Boys’ Sweet 16: Dragons set for opening round matchup with Mayfield

LEXINGTON – It’s not about what you do in the beginning, but in the end.

That’s been the motto for the Warren Central boys’ basketball team in 2018-19.

The Dragons – as many teams tend to encounter – had their fair share of struggles throughout the regular season but stepped up their play in the latter part of the season and have been a consistent basketball team down the stretch.

Because of that consistency, WCHS on Sunday was able to capture its second straight Region 4 championship and earn a spot in this week’s Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena. The Dragons (20-11) will face Region 1 champion Mayfield (25-7) at 7 p.m. CT Thursday in the opening round.

“It’s a special accomplishment for this group,” Warren Central coach William Unseld said. “Especially with some of the struggles we had during the season.”

Central – which lost three consecutive games from Jan. 7-15 and dropped a 57-49 decision to Bowling Green in the District 14 final – has won four of its last five games, including a 56-52 win over BGHS in the regional final, and likes where it stands entering Thursday’s state matchup.

“We have to play defense like we have been, and also move the ball and make shots,” Unseld said. “We have a tough road ahead of us, but this is what it’s all about.”

That tough road Unseld speaks of will begin with a Mayfield team that upset favorite McCracken County in Sunday’s Region 1 title game.

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The Cardinals – who enter Thursday’s contest riding a nine-game win streak – are playing in their first state tournament since 1992. Mayfield is an offensive-powered team that averages 70.5 points per game and shoots 53.5 percent from the field.

Senior guard Connor Guthrie leads the Cardinals with 16.1 points per game and shoots 55.6 percent, while senior guard Carson Guthrie is right behind his brother with 13.3 points on 56% shooting. Senior forward Desean Jones averages 12.8 points to round out Mayfield’s explosive offense.

“Mayfield is a talented, senior-laden team that is physical and likes to run,” said Unseld. “We have to fight them on the glass and limit our turnovers. We have to really get back in transition defense and limit their transition points.

Should Warren Central defeat Mayfield in the opening round, it’ll advance to Friday’s quarterfinals for a meeting with the Lincoln County/Madisonville-North Hopkins winner at 7 p.m.

Along with Mayfield, Lincoln County and Madisonville-North Hopkins, the Dragons’ side of the bracket also features defending Sweet 16 champion Covington Catholic, last year’s runner-up in Scott County, Butler and Perry County Central.

“It’s a monster,” Unseld said of the Dragons’ half of the bracket. “A bunch of really talented basketball teams. Have to be at your best each night to survive.”

Tyler Mansfield@TylerMansfield

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