After losing back-to-back First District semifinals in buzzer-beating fashion in 2017 and 2018, Carlisle County busted the ghosts in 2019 - going 8-0 against Fulton County, Hickman County and Fulton City on its way to its seventh district title since 2000, and third in the past five seasons.
Newsflash: the Comets have the stars to do it again in 2020 - particularly in a senior class that includes 2019 All-Purchase Player Reese Anderson, Murray State baseball signee Daven McGee and point guard Trace Hook, who steps into a large role once filled by former 1,300-point scorer Trey Wilson.
Tack on last year's leading rebounder in Blake Elder (10.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and a rotating battle between seniors Chase Teasley and Clint Draper for the fifth spot, and longtime Carlisle coach Brian O'Neill is staring at one his oldest, most experienced, rosters in recent memory.
"We haven't had this much experience back in several years," he said. "We will miss Trey Wilson, but have enough firepower to replace his scoring."
Some of that load is undoubtedly going to fall on Anderson, who canned a school-record 77 3-pointers a year ago - at 36.7%, no less - and averaged 15.8 ppg.
But don't expect him to just bomb away from the arc. O'Neill warns that while he sees his senior sharpshooter likely leading the team in scoring again, he also believes he'll attack the rim more frequently in his final season - thanks to an offseason wisely-spent in the weight room.
"I think the balance will make him even more difficult to defend," O'Neill adds.
Anderson is less than 100 points away from 1,000 for his career, and he's 56 3-pointers away from breaking the school career record of 200 - set by Blake Rutherford from 2007-11.
Carlisle County's biggest disadvantage this season might be its lack of size, which means a bigger emphasis on team rebounding than in previous seasons. And especially if the goals are 20-plus wins, a chance at an All "A" regional title and a lengthy stay in the First District and, eventually, First Region tournaments.
X-factor? O'Neill believes it's sophomore guard Garrett Hayden, who appeared in 31 of 32 games last season and averaged 2.0 ppg.
"I feel, right now, we can go at least eight deep and maybe more, depending on how some develop during the preseason," he added. "Garrett Hayden...I can see that production going up this year. He had a good summer and is more comfortable this year."
Pilots in pursuit
Fulton County nearly yanked down a second-consecutive First District title in 2019, only to see an angrier Carlisle County eek out a 60-58 title win in Bardwell.
Then, the Pilots kept things interesting with Murray in the opening round of the First Region Tournament at the CFSB Center, before eventually falling 73-58.
Bigger goals - Another First District title? An extended stay in the First Region Tournament - are on the mind of coach Jamie Madding, who has a prolific guard in bruising running back Caleb Kimble and a strong supporting cast of starters in Josh Cole, Hayden Murphy, Broc Bridges and Dylan Hammond.
Madding things Kimble could eclipse the 1,500-point career mark this year, after crossing 1,000 points as a junior in 2018-19.
The story for Fulton County, however, is the addition of a new face: former Lake County (Tiptonville, Tennessee) guard Colton Henderson.
"(Henderson) is a left-handed guard with a nice outside shot," Madding attests.
Where Madding sees a little bit of trouble is the potential for football fatigue early in the schedule, which could lead to some tepid free-throw shooting. During the 2018-19 season, the Pilots shot 55.8% from the season, with graduate Kahari Miller (29-for-42) and Kimble (73-for-111) the only reliable options to consistently hit the freebies.
Second-year coach Wynn Harris has his health and a deeper roster, bringing some belief that this season can be a special one in Clinton for Hickman County.
Harris sat for one month last season while battling a cancerous tumor, and the Falcons - a bit on the youthful side - endured some growing pains before finishing 9-18 on the year.
Fast forward to now, where Wynn's two leading scorers in Jackson Midyett (14.2 ppg, 38.1% shooting) and Dylan Hicks (8.0 ppg) are in the fold with several guys who either sat out last season (6-4 Kaleb Harper, Sr. PG Tommy Guess), or transferred into the program (Quion and Tavion Haynes, Paducah Tilghman).
Swirl in senior J.D. McClanahan and two juniors in Cam Johnson and Sam Dodson, and suddenly, it's a really nice mix of experience with fresh faces.
"With several guards, it makes our lineup very versatile, and gives us the ability to show different looks and press," Wynn writes. "The biggest challenge for us has been working in new players and a new offense to go along with our new depth."
Potential surprises? Freshman center Eli Prince and junior shooting guard Jason Hayden, who are both coming off the bench for what Wynn hopes is a big lift on both sides of the court, with little drop off in production.
Dillard doubles down
A year after picking up just one win in 2017-18, Fulton City coach John Dillard said his club would "absolutely" win more games in 2018-19.
And the Bulldogs did, going 7-25 with wins over Community Christian, Christian Fellowship, Hickman County, Ballard Memorial and Clarksburg (TN) - bringing light to the growth in the program.
Are there more wins in store for Fulton City in 2019-20? Possibly so.
Dillard believes he's got three 14-to-18 ppg players in senior guard and two-time First District selection Cameron Madding, 6-5 senior power forward Brennen Walker and 6-4 senior center Devaris Scott, who played for the Bulldogs during his sophomore season (and averaged 5/7), but spent last year in Las Vegas.
Another transfer, 6-2 senior small forward Deontae King (Jackson, Tennessee), is also expected to start and make an immediate impact as a "tough, hard-nosed slasher who can also shoot the three."
"But our bench will be deeper than anytime in my tenure here," Dillard adds. "Kire Tribble, as a sophomore who started at the center spot last year, will play major minutes. Tribble may be our best 3-point shooter. Amire Hobbs, who started at the forward spot last year as a sophomore, will play major minutes again. He's an athletic slasher who can guard four positions.
"And Ladarius Coble returns as a forward that shot 41% from three last year as a sophomore."
Above basketball, however, is family. The Bulldogs have dedicated the 2019-20 season to Dillard's wife, Gretchen (a 1990 graduate of Fulton City), who was diagnosed in early March 2019 with stage-4 colon cancer that has metastasized to her liver.
"She is continuing a chemo regiment, which consists of trips twice a month to the Vanderbilt Cancer Center in Nashville for infusions," Dillard said.
Coach: Brian O'Neill
2018-19 Record: 18-14
Key Losses: Trey Wilson, Alex Chandler
Potential Starters: Reese Anderson, Daven McGee, Blake Elder, Trace Hook, Chase Teasley/Clint Draper
Outlook: "We would like to win 20-plus games this year and win the district tournament. As far as big goals, we feel like we can compete for the All 'A' title. Murray and Mayfield both have strong teams, so it will be a challenge." - Brian O'Neill, Carlisle County
Carlisle County Boys Basketball
Dec 3 St. Mary away 7:45 PM
Dec 6 Paducah Tilghman home 7:30 PM
Dec 7 Community Christian (Paducah) home 6:00 PM
Dec 10 Marshall County away 7:15 PM
Dec 13 Hickman County away 7:45 PM
Dec 14 Lyon County at McCracken County 6:00 PM McCracken County Shootout
Dec 16 Livingston Central away 7:30 PM
Dec 17 Fulton City home 7:45 PM
Dec 20 Mayfield away 7:45 PM
Dec 27 Hart County at Russellville 1:30 PM Roy's Bar-B-Que/1st Southern National Bank Classic
Dec 27 TBA at Russellville 7:30 PM Roy's Bar-B-Que/1st Southern National Bank Classic
Dec 28 TBA at Russellville Roy's Bar-B-Que/1st Southern National Bank Classic
Jan 3 Caldwell County away 7:15 PM
Jan 7 Calloway County away 7:30 PM
Jan 10 Hickman County home 7:45 PM
Jan 11 TBA at Mayfield 1st Region All "A" Classic
Jan 24 Fulton County home 7:45 PM
Jan 28 McCracken County away 7:30 PM
Jan 30 Dongola, IL home 7:15 PM
Feb 1 Ballard Memorial away 6:30 PM
Feb 4 Fulton County away 7:45 PM
Feb 7 Fulton City away 7:45 PM
Feb 8 Community Christian (Paducah) away 6:00 PM
Feb 10 Livingston Central home 7:30 PM
Feb 14 Ballard Memorial home 7:45 PM
Feb 18 Graves County home 7:30 PM
Feb 20 Murray home 7:45 PM
Carlisle County Boys 2019-20 Roster
14 Reese Anderson G Sr.
2 Kannon Bowles SG Jr.
11 Jacob Bruer SG Sr.
30 Clint Draper F Sr.
32 Dawson Draper SG So.
00 Blake Elder F Jr.
20 Garrett Hayden G So.
10 Trace Hook G Sr.
- Isiah Keeling F So.
1 Clayton Latham SG Jr.
21 Daven McGee G Sr.
22-33 Josh Newsome F So.
15 Evan Oliver PG So.
54 Ethan Perry F Sr.
12 Logan Storey G Sr.
34 Chase Teasley F Sr.
Coach: John Dillard
2018-19 Record: 7-25
Key Losses: None
Potential Starters: Camarae Cobb, Cameron Madding, Deontae King, Brennen Walker, Devaris Scott
Outlook: "Our biggest challenge remains taking care of the basketball and limiting turnovers. Our two goals are to finish in the top two of our district and make it to the regional tournament." - John Dillard, Fulton City
Fulton City Boys Basketball
Dec 3 Community Christian (Paducah) home 7:30 PM
Dec 10 Halls, TN home 7:30 PM
Dec 14 South Fulton, TN home 7:30 PM
Dec 16 Clarksburg, TN home 7:30 PM
Dec 17 Carlisle County away 7:45 PM
Dec 27 Gibson County (Dyer), TN at Dyer, Tenn. 8:00 PM Gibson County Christmas Classic
Dec 28 Gleason, TN at Dyer, Tenn. 6:00 PM Gibson County Christmas Classic
Jan 3 Fulton County home 7:30 PM
Jan 4 Clarksburg, TN away 2:00 PM
Jan 7 Dresden, TN away 7:30 PM
Jan 10 TBA at Mayfield 12:00 PM 1st Region All "A" Classic
Jan 17 Joppa-Maple Grove (Joppa), IL home 7:30 PM
Jan 20 Community Christian (Paducah) away 4:00 PM
Jan 24 Hickman County away 7:30 PM
Jan 25 Christian Fellowship away 2:00 PM
Jan 28 South Fulton, TN away 7:30 PM
Jan 31 Hickman County home 7:30 PM
Feb 3 Halls, TN away 7:30 PM
Feb 7 Carlisle County home 7:45 PM
Feb 11 Dresden, TN home 7:30 PM
Feb 14 Fulton County away 7:30 PM
Feb 21 Christian Fellowship home 7:30 PM
Fulton City Boys 2019-20 Roster
Kabrian Burton F So.
3 Camarae Cobb G So.
20 Amire Hobbs F Jr.
11 Rajon Hollowell G Jr.
- Deontae King Sr.
- Jahiem King So.
32 Tristan Lalley G Fr.
23 Jordan Lannom C Jr.
10 Cameron Madding G Sr.
23 Jacob Madding F Fr.
21 Keandre Patton G Sr.
- Devaris Scott F Sr.
- Hunter Terrell F, G Jr.
31 Kire Tribble F Jr.
13 Brennen Walker F Sr.
Coach: Jamie Madding
2018-19 Record: 15-14
Key Losses: Camden Aldridge, George Scott, Kahari Miller
Potential Starters: Caleb Kimble, Josh Cole, Hayden Murphy, Broc Bridges, Dylan Hammond
Outlook: "We would like to improve upon our 15-14 record from last year and have more success on the front end of the schedule. We would like to finish what we didn't last season, and get another district championship (and return to regionals for our fourth-consecutive season). We want to get out of the first round of the regionals." - Jamie Madding, Fulton County
Fulton County Boys Basketball
Dec 3 Halls, TN home 7:30 PM
Dec 6 Christian Fellowship home 7:30 PM
Dec 10 Community Christian (Paducah) away 7:30 PM
Dec 13 Cairo, IL away 7:30 PM
Dec 17 Halls, TN away 7:30 PM
Dec 20 Humboldt, TN home 7:30 PM
Dec 27 Mayfield at Calloway County 10:00 AM Murray Bank Tipoff Classic
Dec 27 Calloway County away 8:00 PM Murray Bank Tipoff Classic
Dec 28 Livingston Central at Calloway County 2:00 PM Murray Bank Tipoff Classic
Jan 3 Fulton City away 7:30 PM
Jan 4 Lake County (Tiptonville), TN home 7:30 PM
Jan 7 South Fulton, TN home 7:30 PM
Jan 9 St. Mary home 7:30 PM
Jan 21 Hickman County home 7:30 PM
Jan 24 Carlisle County away 7:45 PM
Jan 27 Cairo, IL home 7:30 PM
Jan 30 Ballard Memorial away 7:30 PM
Jan 31 Community Christian (Paducah) home 7:30 PM
Feb 3 Lake County (Tiptonville), TN away 7:30 PM
Feb 4 Carlisle County home 7:45 PM
Feb 7 Hickman County away 7:30 PM
Feb 11 Mayfield away 7:30 PM
Feb 14 Fulton City home 7:30 PM
Feb 17 Mayfield home 7:30 PM
Feb 20 Ballard Memorial home 7:30 PM
Feb 21 Graves County away 7:30 PM
Fulton County Boys 2019-20 Roster
- Colton Henderson G Sr.
- Caleb Kimble G Sr.
- Hayden Murphy G/W Jr.
- Armani Yandal F Sr.
- Dylan Hammond C Jr.
- Josh Cole G Jr.
- Broc Bridges F Jr.
- Jerome Warren G/W Sr.
- Quan Warren G Soph.
- DiAvian Bradley F Soph.
- Crisshawn Gordan F Soph.
- Webbie Turner G Jr.
- KJ Couch W Jr.
- Wes Brown F Fr.
- Corey Smith II G Jr.
Coach: Wynn Harris
2018-19 Record: 9-18
Key Losses: Austin Puckett
Potential Starters: J.D. McClanahan, Dylan Hicks, Kaleb Harper, Jackson Midyett, Cameron Johnson, Sam Dodson, Tae Haynes
Outlook: "One of the things I am looking for is being able to coach a full season after having to miss a month last year with a tumor. Our main goals for this season are to have a winning record and make a trip to the regional tournament." - Wynn Harris, Hickman County
Hickman County Boys Basketball
Dec 2 Gleason, TN home 7:30 PM
Dec 6 St. Mary home 7:30 PM
Dec 13 Carlisle County home 7:45 PM
Dec 16 Community Christian (Paducah) away 7:30 PM
Dec 17 Ballard Memorial home 7:30 PM
Dec 20 Butler County away 8:30 PM Butler County Christmas Classic
Dec 21 McLean County at Butler County 11:00 AM Butler County Christmas Classic
Dec 21 Owensboro Catholic at Butler County 4:00 PM Butler County Christmas Classic
Dec 27 Dresden, TN at Dyer, Tenn. 4:00 PM Gibson County Christmas Classic
Dec 28 Halls, TN at Dyer, Tenn. 4:00 PM Gibson County Christmas Classic
Jan 3 Mayfield home 7:30 PM
Jan 7 Christian Fellowship away 7:30 PM
Jan 10 Carlisle County away 7:45 PM
Jan 17 Calloway County away 7:30 PM
Jan 21 Fulton County away 7:30 PM
Jan 24 Fulton City home 7:30 PM
Jan 27 Community Christian (Paducah) home 7:30 PM
Jan 28 Ballard Memorial away 7:30 PM
Jan 31 Fulton City away 7:30 PM
Feb 1 Livingston Central away 3:00 PM
Feb 7 Fulton County home 7:30 PM
Feb 11 Christian Fellowship home 7:30 PM
Feb 13 South Fulton, TN away 7:30 PM
Feb 14 Lake County (Tiptonville), TN away 7:30 PM
Feb 18 Livingston Central home 5:00 PM
Feb 21 Mayfield away 7:30 PM
Hickman County Boys 2019-20 Roster
5 Sam Dodson F Jr.
20 Tommy Guess PG Sr.
10 Jason Hayden G Jr.
32 Kaleb Harper C Jr.
30 Brianquion Haynes F Jr.
2 Briantavion Haynes G Sr.
4 Cameron Johnson F Jr.
22 Shajuantae Knox G Jr.
15 Jd Mcclanahan F Sr.
30 Walker McClanahan G Fr.
12 Jackson Midyett G Jr.
- Isaiah Pettit G Fr.
34 Eli Prince C Fr.
11 Dylan Hicks G Sr.
21 Garrett Ward G So.