SPARKS AND RECREATION: Holiday tournaments are 'A' gift

Jan. 4—The holidays can offer many treats and presents for basketball enthusiasts.

Teams get to spend extra time together, playing in tournaments close to home or far away. Traveling can help with the bonding process. Coaches enjoy the extra practice time.

I enjoy the exorbitant amount of extra calories. My wardrobe will not see that as an extravagant gift.

The Ashland Invitational Tournament wasn't the only event played in our area last weekend. Raceland hosted the Ohio River Classic once again. The girls tournament featured several local teams and a few travelers.

The Rams received an extra gift over the holiday after competing against teams that will not only make them better but give them a live look at teams they may see again this month with bigger prizes at stake.

"I think we hosted a good tournament," Raceland coach Marty Thomas said. "The teams that came in, they all left and complimented the tournament and how it was structured and the competition level. Bishop Brossart won the tournament. They are a solid team and I think they are a team that will be talked about in the postseason. They are impressive to watch."

"I think we had a competitive turnout," he continued. "Our team specifically, I think we learned and grew a lot. It's good to do that at home. We went to the Bath County tournament the week prior. The girls got to play in back-to-back games. It's good to see their recovery level. It's how are you physically with your fitness but also how are you mentally with your fitness."

Thomas felt his team had the chance to experience both ends of the tournament spectrum. Traveling to Owingsville for three games in three days and then playing on the home floor with the same scenario. He got to observe his team and how they fought through the rigors of a tournament game.

Raceland will be on the road again next week when they travel to Sandy Hook for the 16th Region All "A" Classic.

"It prepares us very well," Thomas said. "We got to play in some arenas with a larger crowd base. We got the tournament atmosphere feel. It's the point of those games. Both of those tournaments have prepared us for the All "A" Classic experience. Last year, we had players that were experiencing that for the first time. I remember them commenting on the crowd capacity in the gym. Now it's the second year for them and that should be better for us as well."

Raceland fell to Bishop Brossart in the opening game of the Ohio River Classic. They defeated Magoffin County the following day and took Elliott County down the wire in the final game but fell, 58-55.

The outcome of the contest could help the Rams down the road if the two teams meet in the All "A" region championship game on the Lions floor on Jan. 12.

The 16th Region champ will meet the 10th Region winner at the state tournament. Bishop Brossart resides in that region.

"I told the girls after the game that you can't deny that core and team chemistry leads the way," Thomas said. "The Lions have great team chemistry. It's like they have played together since second grade. Their main sport is basketball. They are coached well. Roy (Whitt) is a great coach. Loved talking to him. They have a lot of tools. But to play them to a one-possession game, it's as competitive as you want to see it."

Big-Time BallersRecords are made to be broken. Several scoring lists have new names at the top. I'm sure you have seen them in this newspaper so let's showcase a few more who have shown their scoring prowess over the holidays.

—Ashland's Tyson Lalonde showed off his shooting ability and added his name to the list of Tomcat sharpshooters. The junior hit 17 3-pointers during the AIT, including nine in the opener against Ohio County.

—Preston Hoskins hit nine from long range in Morgan County's win over Martin County in their AIT finale. Hoskins's shooting served as a second-half catalyst for his team. The Cougars won two of their three games during the event. Hoskins and Lalonde were named to the All-Tournament team.

—Russell's Bella Quinn added her name to the program's 1,000-point club last week, joining teammate Shaelyn Steele who recently became the school's all-time leading scorer.

Boyd County's Cole Hicks also reached 1,000 career points during the Lions' time at the Cumberland Falls Invitational Tournament last week in Corbin. Boyd County's roster currently has three players who have reached that mark—Jacob Spurlock, Jason Ellis and Hicks.

3-Point Shot—The 16th Region All "A" Classic begins on Saturday at Elliott County. On the girls side, Menifee County meets Fairview. The winner advances to Tuesday's first semifinal to face Elliott County at 6. Raceland plays West Carter at 8. The championship game is set for Jan. 12 at 7.

The boys bracket is laid out the same way. Menifee County competes against Fairview at 2. Raceland duels with Rose Hill Christian at 4. Elliott County plays the Menifee County-Fairview winner during Monday's semifinals at 6. West Carter gets the Raceland-Rose Hill Christian winner at 8. The region final is scheduled for Jan. 11 at 7.

—The Kentucky 2A sectional tournaments will be completed this week. Section 6 will be held at Flemingsburg. Fleming County-Greenup County met on Wednesday night. The game finished after press time. Mason County hosts Powell County in the other semifinal tonight. The finals are slated for Saturday.

The girls Section 6 semifinals comprised of Fleming County vs. Estill County and Mason County vs. Powell County. The championship game will take place on Saturday.

—The Section 8 Tournament will include plenty of driving distance from our area. On the boys side, Floyd Central meets host Pike County Central in tonight's first semifinal. Boyd County plays Magoffin County on Friday night. The girls schedule is nearly identical to the boys except Boyd County faces Lawrence County in its semifinal. The girls championship game is scheduled for Saturday at 6 and the boys final will follow at 7:30.

Reach MATTHEW SPARKS at or (606) 326-2671. Follow @SparksWillFly35 on Twitter. (X).