Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Six of Kentucky’s Top 10 Teams Headline the 2023 Chad Gardner Law King of the Bluegrass Holiday Classic

 The 42nd Annual Chad Gardner Law King of the Bluegrass tournament is shaping up to be a basketball fan’s dream, showcasing a lineup that reads like a who’s who of high school basketball elites. Featuring nine of the preseason top 25 teams, including six in the top 10, the KOB tournament is where future stars are born and basketball legends begin their journey. Adding a historical dimension to this year’s tournament are three former KOB Champions – Fairdale, Male, and Trinity – who collectively boast eight tournament titles, with the most recent coming in 2016. This year’s tournament is a perfect blend of historical pedigree and fresh talent.

As the action tips off on Tuesday, December 19th, all eyes will be on unranked Spencer County as they go head-to-head with No. 6 Male High School. This 4:30 p.m. showdown is anticipated to be a slugfest, featuring two of the top 25 offenses in the state last year. Spencer County’s Luke Erhardt, who averaged an impressive 22.5 PPG last season, will face his toughest test against a Male team that outscored opponents by nearly 12 PPG. The intensity doesn’t drop as the clock strikes 6 p.m., with Taylor County squaring off against the host and former KOB Champion, Fairdale. The host Bulldogs, under the new leadership of Head Coach John Hunt, return the senior duo of Dalton Hicks and Jacob Tucker, both previous KOB All-Tournament Team honorees, who each averaged over 17 PPG and 5 RPG last season. At 7:30 p.m., the spotlight shifts to a high-stakes duel between 2022 KOB semi-finalist North Oldham and No. 2 ranked and defending KOB runner-up Great Crossing. This isn’t just another game; it’s a showcase for Great Crossing’s 6’11” junior Malachi Moreno, a player already making waves nationally and ranked 31st in his class. The nightcap at 9 p.m. features an electrifying top 25 matchup between No. 14 DeSales and No. 5 Frederick Douglass. DeSales, led by junior Kahnplaye Prince who averaged a double-double last year with 28.4 PPG and 11.4 RPG, faces the defending 11th region champion Broncos, bolstered by juniors Armelo Boone & Aveion Chenault, both Sweet 16 All-Tournament Team honorees last season.

Wednesday’s lineup is equally riveting. The 4:30 p.m. game features our out-of-state teams in an interstate matchup, with Chicago De La Salle (IL) taking on Little Rock Central (AR). Little Rock Central will feature a trio of Division I recruits including Missouri commit and 2022-23 Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year Annor Boateng. De La Salle counters with senior Richard Lindsey, whose 15.8 PPG last season earned him All-Chicago Catholic League honors. At 6 p.m., the drama continues with another preseason top 25 clash as No. 24 Washington County battles No. 9 Newport. Washington County, a favorite in the 5th Region and led by 6’8” senior Beau Baker, a football commit to South Dakota State, faces Newport, the defending champion and preseason favorite in the 9th region, led by sophomore guard Taylen Kinney, the region’s preseason player of the year. The 7:30 p.m. slot features another top 25 matchup with No. 7 Bowling Green, led by the talented M.J. Wardlow, against No. 18 Harlan County. Harlan County, featuring South Carolina commit Trent Noah who averaged 26.5 PPG and 12.8 RPG last season, promises a competitive game. The first round concludes with a David vs. Goliath matchup at 9 p.m., where Butler County takes on the formidable No. 3 Trinity. The Bears, led by one of the state’s top players, junior Ty Price who averaged 31.2 PPG last season, will challenge Trinity, seeking their third all-time KOB title behind the duo of senior Drae Vasser and Jayden Johnson, ranked 55th nationally in the class of 2026.

The tournament continues on Thursday and Friday, with 8 games each day at 4:30, 6:00, 7:30, and 9:00 PM, shaping the semifinals and setting up a thrilling finale. The championship will be decided at 7:30 PM on Saturday, December 23rd, with the Consolation final, fifth-place game, and third-place game leading up to the much-anticipated championship game.

In essence, the 42nd King of the Bluegrass is not just a tournament; it’s a celebration of high school basketball at its most competitive and compelling. With top-tier teams and the brightest young talents on display, it promises to be a basketball extravaganza, offering a glimpse into the future of the sport. Interestingly, the tournament has seen Kentucky teams dominate for the past three years, marking the longest such streak since the 2000-2007 era. This year poses the question: will local dominance continue, or will an out-of-state team rise to the challenge?

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