Postseason lookahead: DCA is here to stay as regional contender

Published 2:45 pm Friday, February 23, 2024

Analysis by Mike Marsee

Nothing will ever be the same in 12th Region basketball.

The emergence of Danville Christian’s boys and girls teams as regional powers has forever altered the high school hoops landscape along the corridor that stretches from Nicholasville to Monticello.

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It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen pretty fast. In only their fifth season as full-fledged members of the KHSAA, both the Warriors and Lady Warriors have emerged as the favorites to win the 12th Region championships that will be decided over the next 2 1/2 weeks.

And while they might not be in this position every year, it’s reasonable to expect both teams to be frequent contenders for district and regional titles going forward.

With just days remaining before district tournaments tip off Monday, both DCA teams were No. 1 in the region in the penultimate rankings that accompany the statewide media poll and in the KHSAA’s RPI standings.

Neither, however, is a prohibitive favorite. The boys region has been viewed as truly wide open since before the season began, and the list of girls teams that could contend is only slightly shorter.

Here’s a look at the top teams in each group:



DCA, picked by coaches as the preseason favorite despite never having won a postseason game, solidified its position as the team to beat with the addition of 6-10 Geu Ateny, who became eligible only last week and had double-doubles in three of his first four games.

Ateny teams with 7-0 Lual Ayiei, Emmanuel Dut, Titus Boyd and Braden Fugate to give the Warriors multiple ways to score. But they’re winning with a defense that has allowed more than 50 points only twice this season.

Depth remains a concern, particularly if the Warriors fall into foul trouble. That hasn’t happened as much lately, but it could still be a concern.

Wayne County is next on the list despite its loss to DCA this week. Led by Kendall Phillips and Antajuan Dumphord, the Cardinals are back in contention after three years away from the chase.

Local contenders include:

  • Mercer County, which has one of the region’s top players in Trevor Ellis and which has shown marked improvement in the second half of the season.
  • Boyle County, which relies on a small army of athletic players led by Montavin Quisenberry. The Rebels are good enough to beat anyone but could also lose to almost anyone on a bad night.
  • Lincoln County, a still-young team – Blade Nuckols is the only player with significant experience prior to this season – that has shown promise not only for the future but for the present as well.

Other teams that could make a run at the title are defending champion Pulaski County, Rockcastle County and Somerset.



DCA has only rarely been tested within the region, as no regional foe got closer than 12 points before it fought off Boyle County for a five-point win last week.

Grace Mbugua remains solidly in the top five in the state in both scoring and rebounding, and Amauri Blackford is also averaging a double-double in a breakout season.

The Lady Warriors are without a prototypical point guard and are thus susceptible to turnovers, and, like the boys, they’re low on depth.

Pulaski County was the preseason pick to win its first title since 1996 and remains a force behind Sydney Martin, the region’s second-leading scorer, and point guard Madeline Butcher.

Southwestern has beaten Pulaski twice, has won two of the last three titles and is led by battle-tested veterans Kinsley Molden and Payton Acey.

West Jessamine has taken the fast lane to respectability behind rising star Claire Marshall, taking a 15-game winning streak into its regular-season finale after winning only 13 all last season.

The most dangerous local team besides DCA is Boyle, the other great turnaround story in the region this season. Payton Bugg, Addison Yates and Annabelle Tarter lead a tenacious defensive team.

Here are my picks to win the 10 district and regional titles to be awarded in the coming days:

  • 45th District – Danville Christian boys, Danville Christian girls
  • 46th District – Mercer County boys, West Jessamine girls
  • 47th District – Somerset boys, Pulaski County girls
  • 48th District – Wayne County boys, Southwestern girls
  • 12th Region – Danville Christian boys, Pulaski County girls

Regional rankings

The top boys and girls basketball teams in the 12th Region, both as ranked by Advocate contributor Mike Marsee as part of the statewide media poll released Feb. 14 and in the KHSAA RPI standings compiled through Tuesday’s games:


Media poll – 1. Danville Christian; 2. Wayne County; 3. Pulaski County; 4. Boyle County; 5. Lincoln County

RPI (statewide ranking in parentheses) – 1. Danville Christian (18); 2. Wayne County (40); 3. Pulaski County (68); 4. Mercer County (83); 5. Rockcastle County (86)


Media poll – 1. Danville Christian; 2. West Jessamine; 3. Southwestern; 4. Pulaski County; 5. Boyle County

RPI (statewide ranking in parentheses) – 1. Danville Christian (12); 2. Pulaski County (22); 3. West Jessamine (26); 4. Southwestern (51); 5. Rockcastle County (61)