Back-to-back: Dragons beat Purples for second straight Region 4 title

Warren Central is headed back to Lexington.

For the second straight season and the 11th time in the past 18 years, the Dragons have captured the Boys’ Region 4 Tournament championship after earning a hard-fought 56-52 win over longtime rival Bowling Green on Saturday night at E.A. Diddle Arena.

“It’s special … cause a couple years ago everybody thought this program was done,” Warren Central coach William Unseld said. “Credit to the kids – Tayshaun Bibb, Jamale Barber, Skyelar Potter last year and Jordan Cousin – those guys could’ve went anywhere else. They stayed home and fought and kept us where we are. It’s all them. They kept fighting and kept this program where it was meaningful.”

The Dragons (20-11) – who defeated Bowling Green 65-53 in last season’s regional final – went back-and-forth with the Purples from start to finish but used a defensive-powered second quarter and made clutch plays down the stretch to come out on top.

Warren Central trailed 19-12 after the opening quarter but outscored Bowling Green 13-6 in the second to tie the game at 25-25 at halftime. The Dragons took a tight 42-40 lead into the fourth period and were able to make late free throws and big defensive stops in the final minutes to hold off the Purples (26-6).

“I think we started playing our best basketball at the right time,” Warren Central senior guard Tayshaun Bibb said. “Once we got here, we all just locked in and did what it took – and that’s what me and my teammates did – but we’ve gotta give credit to the coaching staff. We wouldn’t have been anywhere close to here if it wasn’t for them.”

Dre Boyd – a junior forward – led the way for WCHS with 16 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, while junior guard Kobe Brents made 3 3-pointers and finished with 12 points. In addition to that duo, Bibb scored 10 points, and Tre Pillow added 7.

“It feels great, man,” Boyd said of winning the championship. “Coach has been telling us it was gonna feel like this, but I didn’t think it was gonna feel like it does. Man … this is great.”

The Dragons shot 22-of-51 (43.1 percent) from the field and 5-of-13 (38.5 percent) from 3-point territory. Defensively, Warren Central forced BGHS into 14 turnovers and turned those takeaways into 15 points on the opposite end of the court.

With Warren Central’s win, it now advances to the 2019 Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys Sweet Sixteen State Basketball Tournament, which begins March 6 at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

The Dragons will meet the Region 1 winner – either McCracken County or Mayfield – in the final opening round contest on Thursday, March 7 at 7 p.m. CT.

“I’m just proud of my teammates,” Bibb said. “Everybody just stepped in and we did it. We’re going back to Rupp.”

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Bowling Green built a 25-16 lead – its largest of the night – at the 4:54 mark of the second quarter, but Warren Central put together a 9-0 run to even the scoreboard at 25-all at the break.

A quick basket from Boyd to open the third pushed that run to 11-0 and put the Dragons in front at 27-25, helping them inherit much momentum.

“Kids kept fighting, man,” Unseld said. “I told ‘em, ‘Y’all gonna go win it – not me. Y’all gonna go win it.”

Things remained competitive down the stretch, but a 5-0 spurt by Warren Central gave it a 51-46 advantage with 2:03 remaining. Kolbe Gray knocked down a big 3-pointer to bring Bowling Green within 53-52 with 15.9 seconds left, but the Dragons made free throws to hold off the Purples.

Gray – a senior guard – finished with 21 points to lead BGHS, while sophomore guard Isaiah Mason and freshman guard Turner Buttry each scored 10.

“It was a great game,” Bowling Green coach Derrick Clubb said. “Anytime Bowling Green and Central play it’s always gonna be a good game. Hats off to them and congratulations to ‘em. They played a great game. They did everything you needed to do to win the basketball game.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. Just kept fighting and kept battling. Gave ourselves a chance to win all the way up to the final horn.”

WCHS –     12      13     17      14         —          56

BGHS –      19       6       15      12         —          52

WC – Boyd 16, Brents 12, Bibb 10, Pillow 7, Barber 3, Floyd 2, Lawrence 2, Horn 2, Muleka 2.

BG – Gray 21, Buttry 10, Mason 10, Dingle 4, Cooper 2, Huddleston 2, Wardlow 2, Drobocky 1.

Tyler Mansfield@TylerMansfield

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