It’s the last hurrah and Barbourville High School gets to host it. It’s the beginning of March Madness better known as the 50th District Basketball Tournament.
It also begins with a bit of irony as the six schools, three from Knox County and three from Whitley County, drew in opposite brackets, almost as if they were ready for next season.
But, that’s when South Laurel joins Corbin, Whitley County and Williamsburg and Pineville joins Barbourville, Knox Central and Lynn Camp to form the 50th and 51st districts.
So be as it may, the top two ranked teams drew opposite each other. The Barbourville Tigers, ranked as high as number one in the 13th region this season, and the Corbin Redhounds, ranked as high as second, will have to see if they have the strength to get past Lynn Camp, Knox Central, Whitley County and Williamsburg to reach the 13th region.
“This is the last time we will all be together,” said Barbourville Principal Larry Mills. “I have really enjoyed being in the same district with these teams.”
Was there a luck of the draw or just a symbol of what was is to come, making this last showdown between some old rivals ever stronger. How fitting is it to have a team from Whitley County and a team from Knox County represented in the 13th Region Tournament that will find itself revamp when Rockcastle County exits and the Harlan County schools finally get merged.
However in the meantime it will be host Barbourville, the hottest team at the moment, taking on arch-rival Knox Central in the first game of the tournament at 8:15, February 28. Arch-rivals, Whitley County and Williamsburg will battle on the second night at 8:15 p.m.
The first semifinal game, Wednesday, will see a much improved Lynn Camp team take on the Barbourville-Knox Central winner. The Wildcats lost to both teams but did not go down without a fight.
In the bottom bracket, Corbin will take on the survivor of the Whitley-Williamsburg game. Corbin edged the Colonels at Whitley County, 64-62 and did not play the Jackets this season.
“Corbin coach Tony Pietrowski said he was pleased with the draw. “When you get to the district, people will say this is a good draw but by no means will we overlook anybody.”
“It’s important to understand that Whitley and Williamsburg have good teams,” said Pietrowski. “”We have to be prepared for the winner of that game.”
“I’ve seen strange things happen in post-season tournaments and we are not going to overlook either team,” Pietrowski said. “We are going to work very hard and we will take care of the next game if we get there.”
Pietrowski said Barbourville has to be considered the team to beat. “Barbourville has an excellent team and their record shows that. The fans are going to be so excited about that first game, Barbourville and Knox Central, for this town it will be a huge night.”
“Again, in post season you can’t take anything for granted,” said Pietrowski. “If we’re lucky enough to get to the finals, whoever it may be, we’ll just take it from there and go on.”
Whitley County coach Darrell Guffey said he is hoping to get some bodies healed by tournament time. The Colonels lost the services of Travis Raper then Jeremy Taylor then Friday night lost J.J. Morgan. Raper and Taylor hope to make a return to the hardwood but Morgan is lost for the rest of the season and he will have to cheer on his team from the bench.
The Colonels will take on a Williamsburg team they beat back on December 14 at Williamsburg, 78-68.
“It was an interesting draw,” said Guffey. “I don’t think there was a good draw for anybody. The parity throughout the whole district is so close. I don’t think it matters who you draw. I am pretty happy with our draw, we play in that first-round and the last two years I think it has been tough on us, sitting back with a bye.”
“I think it affected our kids having to wait,” said Guffey. “I wanted our kids to have to play first and get in that atmosphere right off the bat. I felt like it worked out pretty good for us.”
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