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BAKER JR., HAY, BOLEY

When the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament matchups are unveiled Sunday and Monday, three former local stars will be paying close attention.

James Baker Jr. and Whitney Hay will be playing in the tournaments after they helped their schools to Ohio Valley Conference tournament titles last weekend and an automatic bid to the tournament.

Oregon senior Erin Boley will wait and see if the Ducks earned an at-large bid into the field.

Baker, a 6-foot-6 senior forward and a 2017 graduate of Meade County High School, is a starter at Morehead State. The Eagles beat Belmont, 86-71 in the OVC final to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 when they upset Louisville in the first round.

He’s averaging 7.9 points and 4.4 rebounds a game. He has started 26 of MSU’s 30 games this season and has 25 blocked shots on the year, including three in the tournament final.

He has made 79 career starts.

Hay, a 6-foot freshman forward and 2020 grad of Elizabethtown High School, plays at Belmont in Nashville. The Bruins beat top-seeded Tennessee-Martin in their OVC title game.

She has seen action in 19 games this season and is averaging 6.2 points and 2.9 rebounds a game.

Boley, a 2016 EHS graduate, is an NCAA Tournament veteran with the Ducks primed for another bid this season. She’s averaging 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds a game.

All three players have seen plenty of success at the high school level and played in state tournaments.

That success has carried on to a higher level, where new successes and memories have been created.

STATE TOURNAMENT PAIRINGS. Basketball teams around the state learned Wednesday what region opponent they will face if their teams are able to capture region titles.

The girls’ 5th Region will face the 6th Region in a rematch of last year’s state tournament pairings at 2 p.m. April 8 at Rupp Arena.

Undefeated and top-ranked Elizabethtown leads the region this year with Bethlehem, Bardstown and Central Hardin as strong contenders. Bullitt East is a frontrunner to win the 6th Region title.

E’town lost to Bullitt East in last year’s state tournament opener.

On the boys’ side, the 5th Region with E’town, John Hardin and Bardstown leading the way, will meet the 14th Region champion at 11 a.m. March 31 at Rupp Arena.

Hazard is among the top teams in the 14th Region.

DIAMOND DEALINGS. Several former area high school players are in the midst of their college baseball seasons.

Jack Wilson is at Western Kentucky as a redshirt senior and is off to a slow start after two strong seasons at WKU, where he hit at least .307 each season.

Wilson, an EHS grad, was hitting .167 through 11 games so far this season for the Hilltoppers.

Another EHS grad, Hunter Sullivan, is a redshirt junior at Middle Tennessee and has made three starts. Sullivan who hits and pitches for the Blue Raiders didn’t have an appearance on the mound through Monday.

Central Hardin grad Justin Rouse has started five games and appeared in six overall for Bellarmine and was hitting .273. The Knights are in their first season as part of the Atlantic Sun Conference.

CHHS graduate Blake Wheeler also pitches for Bellarmine. He has appeared in three games and has struck out three of the 11 batters he has faced.

While not D-I, CHHS grad Xavier Arnette is off to a strong start at NAIA Reinhardt in Waleska, Georgia. Through 19 games, Arnette, a junior, had seen action in 16 games and was batting .289 with two home runs, including a grand slam.

Jeff D’Alessio can be reached at 270-505-1404 or jdalessio@thenewsenterprise.com.

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