Coaches around the 16th Region entered the 2017-2018 boys’ basketball season knowing there was no clear front-runner to head to Rupp Arena for the Sweet Sixteen.
When the tournament tipped off at Morehead State University’s Ellis T. Johnson Arena on Wednesday, it would likely come down to the team that was able to put together the best three games. For Lewis County, that path starts against Rowan County on Thursday at 8 p.m.
The Lions advanced to the 16th Region Tournament with a 68-64 victory over top-seeded Russell in the 63rd District semifinals last Tuesday at Russell. Tay Offut had a massive game for Lewis County, posting 35 points and 15 rebounds.
In the championship game three days later, Lewis County had a 12-point fourth quarter lead over Raceland, but the Rams came back for a 52-50 win.
The Lions first task in the tourney is Rowan County, who was crowned champion of the 61st District after entering as the No. 4 seed. The Vikings have taken down Mason County, Fleming County and Bath County in their last three games.
The two met on Jan. 30, with Lewis County claiming a 54-48 victory over the Vikings. Offut posted 21 points and nine rebounds in the win, while Sam O’Keefe had 11 points, Bryce Wallingford had eight and Seth Wright had seven.
Rowan County finished the contest with three players in double figures. Clay Sizemore had 16 points, Brady Madden had 15 and Tate Johnson had 10. The Vikings have five players averaging at least seven points per game in those three, plus Tyler Gardner and Ryan Mullen.
The winner will get the winner of Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. quarterfinal between Boyd County and Elliott County. Boyd County has the best record in the region at 26-6, while three-time defending champion Elliott County enters at 11-13. Boyd County has beaten Elliott County twice this season – on Dec. 8 at the Boyd County Roundball Classic, 81-66, and on Feb. 9, 74-66.
Lewis County lost to Boyd County twice during the regular season, the first time on Dec. 9 in overtime, 87-82, and the second on Jan. 22, 70-56. The Lions beat Elliott County on Jan. 5, 67-52. Rowan County went a combined 0-2 against the two teams in Thursday’s first semifinal.
The semifinal is scheduled for Monday at 8 p.m.
Morgan County and Ashland Blazer tipped off the 16th Region Tournament on Wednesday, with the Tomcats surviving, 53-51, on a last-second putback from Devaunte Robinson. Robinson led the way with 24 points, while Chase Villars had 13. Garrett Adkins and Jake Helton led Morgan County with 16 points each, while Michael Prater had 13.
Raceland and Bath County also came down to the wire, with the Rams prevailing in overtime, 43-38. Greg Mershon finished with 13 points for Raceland and Kirk Pence had 10. Travis Weaver added nine points and 11 rebounds while Rylie Potter had eight points and 15 rebounds. Jake Porter had 15 points for Bath County, while Spencer Pergrem and Bryce Williams each added seven.
The two will face off in the first semifinal on Monday at Morehead. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. The 16th Region championship game is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m.