BluegrassPreps.com Warren Central State Tournament Preview
Warren Central Dragons
Coach: William Unseld
State Championships: 1 (2004)
When Warren Central last appeared in the Sweet 16 in 2013, it was their ninth trip to the state tournament in 12 years. They had seen a stretch of six straight titles (including a state title), two years off, then three titles in four years during that span. The Dragons were extremely used to appearing in the state tournament. Given their three titles in four years and favorite status for 2014, I had called that "The Second Dragon Dynasty". Little did we know at the time that Central was at the end of their run and Bowling Green was going to begin their own dynasty with five titles in six years and a state title to boot. So when this year's edition finally completed their climb back to the top of the region, it very much had the feeling of The Rock announcing "FINALLY". Finally, the Dragons have come back to Rupp.
Central enters the state tournament on a three game winning streak thanks to a loss in the district finals to Bowling Green, and at 29-5 they have their most wins ever entering the Sweet 16. Those 29 wins represent a high for the program since their record high of 30 in 2004/05 and 2006/07. They have their best offensive output in five years at 68.47 PPG, their best defensive output in three years allowing only 55.53 PPG (which is the fifth best mark in school history), and also their second best average margin of victory for a season since the end of their six region title run. It's been a resurgent year by any measure.
It will be interesting how Central adjusts to the environment at Rupp. You have to go back a long time to find a Dragon team with no experience there, and while they have already adjusted to the depth in a college arena at Diddle, it can be tough to know how well they'll shoot in front of the crowd and with the depth at Rupp. Central averages 48% from the field as a team, including 33% from the three point line, where they shoot just a hair under 34% of their shots. in the last month, they are averaging quite a bit more three point attempts than they had for the entire season. They've shot well, hitting on 37% of their threes in the last four games, which includes an absolutely putrid 5/30 performance in a sloppy region semifinal win. Minus that game, they're hitting almost 50% recently. They really fall in love with the three, and if they're on, they are very, very dangerous. If they're off, they are very beatable. They hit less than 30% in four of their five losses.
The Dragons initially appeared to be facing a not overwhelming, but not extremely easy draw, with the Region 12 representative on tap. Favorites out of that region were Mercer County and Pulaski County, both 20+ win teams. Mercer County only lost a single game in region play and were led by leading Mr. Basketball candidate Trevon Faulkner. Unfortunately for them, their only region loss came at the hands of Southwestern, who enters at 18-14. Before this three game winning streak from the region tournament, the Warriors had fallen in five of six games, including twice to the Pulaski County team they upset in the region semifinals. The Warriors won the region fair and square, taking out both favorites, meaning they have to be taken seriously, but no one will argue that the Dragons didn't get a more favorable result than expected. Advance past that, and dangerous John Hardin likely awaits in the quarterfinals. Central and John Hardin have not met this season, but the Dragons did manage an upset 71-61 win over the Bulldogs a season ago, in the midst of a much more miserable season. It's a game Warren Central would not be favored in, but winnable. The Bulldogs have a depth weakness similar to Warren Central, which will help their odds in that game. The state semifinals are almost certainly the nth degree for the Dragons, thanks to the titans of Scott County and Trinity in the top half, but the Final Four is a possibility.
Players to Watch
Skyelar Potter - The senior was the 4th Region player of the year,and is the fifth leading scorer in the history of Warren Central. He leads the team with 23 PPG, hitting 62% from inside the three point line, and a team best (for those over 10 attempts) 39% from behind. Skyelar is the swiss army knife for the Dragons. He is by far their leading rebounder (11.1 RPG), leads the team in steals, is their most effective rim attacker and defender, basically just about anything they need. His struggles at the free throw line are probably his greatest weakness, hitting just 66% for the year, and really struggling in the postseason. But he is absolutely worth the price of admission to see play.
Jordan Cousin - While Skyelar is the most consistent player for the Dragons, they reach peak difficulty to beat when Cousin is on. Averaging 15.3 PPG, he was best this year against Bowling Green in the postseason. In two games that Central absolutely needed him, he combined for 72 points on 29/46 shooting, including 11/18 from three. His 48 points against Bowling Green in the district title game is a school record for most in a single game. Cousin is a player with a killer instinct. He wants to be the guy who finishes the opponent. He's the guy most likely to try to tomahawk jam on a player to break their will. Jordan is very long, which can get him into trouble when bringing the ball up, but also gives him a great advantage on the defensive end. He loves the three a bit too much, but if he's hitting it, you're dead. By far his best shot is the midrange from about 18 feet.
Micale Mee - The last of the double digit scorers, Mee came into his own this year, averaging 10.1 PPG. Mee is a streaky shooter, and shot exactly half his attempts from the three point line, where he averages 34%. His greatest asset for Central is on the defensive end. He is second on the team in steals with 60, leads the team with 19 blocks, and is easily their best on-ball defender. Much like his father Darnell (who played for WKU), he's very lanky, and appears to be one of the "lucky" elite who couldn't put on weight if they tried. He's quick and agile, and has great length.