid defensive efforts.
4. Knox Central (15-4, 4-0)
The Panthers snapped a two-game losing skid, but it wasn’t easy as they slipped past district foe Lynn Camp, 65-58.
Knox Central is another team that is loaded with talent and will make noise when postseason play begins.
5. Harlan County (13-5, 4-2)
The Black Bears continue to put together a solid season and picked up a huge, 62-57, district win over Bell County on Tuesday.
Harlan County has now won a season-best six games in a row.
6. Corbin (11-7, 5-3)
The Redhounds are losers of three straight, but then again, look at who they have played during the stretch.
Corbin fell to Knox Central, 75-70, then dropped a close 69-63 decision to Mercer County before losing to Tennessee state power Knoxville Catholic, 69-66.
When it comes down to it, the Redhounds will be tight in the thick of things come postseason time.
7. Harlan (8-9, 5-5)
The Green Dragons are a team to keep your eye on. After starting the season 1-6, they’re 7-2 since and are also the 13th Region All ‘A’ Classic Boys champions after beating Middlesboro in the finals, 81-65.
They did suffer a setback after dropping a 74-60 decision at home to South Laurel on Monday, but as I said, keep an eye on this team.
8. Bell County (6-9, 3-4)
The Bobcats have dropped three of their last four games by a total of only 18 points.
I wouldn’t want to play Bell County in a postseason elimination game because the Bobcats hive the talent to eliminate anyone in the region.
9. Williamsburg (9-10, 4-7)
Nick Napier’s Yellow Jackets seem to be righting the ship at the right time. Williamsburg picked up a 93-78 win over Jellico, Tenn. on Tuesday that saw both Caleb Rose and Slaht Hunter continue to do what they do best, score in double figures, along with newcomer Micah Engle and Jason Bray.
10. Middlesboro (12-7, 5-5)
The Yellow Jackets are currently riding a three-game win streak for the third time this season.
The 52nd District is going to be interesting. There will be no room for error for any of the four teams once the tournament is tipped-off.