DRAGONS DELIVER/Bratton’s 24 points send Warren Central past Franklin-Simpson, 67-65


FRANKLIN — Nine months, nine long months, had passed since Warren Central High School’s boys basketball team had won a game.

Not just any game, mind you.

The Dragons turned back George Rogers Clark High School, 64-60, on March 18 to claim the KHSAA Sweet 16 state championship at Lexington’s Rupp Arena. A big chunk of that team has moved on, most of them to college basketball, but veteran WCHS coach William Unseld knew he had something to work with for the 2023-24 season.

It’s just that some of those players, including WKU signee Kade Unseld, wouldn’t be joining the Dragons on the floor until January. Elijah Starks, a mid-term transfer from Bowling Green High School, wouldn’t be eligible to play until then. Kade Unseld has been on the mend after meniscus knee surgery. Robbie Dye also has been sidelined, due to injury, so the Dragons have had to make do for the first two weeks of the season.

Which included four games, all of them defeats.

“As a player, you obviously don’t want to go to 0-5,” Kade Unseld said after the Dragons slipped past Franklin-Simpson, 67-65, on Thursday night on the Wildcats’ home floor. “Every game, so far, you’ve seen signs of progress.”

And there figures to be plenty more, in a hurry.

“I’m really not worried about the wins and losses until we get to district play,” WCHS coach William Unseld said. “I want these guys out there tonight to play. I want them to learn. It’s all about development. These other guys are figuring out how to win.

“We’re going to be OK.”

Warren Central’s Drevin Bratton, a 6-foot-2 senior transfer from Bowling Green, took the initiative at the offensive end of the floor on Friday, leading the Dragons with 24 points. Senior point guard Cadin Hammer, shooting more than he normally would, had 12 points and kept the Dragons on the attack. Warren Central trailed the entire first half, but the final 16 minutes was a back-and-forth affair with plenty of intrigue and lead changes.

Franklin-Simpson, which dropped to 2-3 on the season, couldn’t hit the critical basket down the stretch. The Wildcats trailed by two points and had a chance to send it into overtime or win it on a 3-point field goal, in the final seconds, but an entry pass was knocked away by Warren Central’s Dominique Anthony, preserving the hard-fought victory.

“I was just trying to get inside, help my teammates out,” Bratton said. “I was able to have my way in the paint.”

Franklin-Simpson quickly moved in front in the first half, but never by more than seven points as William Unseld’s squad forced the Wildcats to do most of their damage from the perimeter.

Bratton picked up his fourth foul with 1:28 left in the third quarter, but the 6-foot-3 WCHS senior never left the court and kept the depth-challenged Dragons in front for most of the fourth quarter. Warren Central’s Braylon Boards and Jarek Kirk both fouled out before it was over, leaving William Unseld with just six players down the stretch.

Kirk, a junior WCHS guard, had 11 points while Boards finished with 10. Bratton is averaging a team-high 20 points per game for the Dragons, but they’ve got some reinforcements looming on the horizon.

Franklin-Simpson’s O.J. Gamble, a senior forward, led his team with 19 points. Football teammates Gavin Dickerson and Mathias Dickerson, both F-S seniors, added 17 and 11 points, respectively, but the Wildcats scored only nine points in the third quarter.

“I think we could have played better, we’ve got to get better with our rebounding,” Mathias Dickerson said afterward. “We don’t have the big post down low, so we have to make it happen on offense.

“We might see (Warren Central) again in the (4th) Region (Tournament).”

Franklin-Simpson will travel to Warren East High School for the Kentucky 2A, Section Two championship game on Saturday night, with the winner to move on and play at Owensboro’s Sportscenter next week.

The Dragons, meanwhile, will take a couple days off before spending the bulk of the next two weeks in the gym. They’ll travel to play Lyon County, and star guard Travis Perry, on January 2 in Eddyville, Kentucky. Perry is averaging 29 points per game for the Lyons (4-1), and he’s considered the favorite for Kentucky’s prestigious “Mr. Basketball” award.

“We’re gonna be having a ‘boot camp,'” William Unseld said with a smile. “These games have made us better, but we’ve got some bodies coming back. We’ll be a better rebounding team. Kaden (Unseld) has been in some big games for us, and won them.

“Our kids made a lot of mistakes tonight, and we fought through it. Drevin Bratton has been a monster, all five games. When you see all these guys, together, it’s gonna look different.”