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Inclement weather permitting, All “A” Classic state tourney set to take place this week in Richmond

By Chad Hensley
NKyTribune contributor

The All “A” Classic organizing committee is determined to get the small-school tournament played despite postponing the start of the tournament from Monday to Tuesday due to inclement weather throughout the state.

Some may discredit the magnitude of the tournament because it is not a KHSAA-sanctioned state event, but it means everything to schools such as Lyon County. The Lyon County boys basketball team will be representing the 2nd Region when they take on Kentucky Country Day at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

St. Henry senior guard Wyatt Vieth goes to the basket against Newport Central Catholic. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

“The All ‘A’ is an event our kids really look forward to because it is a more level playing field for small schools,” said Lyon County head coach Ryan Perry. “We get especially excited to win regionals because it requires beating University Heights Academy, a private school in our region that has won the region the last eight years. My team went 23-10 last year and made it to regional semifinals with most of our talent returning this year. Even though we are a small school, we have big hopes for this group and are confident we can compete at the state level.”

The St. Henry boys basketball team is aiming to defend its All “A” Classic state championship. The Crusaders claimed the title last season by defeating Frankfort in the championship game.

The Bethlehem girls basketball team is also back to defend its All “A” Classic state championship and started the season with 10 straight wins. The tournament is special to each of the participating teams.

“Getting the chance to play in the All ‘A’ state tournament is always special to our program,” said Lonnie Rowe, who is the head coach of the Shelby Valley girls basketball team. “Our girls always mark this on their calendar as one of the high points on our schedule. This is our second year in a row of representing the 15th Region and we take a lot of pride in doing that. Once you arrive and see the other players representing their region with a smile on their face, you understand how much it means to their programs.”

Below will be capsules for each first round matchup with tentative start times and dates:

Girls All “A” Classic First Round
Game 1 – Pineville (13th Region) and Whitefield Academy (6th Region) at 6:54 p.m. Wednesday

The Pineville Lady Lions (8-1) are in the tournament for just the second time and are led by the duo of Whitney Caldwell and Raigan King. Caldwell is averaging 18.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while King has compiled an average of 15.1 point and 9 rebounds per contest.

Whitefield Academy (10-2) will see arguably its best opponent of the season in Pineville and will gain available experience as the 10-player roster will be the youngest in the tournament with one sophomore, six freshmen and three 8th graders. Leading the way for the Lady Wildcats is freshman Allison Spieker with 16.7 ppg.

Game 2 – Owsley County (14th Region) and Hancock County (3rd Region) at 7:30 a.m. Thursday

The Lady Owls of Owsley County are in the tournament field for the first time since 2012 and are sporting a nice 12-1 record. Head coach Travis Smith’s squad has three players in double figures for points per game including Lexy Lynch (20.1). Carly Smith (16.6) and Kenzie Herald (12.2).

Hancock County (3-7) has had an even longer gap in tournament appearances with the last being in 2000. The Lady Hornets are led by Karmin Riley’s 13.2 ppg and 5.1 rebounds per contest and is closely followed by Bailey Poole with 12.9 points per contest.

Game 3 – Newport Central Catholic (9th Region) and Crittenden County (2nd Region) at 9:45 a.m. Thursday

Playing in the strong 9th Region will have Newport Central Catholic ready for any tournament the Thoroughbreds (6-6) are scheduled to play in. Head coach Ralph Meyer’s squad is coming off a 71-67 triple-overtime win on Feb. 13 over Mason County.

Rylee Turner of NewCath is averaging 20.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

NewCath is led by Rylee Turner, a junior guard who is averaging 20.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

Head coach Shannon Hodge leads Crittenden County (9-3) to the All “A” Classic for the seventh time in her 28 seasons at the helm of the Lady Rockets, who are 1-6 in the tournament’s history. Look for Taylor Guess (16.7 ppg and 7.1 rpg) to lead the way as she has done all season for the Lady Rockets as they attempt to make it past the quarterfinals for the first time.

Game 4 – Shelby Valley (15th Region) and Berea (11th Region) at Noon Thursday

Shelby Valley (8-3) saw in a 74-66 loss to Bethlehem on Jan. 23 that it can play with the best in the state. Coach Rowe’s Lady Kats are led by the duo of Cassidy Rowe and Alyssa Elswick. Rowe, a junior guard and University of Kentucky commit, struggled with knee injuries her first two years in high school but is back as one of the leaders on the court averaging 15.6 points per game. Elswick leads the team with 16.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest in and up-tempo offense.

“Cass and Alyssa Elswick have so much chemistry due to the fact that they have stayed loyal to our program and have played hundreds of games together over the past 8-9 years,” said Rowe. “Alyssa carried the load the two years Cass was out. and it is fun to watch the two of them together once again. In my opinion, there is not a better inside/outside combo in the state.”

Berea (6-3) will be looking to tame the Lady Kats after having played just one game since Jan. 21 when the Lady Pirates defeated 13th Region power South Laurel 57-55 on Feb. 15. Madison Howell (16 ppg) and Alexis Newman (14.3 ppg) have combined to score 30.3 of the team’s 65.6 points per game.

Game 5 – Metcalfe County (4th Region) and Danville (12th Region) at Noon Wednesday

The Metcalfe County Lady Hornets (7-4) may have the most balanced scoring in the field with four players averaging in double digits. Stats for the last two games have not been posted, but Kassady London, Jaycie Harper, Braelyn Davis and Anna Blythe are all averaging more than 10 points per contest.

Danville (9-3) was selected as a preseason favorite to represent the 12th Region in the KHSAA state tournament and will challenge for the All “A” crown. The Lady Admirals are just as even in scoring with five players averaging at least 8.2 points per game with Lara Akers and Love Mays both tallying 13.3 per contest.

Game 6 – Bishop Brossart (10th Region) and Murray (1st Region) at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday

Bishop Brossart (9-3) may be just 2-3 in its last five games, but the Lady Stangs have faced some very stiff competition in an effort to get ready for the All “A” Classic. Marie Kiefer is averaging a double-double for Brossart with 22.4 points and 11.4 rebounds per contest.

Murray is in the tournament field for the 10th-consecutive season including titles in 2016 and 2018. The Lady Tigers (7-4) are led by Angela Gierhart (16 ppg), Makenzie Turley (14.5 ppg) and Alyssa Daughrity (10.7 ppg).

Game 7 – Presentation Academy (7th Region) and West Carter (16th Region) at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday

Presentation Academy (4-5) is presenting the 7th Region for the first time in the tournament after having won the 6th Region All “A” title in 2009 and then from 2015-2018. The Toppers’ roster has just one senior and is led by a pair of junior guards in Peyton Nauert (13.2 ppg) and Shanya Bibbs (10.2 ppg).

West Carter (6-4) was the last team to punch its ticket to EKU’s McBrayer Arena with a convincing 73-36 win over Raceland in the region finals on Feb. 14. The region title game was originally scheduled for Jan. 19, but COVID-19 as well the funeral for West Carter alum Ben Jordan delayed the game for nearly a month. The Lady Comets are led by junior Allie Stone’s 21.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

Game 8 – Walton-Verona (8th Region) and Bethlehem (5th Region) at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday

Walton-Verona (9-5) had a seven-game winning streak early in the season but has cooled off as of late with a 2-4 record in the past six games. The Bearcats are led offensively by senior point guard Haylee Neeley with 12.1 points per contest.

Bethlehem (12-3) is back to defend its crown and started the season with 10 straight wins. All three of the Banshees’ losses are by a combined nine points to three teams that will challenge for the KHSAA state title (Boyd County, Anderson County and cross-town rival Bardstown). Seniors Ella Thompson (18.5 ppg) and Amelia Hodges (15.7 ppg) lead the way offensively with freshman Carlie Thurmond also adding 10.4 ppg.

Boys All “A” Classic First Round

Game 1 – Walton-Verona (8th Region) and Somerset (12th Region) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Walton-Verona (10-5) is back in the All “A” Classic after failing to make the tournament field in 2020. The Bearcats have four players scoring in double figures led by Brant Smithers with 19.2 per contest. Conner Davis, Carter Krohman and Cameron Christy have scored 12.7, 12.7 and 11.7 per game, respectively.

Somerset (12-4) is in the tournament for the 18th time but is still searching for its first All “A” state title. The Briar Jumpers, a favorite to make it to Rupp Arena in March, are led by three-sport star Kade Grundy with 18.8 points per contest. Grundy will be attending the University of Louisville to play baseball and is a favorite to win Mr. Baseball in the spring but could play Division I football or basketball as well.

Game 2 – Washington County (5th Region) and West Carter (16th Region) at 9 p.m. Tuesday

Washington County (10-4) is in the tournament for the first time in school history after defeating Green County 60-58 in the region final on Jan. 16. The Commanders are led by the trio of Josh Burkhead (16.7 ppg), Beau Baker (13.1 ppg) and Jakobie Hughes (12.6 ppg).

West Carter (6-3) has battled COVID-19 issues within the program and seems to have weathered the storm. The Comets also have a trio of double-digit scorers in Tyson Webb (14.6 ppg), Jackson Bond (12.2 ppg) and Trevor Callahan (10 ppg).

Game 3 – Lyon County (2nd Region) and Kentucky Country Day (7th Region) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday

Lyon County’s Travis Perry is averaging 27.4 points per contest this season. (Lyon County photo)

Lyon County (14-1) may be headed into the tournament after having its worst game of the season in a 71-47 loss to Owensboro Catholic, but the Lyons will still be on the prowl for the All “A” title. The Lyons are led by one of the most prolific scorers in the state in freshman guard Travis Perry, who is averaging 27.4 points per contest.

“Travis has had a great start to his freshman season,” said Perry of his son, who has already amassed 1,901 career points. “He loves basketball and is a smart player. He can get to the basket when he needs to and works really hard on defense but also sees the court well and works to get his teammates the ball in situations where they can score. In some games, we need him to score 30-plus points and in other games, he scores less but exploits mismatches or finds the guy who is hot that night to help our team score. We play unselfish basketball. Our team dynamic is really good with a lot of talented kids who work really well together for the good of the team.”

Kentucky Country Day may only have a 5-7 record, but the Bearcats also have a talented scorer in Will Crockett. Crockett, a sophomore, is averaging 23 points per game for head coach Anthony Mathis.

Game 4 – Evangel Christian (6th Region) and Clinton County (4th Region) at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday

Evangel Christian (4-7) has played a strong schedule but has not lived up to the hype surrounding the program in the preseason. The Eagles are a relatively young program and will definitely benefit from the schedule they’ve played plus the experience at the All “A” Classic. Leading the way is sophomore Dawson Black with 20.8 ppg and freshman Ben Tshaka with 10.2 ppg while senior Keion Scrivener (11 ppg in three games) is now eligible after transferring from Seneca.

Clinton County (14-2) has had two 7-game win streaks and is coming off a 58-56 loss to Russell County on Feb. 13. The Bulldogs are led by junior Nick Delk’s 17.5 point per game. Head coach Todd Messer knows how to win after growing up and learning the game from legendary Clay County head coach Bobby Keith when he played for the Tigers in high school.

Game 5 – Pikeville (15th Region) and Knott County Central (14th Region) at 4 p.m. Tuesday

Pikeville (7-4) is 2-3 in its last five outings, but when two familiar foes from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky face off against each other, the records going into the game mean nothing. Head coach Elisha Justice is a former Kentucky Mr. Basketball winner and knows how to win big tournament games after having won the All “A Classic in 2009 and 2010 as well as the 2010 KHSAA Sweet 16 as a player at Shelby Valley. The Panthers are led offensively by Rylee Samons with 23.8 points per game.

Knott County Central (9-5) has been a mainstay at the top of the ranks within the 14th Region for many years. The Patriots are one of the favorites to advance to Rupp Arena in March and are led by Coby Napier’s 21.1 points per game. Josh McGuire has added 13.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game for head coach B.B. King’s squad.

Game 6 – Murray (1st Region) and Lexington Christian (11th Region) at 9 p.m. Wednesday

Murray (8-5) lost its season opener but won its next six games including the 1st Region All “A” Classic title over Paducah St. Mary 61-42 on Jan. 16. The Tigers have three scorers in double digits led by Grant Whitaker with 21.5 ppg followed by Charqwan McCallister with 11.1 ppg and Trey Boggess with 10.5 ppg.

Lexington Christian (7-5) plays in one of the toughest boys basketball regions in the state and is already battle tested heading into the All “A” Classic. Tanner Walton is leading the Eagles in scoring with 21.9 points per game despite having missed the first five contests of the season.

Game 7 – Robertson County (10th Region) and Harlan (13th Region) at 2:15 p.m. Thursday

Robertson County (7-3) returns to Richmond for the first time since 2018 after downing 14-time 10th Region All “A” winner Bishop Brossart 58-46 on Jan. 14. The Black Devils are led by junior guard/forward Justin Becker with 26.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, but Becker’s status for the tournament is unknown after he missed the team’s last game.

St. Henry’s Jude Bessler (22) goes up for a jumper against Newport Central Catholic. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

If Becker is out, head coach Patrick Kelsch will call upon Sebastian Dixon (13.2 ppg), Tanner Horn (11.9 ppg) and Brandon Dice (11.4 ppg) to increase their scoring outputs.

Harlan (8-2) has been to the All “A” Classic 10 previous seasons and came away with back-to-back championships in 1994-95. The Green Dragons are led junior guard Jordan Akal with 24.7 points per game. Akal is complemented nicely by Jae dyn Gist’s double-double average of 14.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.

Game 8 – St. Henry (9th Region) and Owensboro Catholic (3rd Region) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday

St. Henry (9-2) is the defending All “A” Classic champions and are one of the favorites this season as well. The Crusaders are looking to maintain the 9th Region’s dominance in recent years in the tournament as five of the last nine champions hail from the state’s northernmost region.

St. Henry is led by Wyatt Vieth and Jude Bessler with 21.2 and 14.5 points per game, respectively. Vieth scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead St. Henry to an 84-53 win at Ludlow on Saturday.

Cody Teten added 15 points and 12 rebounds during St. Henry’s win over Ludlow, while Gabe Ryan netted 10 points for the Crusaders. St. Henry’s only two losses this season are an 80-78 overtime setback on the road against Lexington Catholic and an 83-76 defeat at Beechwood. St. Henry also owns an 82-80 road win at Highlands this season.

Owensboro Catholic (11-3) may have the best chance of knocking off the Crusaders before the finals. The Aces are led by Brian Griffith’s 23.2 point per contest and can turn to JiAirius Webb (14.9 ppg) and Gray Weaver (13.3 ppg) should Griffth have an off night.

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