GAME 1: BUCKHORN VS. MURRAY, NOON WEDNESDAY
Coach: John Noble Sr.
Litkenhous Rating: 75.5.
Sweet 16 trips: Third (0-2).
Last trip to State: 1989 (lost to Hart County 91-83 in first round).
What to look for: John Noble Sr., a reserve on Buckhorn’s last Sweet 16 team in 1989, returns with the Wildcats 27 years later. He brings a team that started 8-13 and turned it on late in the season. “I teach PE for a reason,” Noble said, using his mountain humor. “I’m not an extremely smart guy. I told them I still thought we were going to win it (the region). They believed me.”
Key player: Buckhorn is led by 6-foot-3 senior Connor Hoskins, who averages 22.1 points and is being by several small schools in the state, including Transylvania and Centre. Josh Crank (12.9 ppg) and Ryan Boggs (11.2) will add some offensive punch for the Wildcats.
Coach-speak: “We like to push the ball and play aggressive on defense and offense,” Noble said. “We’re not going to change what got us here.” Despite having just 156 students, Noble said they will have a large following in Lexington. “We have the largest fan base in our region,” he said.
0-Ryan Boggs, 6-1, Sr., 11.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg
1-Shannon Blank, 5-10, Jr., 4.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg
4-Josh Crank, 6-1, Sr., 12.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg
22-Connor Hoskins, 6-3, Sr., 22.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg
33-Daniel Hurley, 6-4, Jr., 3.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg
3-Nicholas Stidham, 5-9, So., 2.1 ppg, 1.4 rpg
14-Donavan Engle, 6-3, Jr., 2.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg
20-Austin Bennett, 5-10, Fr., 2.0 ppg, 1.4 rpg
24-Austin Morris, 5-10, Jr., 1.2 ppg, 1.3 rpg
Coach: Bart Flener.
Litkenhous Rating: 83.9.
Sweet 16 trips: Fourth (1-3).
Last trip to State: 1985 (lost to Oldham County 54-45 in first round).
What to look for: It’s a good time to be a fan at Murray High School. For the first time in school history, both the boys and girls teams won the First Region during the same year. In the first game of the tournament against Buckhorn, Flener said he expects a tight game. “Buckhorn is clearly playing its best basketball of the season,” he said. “I fully expect it to be a competitive game.”
Key player: Flener said he enjoys plenty of balance with this Murray team, led by 6-6 guard James Boone, who will play for Samford University in college. The Tigers also get contributions from others, including 6-4 Tre Hornbuckle, who will play football at Duke University.
Coach-speak: The Tigers won’t get in a hurry. “We will value the ball,” Flener said. “We don’t look for good shots, but great shots.”
23-James Boone, 6-6, Sr., 13.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg
0-Ethan Clark, 6-3, Sr., 8.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg
10-Duane Curtis, 6-0, Sr., 10.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg
3-Preston English, 6-3 Jr., 12.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg
4-Tre Hornbuckle, 6-4, Sr., 8.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg
11-Malik Britt Taylor, 5-7, Sr., 1.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg
15-Zach Flener, 5-9, Jr., 5.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg
5-Bryant Foster, 6-4, Sr., 2.9 ppg, 0.8 rpg
34-Jumonte McClure, 6-3, Sr., 2.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg