PREVIEW – Colonels, Tigers & Falcons Looking to Prevent Blazer Repeat in the 8th

The boys 8th District tournament could end up looking nothing like the regular season did for most of the teams involved, in terms of who may actually be on the court when games tipoff Tuesday night. So, assigning the favorite’s label to one team in this tournament could be a little tougher than in past seasons.

Hopkinsville has seen the return of Alijah Watts, and the Tigers have been playing much differently since, including picking up a big win on the road at Bowling Green. Christian County is starting to see players get healthy and return to the lineup A lineup that saw Coach Kerry Stovall have 18 different players see varsity action this season. Meanwhile, top seeded UHA is awaiting the return of D.J. Quarles, who suffered a late season concussion in practice and has been out of the lineup since that time.

UHA went 6-0 in district play during the season, but two of those wins were nailbiter wins on their home floor against Hopkinsville and Christian County, both who may have different starting lineups this week than they did in those games. A big question for the Blazers is the status of D.J. Quarles. If Quarles is able to give it a go this week, that gives the Blazers a slight edge, but it may be a razor thin edge as they look to repeat as district champs.

The Blazers (14-12) open play Tuesday night taking on Fort Campbell (9-20) in the 6:00pm game at Christian County High School. UHA easily handled the Falcons in their two meetings earlier this season, winning 67-39 and 76-50. The Blazers were led in those wins by the trio of K.J. Crump, Amani McGee, and Will Bryan. D.J. Quarles did not play in either of the games against Fort Campbell this season. The Falcons were led by Aaron Hall and Jeremiah Holley in the first contest, and then by Cameron Pratt and Aiden Blaszkowski in the second matchup.

For the Falcons to have a shot, you would figure they have to get the pace of the game slowed down and control the boards. Otherwise, the firepower of the UHA offense could be a big problem for the Falcons.

The marquee game of the night Tuesday will be the nightcap between the Hopkinsville Tigers (14-16) and the Christian County Colonels. Christian County (10-18) beat the Tigers 71-61 at Tiger Gym back in December, and then completed the regular season sweep with a 67-52 home court win in January. However, the third go round may look nothing like the first two.

First of all, the Tigers now have Alijah Watts in the lineup. In his six games back with the team, Watts is averaging 14.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. The Tigers have now won five of their last seven, with one of the losses being a heartbreaking two point loss on the road at Henderson County. The return of Watts has also free some things up for Don Victor, Reece Jesse, Authur McKnight, KC Cabiness, Javon Smith-Rudd, Jamarcus Burks, and Daisjuan Merce. Hopkinsville may now have one of the deepest lineups in the region. But, it will be a battle just to surive past the opening night.

Hopkinsville is led by Don Victor with 19.2 points per game. In addition to Watts’ 14.5, Authur McKnight and Reece Jesse are both averaging over 8 points per contest. Jesse and Victor are also the Tigers’ top rebounders on the season.

Christian County’s 10-18 record is a bit deceiving. The schedule has been brutal, and at times this season, the Colonel bench has resembled a MASH unit. The Colonels have started to get healthy, and that could make them a tough out in the postseason. But, like Hopkinsville, they face a big challenge just to get past the opening night. The health factor could be a big one for the Colonels in the battle with their cross town rivals.

Christian County is led by Stephen Bussell with 14.2 points per game. The other Colonel averaging in double figures is Mikeon Mathis at 12.4 ppg. On the boards, the Colonels are paced by Olajuwon White with 6.7 boards a contest, and Stephen Bussell at 4.6 rpg.

The two winners from Tuesday night will square off in the championship game Thursday evening at Christian County High School.

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