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After first month, net picture is no brighter

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By Mike Farner

      SHEPHERDSVILLE - After the first month of the high school basketball season, we really have no clearer picture at the top of the boys' race in Kentucky than we did back in November.

     Blame it on Christ Presbyterian Academy (CPA) from Nashville.

     With Bullitt East opting out of the Louisville Invitational Tournament this season, everything pointed to the King of the Bluegrass Holiday Classic at Fairdale as being the place where a number one team in the state would emerge.

     It didn't happen.

     The KOB had five of the top six teams in the state in the field including the top four teams. Unfortunately, the field also included CPA, the tournament's defending champion and a team that had won Tennessee's Class 2-A state title last season.

     This time, the visitors sliced through the top teams in Kentucky. On consecutive nights the Lions defeated Kentucky pre-season number-three Trinity (55-47), number-two Bullitt East (52-51) and then top-ranked Ballard (83-71) in the championship game.

     True, Bullitt East had CPA down 15 points, 42-27, with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter. The Chargers should have won that game, but it was still a strong showing. It would have been beyond standing room only for the championship game if Bullitt East had been playing Ballard, especially with the Kentucky (where BE's Derek Willis has already signed) and Louisville (where Ballard junior Quentin Snider has committed) overtones, not to mention the war for the top spot in the state.

     Now, we're left with a muddled mess that probably won't come into focus until late in the season or even continued to the state tournament.

     Two years ago, Eastern won the KOB and the Louisville Invitational Tournament and was the obvious favorite heading to the state tournament (but lost in the semi-finals).

Trinity won the LIT last season (after not playing in the KOB) and were the number one team for most of the season. That team wore the favorites' crown quite well, winning the state tournament including a first-round win over Bullitt East.

     But this season it doesn't appear that there will be a team to separate itself from the field, mainly because of the LIT decision by Bullitt East.

     The good news for Bullitt East fans is that Trinity and Ballard will beat up on each other over the next two months. Since both teams are the Seventh Region, only one can make the state tournament.

     Bullitt East still has some very intriguing games coming up, but the Chargers' schedule was front-loaded in terms of facing the top teams in Kentucky. There is a big game on homecoming night against Martha Lane Collins (Jan. 25) and then it will be a war when the Chargers play host to Fairdale on Feb. 5 in a game that will go a long-way in deciding the favorite in the Sixth Region.

     While it is not a stretch to consider Bullitt East, Ballard, Trinity and Madison Central the top teams in the state (Henry Clay does have a victory over Trinity, but a loss to Bullitt East) at this point, there is still a lot of basketball to be played.

     Give Madison Central head coach Allen Feldhaus some credit. He has already brought his Indians to Louisville twice, to face Bullitt East and to play in the KOB. Madison Central will return to Louisville on Feb. 5 to play Trinity. The Indians and Bullitt East will also both be at Montgomery County on Jan. 25 for the Joe B. Hall Classic, but the teams will not play each other. Bullitt East is taking on Pulaski County while Madison Central will play John Hardin.

     But like Trinity and Ballard in the Seventh Region, Madison Central will face strong opposition in the 11th Region including Henry Clay.

     Of course, Bullitt East won't have it easy in the Sixth Region either. Fairdale looked really strong in its own tournament, losing to Madison Central in overtime in the quarter-finals. Butler looked much better than expected when it visited Bullitt East three weeks ago and the Bears have a victory over Pleasure Ridge Park. PRP is also very talented and despite some bad losses in the KOB, the junior-dominated team will certainly be better at the end of the season.

     It's just going to be one of those seasons where every game will count and everybody thinks they have a shot at the gold ring.