Panthers still looking for first state title since 1998
For the third straight year the Elizabethtown High School girls basketball team will enter the Sweet 16 as the state’s No. 1 team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous ratings.
The Panthers are hopeful this trip goes better than the previous two.
E’town (29-4) will carry a seven-game winning streak into Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. game against Henderson County in the first round of the St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Sweet 16 at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena in Highland Heights.
The Panthers are among seven top-10 teams in the field, joining No. 2 Butler, No. 4 Mercer County, No. 5 Franklin County, No. 6 Manual, No. 7 Murray and No. 9 Holmes.
“I don’t know if you ever really know how the kids will react until they get there,” E’town coach Tim Mudd said. “But we’re very excited to be going back. You can’t take these things for granted, and we’ve tried to enjoy the journey this entire year.”
E’town won its lone state title in 1998 but was close to capturing No. 2 in each of the past two seasons. The Panthers reached the final in 2014 before falling to Butler 49-38. Last year, riding a 21-game winning streak, E’town fell to eventual state champion Covington Holy Cross 41-40 in the Sweet 16 quarterfinals.
E’town faces a tough road to the final this year. If it can get past Henderson County in the first round, a possible meeting with Butler awaits in the quarterfinals. Manual and Murray also are in the bottom half of the bracket.
Mercer County and Franklin County are the top-ranked teams in the top half of the bracket.
“People are saying the bracket is a little lopsided to the bottom half, but I think the top half is very competitive, too,” Mudd said. “I think the bracket is very balanced.”
The first round will feature two games involving top-20 teams, as Murray and Manual will meet at noon Thursday and Butler will face No. 11 Bowling Green at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
If the Litratings hold, Saturday’s semifinals would match Franklin County against Mercer County and Manual against E’town. The Litratings favor E’town over Mercer County in Sunday’s 2 p.m. championship game.
RATING THE SWEET 16 FIELD
The Litkenhous Ratings for the teams that qualified for this week’s St. Elizabeth Healthcare/KHSAA Girls Sweet 16 at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena in Highland Heights.
Team (State ranking) Litrating
Elizabethtown (1) 117.4
Butler (2) 109.6
Mercer County (4) 107.5
Franklin County (5) 106.6
Manual (6) 105.8
Murray (7) 105.5
Holmes (9) 103.8
Bowling Green (11) 103.2
Campbell County (19) 97.8
Owensboro Catholic 97.4
Henderson County 94.2
Trimble County 84.7
Shelby Valley 83.6
Leslie County 78.6