MURRAY – Marshall County and Graves County, the two teams with the best records in boys high school basketball competition in the First Region, will meet in the first round of the region tournament tonight at 6 p.m. in the CFSB Center.
The Lady Marshals will meet Carlisle County, champions of the First District, at 6 p.m. Thursday in Murray State’s Racer Arena.
The two MCHS teams are defending regional champions.
The Marshals and Eagles met last year in the region tourney’s opening round, in opposite roles as far as tournament seedings were concerned.
Marshall County came in as a prohibitive favorite and champion of the Fourth District, while Graves was runner-up to St. Mary in the Third District tournament.
But Graves did have a regular-season victory to its credit. The Marshals were duly aware of the threat and handed Graves a 59-36 defeat to end the Eagles’ season and move on, eventually, to their second straight state tournament appearance.
This year, the Marshals, 26-5, come in as a district runner-up while Graves, 23-8, is a district champ. Once again, the two teams split regular-season meetings, each winning on its home court.
Marshals coach Gus Gillespie expected the drawing Saturday morning to turn out the way it did.
“We kind of stubbed our toe Thursday night,” Gillespie said, alluding to his team’s upset loss to Calloway County in the district tourney championship game. But he was philosophical about the draw.
“If you keep moving on in this tournament, you’re going to run into Graves County,” he said.
However, he added, the two teams with the best records are just a notch above the rest of the field.
“There’s eight teams that have played well to get here,” he said. “There are even some teams that didn’t make it here that were capable of winning it.
“So you’ve got to be thankful that you’re here.”
It’s the third year in a row and fourth time in the last five years the two teams have met in the region tournament.
Marshall County won the last two meetings in the first round and Graves claimed the region championship in 2009 with a 49-45 victory.
The Lady Marshals, 23-9, are in the opposite side of the bracket from Fourth District champion Murray (27-5).
They scored an easy 59-19 win over Carlisle County in December and come into regional play with a 13-14 record.
But Lady Marshals coach Joseph Simmons is looking at Thursday’s match as “a game between two really good teams.”
Murray and Paducah Tilghman are at the top of the heap, Murray with the best record but Tilghman with a 67-45 victory to its credit in the only regular-season meeting between the two teams.
Tilghman defeated Marshall County in home and home games, by margins of 10 and 12 points.
“You can’t take any team for granted,” Simmons said.