LOUISVILLE, Ky. — South Laurel’s Walt Allen was able to sneak up on opponents last year. As a junior, he didn’t even make honorable mention on The Associated Press’ all-state team, but led his team to the state championship and was named most valuable player of the Sweet 16.

Graves County’s Eagles were ready for Allen and his team this year, bouncing the 13th Region champion Cardinals (28-5) out of the tournament in the quarterfinals, 46-45.

Allen, a 6-foot-4-inch forward, still did enough this season be named AP’s player of the year Mondayby a panel of 19 sports writers and broadcasters.

Allen averaged 15.6 points and eight rebounds per game, but Graves County held him to six and five.

Besides Allen, also named to the AP first team were 6-8 center Vincent Crutcher of Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park, 6-3 guard Aaron Dunaway of Lexington Henry Clay, 5-11 guard Joshua Mack of Hopkinsville’s University Heights Academy, 6-5 forward Steffon Pettigrew and Shelby County’s, A.J. Slaughter, a 6-3 guard.

Six players were named to the first team because of a tie in voting.

Cardinals coach Steve Wright has known Allen since he was three, and their influence on each other is bigger than basketball.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been around anybody that’s had a more positive impact on my life,” Cardinals coach Steve Wright said of Allen after their season-ending loss. “He’ll be one of my best friends in life.”

Allen has signed to play for Division II Presbyterian College in South Carolina next season.

Slaughter led Shelby County with 18 points per game, shot 50 percent from the field, and 76 percent from the free-throw line. Slaughter, whose Rockets lost to eventual champion Jeffersontown in the quarterfinals of the Sweet 16, has signed to play for Western Kentucky next season.

Crutcher, of PRP, is the only other first-team player whose team made it to the Sweet 16. He averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for the 6th Region champs.

The coach of the year comes from traditional football power Boyle County. Ronnie Bottoms and the Rebels (22-10) took a while to get on track, losing nine of their first 13 games.

“There were a lot of things that started out tough,” Bottoms said. “Even when we were playing that tough schedule, the kids were playing hard and doing some good things and we knew that when we got all the pieces together, we were going to be a nice team.”

After losing to Lexington Catholic on Jan. 14, the Rebels won 17 in a row, including the 12th Region championship, beating Pulaski Southwestern, 67-51.

Two years ago, nobody even wanted the job of coaching basketball at a football school, Bottoms said.

“We’re a football and a basketball school now,” he said. “The foundation’s there. We’re gonna be pretty good for a while.”

Boyle was eliminated in the first round of the Sweet 16 by PRP, 67-43.

Allen teammate Ty Proffit, a 6-4 guard, was named to the second team. Scott County, which did not make the Sweet 16 tournament, placed two guards on the second team: 6-3 Rodney Haddix and 6-4 Matt Walls. Also named to the second team were 6-6 forward Daniel Ard of Marshall County and 6-0 guard Stuart Miller of Middlesboro.

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