Nearing the end: local basketball seasons begin to reach fever pitch

Jan. 19—It's been a fun ride so far for our local teams in both boys' and girls' basketball this season and that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon as the 2022-2023 season begins to reach its apex.

Pulaski County boys were coming off a fantastic season last year that ended on a last-second defeat by Lincoln County in the 12th Region Championship. Many expected the program to have their lulls this season as three starters from last season's squad graduated. However, few anticipated the type of impact the senior duo of Cayden Lancaster and Barek Williams were going to have on the Maroons.

Lancaster averages 21.2 points per game, good for 42nd in the entire Commonwealth, with Williams chipping in a cool 19 per game. After several injuries, Williams seems to have made a full recovery and is putting up big numbers along the way. Just this week, Williams hit the 1000-point mark for his career. The play of freshman point guard Carson Fraley is also a big plus for the team, as his experience starting for varsity last season has drove him to new heights this year. The team is also not fully healthy, as senior Jace Frye has not played this season due to injury. The Maroons currently sit at a record of 17-2 and have the highest RPI in the 12th Region with a .676, while also ranking 26th in team scoring.

For the Somerset Briar Jumpers in the second year under head coach Ryan Young, the team has seen some highs and lows, including a six-game winning streak earlier in the season. The offense of the Jumpers is a two-headed monster known as the junior duo of Indred Whitaker and Ben Godby. Both Godby and Whitaker are averaging close to 17 points per game, with Godby also leading the team in rebounds with about six per game.

Whitaker, after showing flashes of greatness his sophomore season, has exploded this year and became one of the top three-point shooters in our local area. He ranks 21st in the state with about three long balls per game and shoots close to 41% beyond the arc. Somerset currently sits at 12-7 for the season and are ranked eighth in the region in RPI with a .5711.

Southwestern, despite having a six-game losing streak of their own, has surprised many teams with how competitive they have been so far this season. This is a senior-laden team that does have some solid young talent, but most of the offense goes through one man, Eli Meece.

Meece has already broken the single game scoring record at Southwestern with 50 earlier this season and he continues to light the nets up on a game-to-game basis. Meece averages 19.5 points per game and is also one of the top three-point shooters in the state, also hitting about three per game and shooting about 37% from distance. The Warriors also recently picked up a big crosstown victory over Somerset. Southwestern sits at 8-11 for the season and have a .49571 RPI.

Somerset Christian gained a legendary coach over the offseason, with Al Gover coming back to the high school ranks to coach the Cougars. Unfortunately, the Cougars have not had the depth to compete with local teams so far this season, though that hasn't stopped the players for competing for the full 32 minutes.

Senior Noah Brummett is the leading scorer on the boys' side in the entire county, as he is averaging 22.2 points per game. Junior Ethan Warren is chipping in about 13 a game but the biggest development has been sophomore Elijah Brummett, who has seen a big jump in his production in recent weeks and is averaging about 12 a game. This season, as they currently sit at 2-14, may be one to forget but the Cougars, in their first season being postseason eligible in KHSAA, are set up for a bright future.

The Lady Maroons of Pulaski County have seen their stock rise throughout the current season due to the meteoric rise of junior Sydney Martin. Martin has improved every single season she has played so far and is currently averaging 22.9 points per game, good enough to be the top girl scorer in the county and rank 10th in the state. She also is the seventh-best free throw shooter in the state, converting on 83.5% of her free throws.

Brooklyn Thomas has been a pleasant surprise off the bench, even hitting the game-winning putback for Pulaski in a win over Somerset. The Lady Maroons have been bit by the injury bug when it comes to junior Maggie Holt as she hasn't played in a lot of their games so far this season. However, they hope to have her at full strength soon. Holt is a jack-of-all-trades for Pulaski, constantly stuffing the stat sheet. The Lady Maroons are 15-3 for the season and rank second in the 12th Region in RPI with a .67795.

For the Lady Jumpers, high expectations were abound heading into the season with a fantastic group of seniors expected to lead the charge. After winning the 47th District without Grace Bruner, who injured her knee earlier in the season, the Jumpers had dreams of competing for a region title.

The results have been up-and-down for Somerset, but Grace Bruner has come back from her knee injury with such "grace" that it's hard for one to believe she tore her ACL just a year ago. Grace leads the team with 15.4 points per game and is the 37th-leading rebounder in the state with 9.2 per game. Grace also scored her 1000th point of her career in the past week. Kate Bruner is also averaging double figures for the Jumpers. Although the injury bug has not been kind to Somerset, behind the play of the Bruner duo and key play from younger players such as Jaelyn Dye and Haley Combs, the future for Somerset may be bright past this year. The Lady Jumpers sit at 11-7 for the season and have the sixth-best RPI in the 12th Region with a .57388.

The Lady Warriors may have played one of the toughest schedules in the state and that is no hyperbole. After suffering through their lumps and suffering way more losses than expected, many media outlets began discounting Southwestern once again, but that is where head coach Junior Molden thrives.

The Lady Warriors are undefeated in both region play and district play and that is due to four starters that are averaging double figures. Kinsley Molden leads the group with 16.7 per game and is one of the top three-point shooters in the state, knocking down 46% of her shots from deep. All-in-all, Molden, Ayden Smiddy, Kaylee Young and Payton Acey combine to score 53.8 points per game. Also notable is the defense of sophomore Jessalyn Flynn, who coach Molden has keyed several wins to in the past weeks. Southwestern sits at 11-7 for the season so far and have the fourth-best RPI in the 12th Region with a .60072.

Jacob Pratt is the Sports Editor of the Commonwealth Journal and can be reached at jpratt@somerset-kentucky.com. You can follow him on Twitter @PrattTheNation