One team wants to play in the 80’s and 90’s, the other content on winning in the 40’s and 50’s if they have to.
It’s quite the contrast of styles when Newport and Lyon County will meet on Thursday at Rupp Arena in Lexington for the UK Healthcare Boys’ Basketball Sweet 16 State Tournament.
The Lyons (30-5) are comfortable in the up-tempo setting and when they have what’s going to be the state’s all-time leading scorer in junior Travis Perry, how could they not. Perry is 21 points away from breaking “King” Kelly Coleman’s all-time KHSAA scoring record of 4,337 career points.
Those points won’t come easy for Perry and the Lyons however, the Wildcats (28-6) will present quite the challenge for that with their length and athleticism all over the floor as they allow just 50 points per game.
It makes for one of the more intriguing first round matchups of the Sweet 16 where tempo could very well dictate the game. It’s not that Newport can’t play against their will, they have the talent to push the tempo, evidenced by going 13-2 in games where they score 70 or more points, but they’d rather do so at their own will, when they get stops at the defensive end.
“We really hang our hat on our half court defense,” Wildcats coach Rod Snapp said. “We’re going to continue to play and guard the way we guard. We’ll have to make adjustments and see how he (Perry) plays and break things down and try to find some weaknesses. We also tell our kids that they have to guard us as well.”
It’s not that Lyon County can’t win in the halfcourt setting either, but when they fail to score 70 or more points this season, they’re 1-3 this season.
“The tempo is something we’ve been working on for a few years now and we’ve played like that for several years an it’s been somewhat successful,” Lyons coach Ryan Perry said, “We’ve got a few things that we’re going to attempt to do to speed the pace of the game up to where if it’s not being played fast enough. There’s no secret they’re gonna do the exact opposite of what we do. They’re gonna slow the ball down, but, you know, we’ll have to do some stuff defensively to try to try to pick the pace up.”
Here’s five key points for Thursday afternoon’s contest:
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Newport is here after their first 36th District title since 2019 and first Ninth Region title since 2010. They’ve won 12 games in a row since a 52-41 loss to Beechwood on January 25. Lyon County has won five straight Fifth District titles and are making their second straight appearance to Rupp Arena after winning the Second Region last year for the first time since 1951.
IT’S NOT JUST TRAVIS PERRY
Perry pours in 32.2 points per game and deserves a lot of the attention, but Jack Reddick (19.0 PPG) and Brady Shoulders (18.1 PPG) are much more than complementary players. The Lyons have also added Bradin Nelson to the mix, a transfer from Webster County who was ruled eligible before the district championship. Nelson has scored 24 points in four games and coach Ryan Perry called him the “difference maker” in the region championship against Hopkinsville.
WILDCATS HAVE PROVEN THEY’RE NOT AFRAID OF THE MOMENT
Despite starting two freshman, a sophomore, junior and a senior with the primary sub being a sophomore, Newport has consistently shown no signs of youth over the course of the season. They made a valiant comeback attempt in the All “A” championship loss to Holy Cross and went in to hostile road environments at Highlands twice, and came up just short at Conner in double overtime.
Newport is led by senior Marquez Miller with 15.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Taylen Kinney brings in 14 points per game as a freshman, Jabari Covington at 12.2 in his first year with the team. James Turner’s 8.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game is met with a lot of blocks on the defensive end and is sure to provide a highlight reel dunk or two in a contest.
NINTH REGION’S STRONG TRACK RECORD
Since 2009, the Ninth Region has four state championships. Holmes ended a 28-year drought of Ninth Region teams without a title when Simon Kenton last won it in 1981. Since ’09, Covington Catholic (2014, 2018) and Highlands (2021) have won state championships.
The Ninth Region has made it to at least the semifinals in seven of the last eight state tournaments. The only year the region didn’t was in 2019 when Covington Catholic lost in the first round to Scott County.
HOW MUCH WILL THE 3-POINTER PLAY A FACTOR?
Simple math. Three is more than two. Lyon County has knocked down 308 three-pointers this season, Newport at 153 made 3-pointers this season, the Lyons doubling up the Wildcats from beyond the arc. How much will that make a difference come Thursday afternoon?
Thursday’s tip is set for 1:30 p.m.
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