Warren Central 4th Region Champions/State Preview
Warren Central Dragons
Coach: William Unseld
State Championships: 1 (2004)
After watching the Purples run off four region titles in a row prior to last season, the Dragons seemed to have doubts as to when they’d ever return. Now, they’re suddenly looking at back to back titles and are back to a nice round five of ten titles in the region. In fact, overall Warren Central is making their 11th trip to Rupp Arena in the last 18 seasons. No program in the state can match that during that time.
There are a lot of similarities to the postseason so far for Warren Central when comparing to last season’s run. They fell in a close game in the district title game to Bowling Green, just like last year. They opened region with Glasgow and had to sweat out a tough contest, just like last year. They had a blowout semifinal, and faced a double digit deficit to Bowling Green in the final, just like last year. And while they had to survive a deep three point attempt with less than 9 seconds remaining to hold on against Bowling Green, they once again took the contest that mattered to get back to Rupp. The record is not nearly as pretty as a year ago, as the Dragons had to win the region just to get to 20 wins. They enter the tournament with a 66 PPG average while allowing just a hair under 56 PPG. The 10 PPG average margin is pretty solid for a team that lost over 10 games. That owes to the fact that Central lost four games this year by exactly two points, and they are just 5-9 in games decided by single digits, though they did win three of four by single digit margins in the postseason.
While the program is making their second consecutive trip, the majority of the team is not. Jamale Barber and Tayshaun Bibb both started for last year’s team and saw significant minutes. Five other players were on last year’s roster, and they combined for 27 minutes of floor time in Central’s three games. So while they have experience, it is not an overwhelming amount, and it will bear monitoring to see how players like Kobe Brents and Dre Boyd adjust to the crowd and depth of the arena. Central is not quite as sharp from the field as they were a year ago, hitting 45% of their shots. They shoot 35% from three – an improvement from a year ago – and they attempt nearly 40% of their shots from the perimeter. As you might expect, when they are on from three, they can bury teams. In their best out of region wins this season, at Taylor County, vs. Collins, and at Wayne County, they were a combined 30/60 from three. Even in their loss against LaRue County they were above average at 9/24 (38%). They will likely be attempting a high volume of threes at state, so they will need to be on to have a good chance.
There are worse draws Central could have gotten, that much is certain, but they by no means got a friendly one. They open with 25-7 Mayfield, winners of nine in a row and 16 of 17. Their lone loss came to Lexington Christian in the All A State Tournament. The All A afforded them the privilege of competing in a high level tournament already, something Warren Central missed out on when they fell in the 2A sectional. The Cardinals have a roster comprised almost exclusively of upperclassmen, nine of which are seniors. While they have not been to the state tournament since 1992, the veteran presence should help them with the Rupp Arena jitters. If Central were to pull the upset there, they will likely meet Madisonville-North Hopkins out of the 2nd Region. The Maroons are favorites in their first matchup with Lincoln County, and if they were to meet in the quarters, Madisonville would be on a 23 game winning streak and newly minted with 30 wins in total. Madisonville just became the first team in 18 years to win the 2nd Region from a district other than the 8th, and they did so by taking down highly touted University Heights with KyKy Tandy. They too have no recent Rupp Arena experience, but beating a team of that caliber alone should speak to their sky high potential. The Maroons have four players averaging in double digits, and pound the ball inside, hitting nearly 50% from the field. Both of those games are winnable, but Central will not be the pick of many spectators to win. Should they survive those, expect the run to come to an end in the Final Four, just like last year, against Scott County, just like last year – with CovCath a potential opponent as well.
Players to Watch
Dre Boyd – The player of the game in the 4th Region championship, Boyd nearly posted a triple double against Bowling Green, with 16 points, 13 boards, and 7 assists. That’s the type of game that Central is looking for from Boyd, and they will need it against Mayfield. He is by far their best player in penetrating into the paint, with a strong spin move and some post ability with his athleticism. Boyd really likes the midrange jumper, and at times has shown great consistency with it. At others, it’s a wasted shot – he’s the team’s leading rebounder and any shot he misses from the outside has a much greater potential to end the possession. Boyd has had struggles at the foul line at times, but is back up to 68% on the year.
Kobe Brents – Brents is the three point leader for at eam that shoots a lot of them. He is 105/286 (37%) from the perimeter on the year. His tendency to stay outside has negated one of his best abilities, his free throw shooting. He is an 83% free throw shooter, something that doesn’t come along much at Warren Central. Brents has shown a better ability as the season progressed to create his own shot and drive a bit more to the rim, but make no mistake, the perimeter game is where he will make his impact. With 14.8 PPG, he is the leading scorer for the Dragons. He has not scored less than 11 points in the last eight games, averaging just over 17 PPG in that span.
Tayshaun Bibb – Bibb is the glue guy, the anchor from last year. One of just two returning starters, it’s the games where Bibb has carried more of the scoring load that the Dragons have looked truly dangerous. Bibb is very athletic, and utilizes solid post moves to overcome a stature that is not typical of a guy who plays down low. He is a good ball-handler, and he leads the team in field goal percentage, shooting 57% from the floor. That’s almost directly correlated to the fact that he has not attempted a single three pointer. He has a solid midrange shot, particularly from around 10-12 feet on the baseline. His career high 24 points against Logan County in the region semifinals fueled the highest postseason score for the Dragons in four years, and their third highest ever.
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