Dragons fall to Scott County in Sweet 16 semifinals

LEXINGTON – Warren Central’s postseason run came to an end Saturday night in a manner similar to which it concluded a season ago.

The Dragons – taking on Scott County, the state’s top ranked team – in the semifinals of the 2019 Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen Tournament for the second straight year, WCHS couldn’t match Scott’s size, strength and athleticism and suffered a 70-52 loss at Rupp Arena.

The defeat resulted in Warren Central’s 2018-19 campaign ending with an overall record of 22-12 and back-to-back trips to the state semifinals.

“I couldn’t be prouder of a group of kids,” Warren Central coach William Unseld said. “We fought as much as we could fight. That’s a heck of a basketball team. Give ‘em credit – you talk about one of the best teams – if not the best team – in the state of Kentucky and we hung in there.

“I’m not disappointed. I’m proud of these kids. They fought like crazy for me, and that’s all I can ask for from ‘em.”

The Dragons, who suffered a 75-46 loss to Scott County (35-3) in last year’s semifinal meeting, trailed 17-12 after the opening quarter and were outscored 20-8 in the second to be down 37-20 at halftime.

Warren Central didn’t give up, but the tournament-favorite Cardinals continued to play at a high level throughout the second half and never allowed the Dragons to get back into it.

“I couldn’t ask for a better group to end this season with,” Unseld said. “Excited about what the future holds for our program. I couldn’t be more prouder of a group.”

Dre Boyd led the way for WCHS with 13 points and six rebounds, while Kobe Brents finished with 9 points and 5 boards and Antonio Barbee added 9 points of his own. The Dragons shot 22-of-50 (44) percent from the field, committed 15 turnovers and were outrebounded 12-6 on the offensive end.

Michael Moreno recorded a game-high 25 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead Scott County back to the Sweet 16 championship game for the second straight year. The Cardinals will meet Trinity at 1 p.m. CST Sunday for the state title.

Scott County started hot and jumped out to an 8-2 lead at the 5:33 mark of the first quarter. Boyd scored on back-to-back possessions to bring Warren Central within 8-6, but the Cardinals scored seven quick points to go up 15-6 and later led 17-12 after one.

The Cardinals completely took over in the ensuing quarter, outscoring the Dragons 20-8 to build a near-20-point advantage. Scott County led 29-16 at the 4:52 mark of the second before quickly extending its advantage to 33-16 just over a minute later.

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Moreno scored on two straight trips to end the half with the Cardinals up 37-20.

“I told Moreno this – and I’ll say this … he’s my favorite player in the senior class,” said Unseld. “I’m not saying he’s the most talented, but he is my favorite player in the senior class in the state of Kentucky. He just goes to work, doesn’t say a word, a positive guy and he’s an unbelievable kid.”

Warren Central scored the first five points of the third quarter – highlighted by a Jamale Barber 3-pointer – to get within 37-25, but Scott County fired back with an 8-0 run in 51 seconds to go up 20 at 45-25 at the 5:14 mark.

Taking advantage of their 20-point lead, the Cardinals were able to maintain a double-digit advantage throughout the remainder of the contest and earned a big win to end Warren Central’s season.

Boyd and Tayshaun Bibb were both named to the All-Tournament Team.

“Just to end it here, this last Saturday of the high school season, we’ve just gotta be proud of that and accept that,” Bibb said. “A lot of people didn’t expect us to make it out of districts and here we are in the Final Four back-to-back years. We’ve just gotta accept it and be proud of it.”

WCHS –   12       8       13        19        —          52

SCHS –     17      20      16        17        —          70

WCHS – Boyd 13, Barbee 9, Brents 9, Barber 7, Bibb 5, Muleka 4, Pillow 3, Horn 2.

SCHS – Moreno 25, Covington 16, Stewart 15, Long 4, Williams 4, Harris 3, Fluker 2, Hamilton 1.

Tyler Mansfield@ByMansfield

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