LEXINGTON – When Dre Boyd is playing at a high level, so is Warren Central.
Boyd was most certainly doing that on Thursday night – and an 18-point, 10-rebound performance helped lead the Dragons to a 73-55 win over Mayfield in the opening round of the 2019 Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena.
While Boyd made nine of his 16 shots, two were acrobatic dunks that brought the Dragons’ cheering section and bench to its feet.
“Coach was telling me I was kind of being a little bit too unselfish and if I had the shots right there by the rim then take ’em,” Boyd said. “That’s what I was doing. I was right there for open shots and my teammates were giving me the ball and made it easy.”
Warren Central (21-11) led 16-9 after the opening quarter and took a 30-26 advantage into the locker room at halftime. Mayfield battled throughout the third and cut its deficit to 49-43 entering the fourth, but a dominant final quarter from the Dragons – which included three 3-pointers from Tre Pillow – brought them out on top.
“Great game by our kids,” Warren Central coach William Unseld said. “We made shots tonight, we rebounded well and, for the most part, we guarded. In long stretches, we did a good job defensively. We moved the ball on offense. Dre had a big first half, Tre (Pillow) had a big second half, Tayshaun (Bibb) had a big second half, so it was different guys at different moments.
“That’s what makes us pretty good when you have different guys step up and lead us for stretches.”
While Boyd led the way, Bibb finished with 15 points and Pillow scored 13 to give WCHS three different players in double figures. Tegra Muleka added 9 points and Kamden Lawrence tallied seven to round out the Dragons’ stat sheet.
Warren Central will now meet Madisonville-North Hopkins (30-5) in Friday’s 7 p.m. CST quarterfinal.
Warren Central started hot and jumped out to a 6-2 lead at the 6:05 mark of the first quarter as Boyd had already scored four points. Lawrence’s 3-pointer pushed the Dragons’ advantage to 12-4, but Mayfield got within 14-9 at the 1:55 mark.
A basket from Pllow with 1:17 left in the quarter put Central up 16-9 after one.
The Dragons scored the first point of the second on a free throw from Bibb, but Mayfield assembled a momentum-swinging 11-0 run to take a 20-17 lead – its first of the game – at the 4:31 mark.
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Warren Central answered with a 7-0 run to go back up 24-20, and it later led 28-24 after back-to-back buckets from Muleka. Carson Guthrie scored with 34.2 seconds left in the half to get within two, but Pillow scored the last points on a layup to give the Dragons a 30-26 lead at the break.
“Throughout the season — and even in the tournament — we’ve had different guys step up and lead us on different nights,” Unseld said. “Kobe Brents is our leading scorer — we win the game by double figures and he has six points tonight. We always have different guys that can step up and be really special for us.”
WCHS shot 12-of-33 (36 percent) in the first half, while Mayfield went 11-for-24. Lawrence and Muleka were each up to 7 points for the Dragons, and Boyd had tallied 4 points and 7 rebounds.
Boyd opened the second half with scores on two straight possessions and quickly recorded another bucket to put Warren Central up 36-28 at the 5:40 mark of the third quarter. Another basket from Boyd made it 40-34 Dragons, but Mayfield soon got within 44-41 at the 1:52 mark.
Kade Neely’s free throw cut the Cardinals’ deficit to just two at 44-42, but Kobe Brents fired back with a 3 on the opposite end to give the Dragons a 47-42 lead – and they were soon up 49-43 entering the fourth.
Back-to-back 3s from Pillow to open the final quarter pushed Warren Central’s lead to 55-43 with 6:32 remaining. Pillow’s third deep ball of the period – followed by a bucket from Boyd – extended the Dragons’ advantage to 62-47 and sealed it.
“Before the game, we just tried to tell everybody to just relax and enjoy the moment,” Bibb said of his team’s composure. “We’re in the moment now. We just wanted to come out and play hard and just guard and defend. If we do that, we have a good chance to win pretty much any game. We were just relaxed and won.”