It’s no surprise that the Marion County High School girls’ basketball team is ranked No. 1 in Kentucky, and not many would be shocked to find the Lady Knights as the last undefeated team in the state at the midpoint of the regular season.
But what has opened eyes is the dominance they have displayed.
The Lady Knights are No. 1 in the first Courier-Journal Litkenhous Ratings that were released Thursday, and the numbers show why:
* They sport a 16-0 record and an average margin of victory of 36.2 points per game.
* Their closest contests were back-to-back 21-point victories over Christian Academy and Bryan Station during last month’s Republic Bank Classic at Lexington Catholic.
* They’re 4-0 against fellow Top 20 teams, winning those games by an average of 27.5 points.
“I thought we could be 16-0,” Lady Knights coach Trent Milby said, “but I never dreamed of winning by 20-plus in every game.”
Other coaches have taken notice, too.
“I think the biggest difference is that they’re battle-tested and learned some hard lessons,” Mercy coach Mark Evans said. “They have some key seniors who don’t want to go out as runners-up again, and that’s driving them.”
Marion County has a Litrating of 120.5, 14 points ahead of No. 2 Henderson County (106.5). The Litratings are a computerized ranking of every team in the state based on strength of schedule, margin of victory and other factors. The ratings do not include games against out-of-state opponents.
At No. 3, Evans’ Mercy squad is the top-ranked team from Louisville and is followed by Anderson County and Manual.
Marion County returned four starters from last season’s team that reached the Sweet 16 for the third straight year, falling to Manual 58-54 in the championship game.
Leading the way are two seniors who have signed with the University of Kentucky: Makayla Epps (21.9 ppg, 5.2 apg, 4.8 rpg, 4.2 spg) and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers (14.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.5 spg, 2.1 bpg). Norfolk State signee Logan Powell (9.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg), Patrice Tonge (8.9 ppg, 3.8 apg) and Alexus Calhoun (7.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) round out the starting lineup.
“They go out there every night with the mind-set that they’re going to make their run,” said Milby, whose team is ranked No. 6 in the nation by ESPN. “They come out ready to play from the start, and it just snowballs. They score so fast.”
Milby admits he’s hearing the talk about Marion County becoming the first undefeated state champion in Kentucky since the 1983-84 Marshall County squad accomplished the feat with a 34-0 record.
“(The players) set a goal to do it, but we know how hard it can be,” said Milby, whose team will play at Campbellsville today before getting a state-final rematch at Manual at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Mercy and Manual were among 12 Louisville-area schools to earn bids to the Republic Bank/Coca-Cola Louisville Invitational Tournament set for Jan. 29-Feb. 2. The Litratings determine those 12 schools.
Holy Cross would have qualified but elected to play in the All “A” Classic, leaving the final spot to Central.
Evans was pleased about his team receiving the No. 1 seed for the LIT and is happy with the Jaguars’ progress since a surprising 71-52 loss to No. 7 Ashland Blazer on Dec. 21.
The Jaguars are led by the senior backcourt of point guard Kayla Richardson and shooting guard Whitney Hartlage.
“As long as we stay healthy, we have a chance,” said Evans, whose roster features five seniors and no juniors.