Boyd County and Ashland both recorded seasons to remember during the 2017-18 campaign.
The Lions won 29 games and secured their first region title since 2000. The Tomcats posted 24 victories, the most since 2011, and hoisted the championship trophy at the Ashland Invitational Tournament for the first time in 17 years. Two players instrumental to their team’s success became Daily Independent’s All-Area Co-Players of Year. Boyd County’s Gunner Short and Ashland’s Chase Villers were both recognized at the team photo shoot last Thursday at Kentucky Christian University.
Short led the Lions in scoring with 17.8 ppg. The senior was also the 16th Region Tournament Most Valuable Player. After transferring from Fairland (Ohio) last offseason, Short believes he made the right decision on where to conclude his high school career.
“God has a way of working things out,” Short said. “God has a plan and that’s what brought me to Boyd County.
To play with the guys I got to play with, the coach I got to play for, the school and this community, it’s been amazing.”
Boyd County coach Randy Anderson is the All-Area Coach of The Year after his eighth season at the helm of the Lions. Boyd County won 21 of its last 23 games on the way to the state tournament. “He was like a godsend, to be honest with you,” Anderson said of Short. “He’s not just a great player, but he’s even a better person. For a guy to come into this situation with his skill and talent and to become a great teammate as he did, it was huge for us.”
The Daily Independent’s
sports staff determined the individual honors. Coaches’ votes determined the team.
Short said his coach is the main reason why the Lions were such a tight-knit group. “His focus is on family,” Short said. “He brings the team’s chemistry all together. It’s amazing what he does for us. He’s a great guy and a great coach. I can’t thank him enough.”
Villers is a two-time All-Area selection and a 1,000point scorer. He averaged more than 20 points a game this year. The Tomcats’ floor leader said he knows what it meant to wear the maroon and white.
“I am honored to wear the Ashland jersey,” Villers said. “It’s just a blessing. I want to thank all my coaches, teammates and family that has helped me get here. I know the tradition at Ashland and I am real thankful.”
Villers is joined on the team by junior Devaunte Robinson (17.4 ppg, 6.4 rebounds a game). The senior said the duo complemented each other on the floor.
Ashland advanced to its first region final since 2014 but came up just short of breaking its streak of 16 years without a title. Villers still looks back on this season with fond memories.
“In my freshman year, we only had five wins,” Villers said. “Last year we had a losing season, but this year was a big turnaround. It was a great year. … We didn’t get our final goal. Getting that first AIT win since 2001 was a big deal. Getting 24 wins was big, so I think it was a successful year and I wouldn’t take anything back.”
Reese Robinson (15.2 ppg) and Blake Stewart (13.1) were both double figure scorers and represent Boyd County on the All-Area team alongside Short. Robinson returned from a shoulder injury and Stewart from a severe illness during the region tournament to help the Lions nearly pull out a victory over Fern Creek in the Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena.
“All the guys on our team are amazing,” Short said. “A couple of them got hurt and sick, but we all rallied together, and we pulled it off.
They are all like brothers to me.”
“All our players were huge parts of what we were,” Anderson added. “Whenever you have that many good players, as a coach you know that they have been very committed. It wasn’t a convenient thing and it really meant something to them.”
Elliott County, Morgan County, Rowan County and Raceland each have multiple players on the team.
Juniors Gage Evans and Tanner Dickerson have three region titles under their belts in Sandy Hook and can add an All-Area selection to their resumes. They helped get the Lions back to Morehead this season.
Blake Evans and Michael Prater helped the Cougars to a 25-win season and a 62nd District title. They gave the Tomcats all they wanted in the opening round of the region tournament but were ousted by a Robinson buzzer-beater. Evans averaged 14.3 points a night and hit 44 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Prater scored 13.6 points a game and averaged 7.8 boards a contest.
Rowan County made its fourth straight appearance in the region semifinals.
Brady Madden controlled the paint for the Vikings, hitting 61 percent of his shots and grabbing eight rebounds a game. Point guard Clay Sizemore led his team on both ends of the court.
Raceland’s twin towers of Rylie Potter (13.1 ppg and 8.9 rpg) and Travis Weaver (12.0 ppg) played big minutes as the Rams reached the region semifinals before falling to Ashland in overtime. Weaver also holds the school record in blocked shots.
Gage Hughes (Greenup County) and Bobby Hale (Russell) both end their storied careers with a third selection to the All-Area team.
Hughes averaged 30 points a game and became the Musketeers’ all-time leading scorer this season.
Hale (17.7 ppg) became a solid leader for the Red Devils and performed well in crunch time. He helped guide Russell back from a 2-9 start to claim the No. 1 seed in the 63rd District.
Menifee County’s Dalton Barnett (22.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg), East Carter point guard Brady Bush (the school’s alltime leader in assists), Fleming County’s Josh Crump (17.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Lawrence County’s Tyler Maynard (16.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Paintsville Mason Moore (17.4 ppg), Lewis County’s Tay Offutt (17 ppg, 10.5 rpg), Johnson Central’s Jacob Rice (17.3 ppg, 39.4 3point FGs) and Bath County’s Bryce Williams (11.8 ppg) all made the All-Area team for the first time after outstanding seasons.