Fifth District coaches have picked Trigg County as the preseason favorite, given the Wildcats’ cupboard that contains three returning starters and a talented transfer.
Crittenden County was right behind the Wildcats in second place, followed by defending district champion Lyon County, Caldwell County, and Livingston Central.
Three of the five district coaches particpated in the The Cadiz Record poll.
"Trigg County has size that nobody else has," said Crittenden County head coach Jimmy Croft. "Everyone else will be chasing that size this year."
The Wildcats were the top seed in last year’s district tournament but lost to three seed Lyon County on the Lyons’ home floor in the championship game. This year, Trigg County will host the tournament.
The Wildcats will field the most athletic team in the Fifth District, led by guard Jeremy Jones and forwards Jamaal Boyd and Russell Mackins, a transfer from Cairo, Illinois.
"I think it will be Crittenden and us in a dogfight," Wildcat head coach Bill Chumbler said. "We split with them last year and had a close call in the All-A. They have a top ten player in the region (Tim Hill) and (Peyton) Croft is a good shooter."
Chumbler is also wary of Lyon County, even though they graduated the district’s all-time leading scorer in Ty Rogers.
"Lyon returns four starters, and they’ll be better than some anticipate they will be. Caldwell County has 35 kids out this year and one of the best sophomores in the region (Dustin Fraliex). They could be a surprise team in the district and the region. Livingston is so well coached. Brent (Buchannan) always gets those kids to play hard, and wish everyone would play as hard as them," Chumbler said.
The Wildcats are also considered to challenge Henderson County and University Heights in the Second Region race.
Their stiffest test could come from Crittenden County, who return three starters from last year’s 16-9 team.
The Rockets (16-9) feature one of the region’s quickest guards in Tim Hill, who should become the school’s all-time leading scorer in late January.
The 6-0 senior averaged 16.9 points a game last year and was an all-district selection for the third straight year.
He’ll be joined in the backcourt by 5-8 senior Peyton Croft, who could pass the 1,000-point mark this season. Croft averaged 8.7 points and 3.4 assists last year.
6-2 seniors Brad Hart (8.3 ppg., 4.4 rpg.) and Aaron O’ Leary (a transfer from Webster County) will be the tallest players on the Rockets’ roster, meaning Crittenden will likely look to push the basketball up and down the floor more in 2004-05.
That could be a problem for a team that averaged only 55 points a game last year.
"We could play up to ten people and need to utilize what we have in our transition game," said Croft, who enters his tenth season at the helm of the Rockets, compiling a 124-106 record.
While everyone pegs Trigg and Crittenden as the top two seeds, things aren’t as defined for the next three slots.
Lyon County and Caldwell County have new coaches in place, and Livingston Central returns three starters from last year’s team that beat Lyon County and Caldwell County twice.
The Lyons (15-14), picked to finish third in the district by the coaches, lost all-everything guard Ty Rogers to graduation, but return the four players that surrounded him.
6-0 senior Logan Akridge was second on the team in scoring at just over nine points a game before a foot injury after Christmas sidelined him for the rest of the year.
Akridge will be joined in the frontcourt by 6-3 senior Thomas Webber and 6-5 newcomer Chris Melton.
Pete Travis (5-11 Sr.), who buried two huge 3-pointers against Trigg County in the district title game last year, and Chance Lucas (5-7, Sr.) will try and fill the backcourt void left by Rogers, who is playing at Western Kentucky University after becoming the Fifth District’s all-time leading scorer last year.
"We’re trying to adjust to a new system, and our focus is playing our best basketball by the district tournament," said new Lyons coach Jimmy Johnson, who coached Perry Central High School in Leopold, Indiana for three years.
Johnson, like Croft, expects his team to feature an up-tempo style of play.
At Caldwell County, Michael Fraliex returns to his alma mater and inherits the top returning leading scorer in the district, his cousin Matt.
The younger Fraliex averaged over 20 points a game as a freshman and at 6-4, is the tallest player on the Tiger roster. He will be expected to play the shooting guard position.
However, Fraliex is the lone returning starter from a Tiger squad that was 7-19 last year and hasn’t had a winning season since 1999.
Junior Allen Wadlington, sophomore Levi Glover, and junior Darren Thompson will bring some athleticism to the floor for Fraliex, who is expected to run and press with his Tiger squad.
One team that could play spoiler and sneak into the top three spots in the district race is Livingston Central, who also returns three starters from last year’s 9-18 team.
6-0 junior Kurt Riley is the leading returning scorer for head coach Brent Buchanan, who enters his third year at the helm of the Cardinals with a 12-41 career record.
6-0 senior Tad Scott, and 6-2 senior Jamie Wharton can prove to be streaky perimeter shooters and are two of seven seniors on the Cardinal roster.
Andrew Asbridge saw time at the point guard slot last year, and 6-1 Tyler Hunter also saw considerable time in the Cardinal rotation.
Like Crittenden County, Livingston does not have much size but usually overcome it with solid shooting from the floor.