OLIVE HILL | Over the years, Lewis County boys’ basketball has had success in the Eastern Kentucky Conference. But, it was nothing like this year.
With a 6-1 conference record, the Lions won the regular-season title for the first time in school history and also captured its first tournament crown since Vanceburg High in 1956. Individually, the squad also featured the Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and the Coach of the Year.
It collected its hardware on Friday at the EKC banquet in the Lewis Caveland Lodge at Carter Caves State Resort Park.
“It’s a tough league,” said coach Joe Hampton. “We had a lot of balance scoring. Winning the tournament early gave us confidence. The first few games in December we had five guys scoring in double figures. Still it came down to the last game of the season against Bath County (won by the Lions 57-40). It’s a long season, a lot went into it (us winning the title), but I think staying consistent throughout the season was the big key.”
Senior center Tay Offutt was recognized as both the league’s Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year. For good measure, he also added the Terrence Smith Courage Award.
“It means the world to me. I didn’t come from a very good background for basketball. I worked on it (my game), a lot of it, (by) myself and (with) help from my coaches,” he said. “I never expected to get something like this. It motivates me even more. (It took) a lot of dedication and work every day during practice, pushing myself to the limit and play(ing) hard.”
Offutt finished his career at Lewis County with 992 points. This season he averaged 16 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
“He’s progressed so much from his freshman year to his senior year. To see where he was then and where he is now is incredible. And it’s all on him. He grew and got bigger, but he put in the time in the weight room and the gym,” Hampton said. “He did a lot of things for us that next year we’re definitely going to miss on both sides of the ball.”
Hampton was named as the conference Coach of the Year. It was his first EKC plaque in 18 years at Lewis County.
“It’s an honor. I feel like our conference is just full of quality coaches and this award is voted on by your peers and I was just lucky enough that my peers elected me,” he said. “I’ve been in this (coaching) a long time and it’s the only award I’ve ever gotten from the EKC, so I’m very honored, very honored.”
The Lady Lions also came away with some new trophies. Dame Downing was among the honorees. The volunteer assistant coach and team manager earned the league’s Commissioners’ Award.
Coach Jay Fite’s club had three named to the All-EKC First Team, including senior guards Jalyssa Cortez and Gracie Yates, and senior post player Allison Voyles.
Russell won the girls’ regular-season title with West Carter as the runners-up. The Lady Comets also captured the in-season tournament crown. Russell’s Madison Darnell was Both the EKC Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year. Her teammate Ty Mitchell was recognized as the Defensive Player of the Year, while Mandy Layne picked up Coach of the Year honors.
Russell led the eight-school league with five girls named to the first-team: Darnell, Mitchell, Rachel Michael, Kaeli Ross and Lakie Sanders. Bath County, East Carter and West Carter each had three first-teamers, while Rowan County had two, and Morgan County and Fairview had one apiece. Other first-team selections included: Paige Faudere (Bath County), Abigail Henderson (Bath County), McKenna Moore (Bath County), Hannah Gallion (East Carter), Taylor Hall (East Carter), Alyssa Stickler (East Carter), Jordan Rakes (Fairview), Lane Cox (Morgan County), Promise Cross (Rowan County), Angela Marcum (Rowan County), Ragan Adkins (West Carter), Hannah Bear (West Carter) and Allie Stone (West Carter).
Lewis County and Morgan County both topped the boys awards with four players earning first-team All-EKC. Bath County, East Carter, Rowan County and Russell each had three first-team selections, while Fairview and West Carter had two apiece.
Offutt, Sam O’Keefe, Bryce Wallingford and Seth Wright were the Lions’ representatives, while Garrett Adkins, Josh Adkins, Blake Evans and Michael Prater were selected from Morgan County.
The remainder of the first-team selections included: Chandler Otis (Bath County), Spencer Pergrem (Bath County), Bryce Williams (Bath County), Brady Bush (East Carter), Josh Damron (East Carter), Karrick Dyer (East Carter), Terrick Evans (Fairview), Garrett Greene (Fairview), Tyler Gardner (Rowan County), Tate Johnson (Rowan County), Clay Sizemore (Rowan County), Austin Clark (Russell), Bobby Hale (Russell), Tristan Miller (Russell), Ethan Adkins (West Carter) and Rodney Evans (West Carter).
The conference also announced the schedule for its 2018 regular-season tournament. Saturday, Dec. 1 will feature girl/boy doubleheaders with Russell at Morgan County, East Carter at West Carter, Lewis County at Fairview and Rowan County at Bath County.