FINDING A FOOTHOLD/Dragons continue to evolve, but can’t solve Travis Perry and flashy Lyon County, 87-74


EDDYVILLE, Kentucky — Finding a parking space was hard enough on Tuesday night at the campus of Lyon County High School.

Then Warren Central, the defending KHSAA Sweet 16 state champion, tried to find a winning formula to stay on the floor with University of Kentucky signee Travis Perry and the scoring machine known as the Lyon County Lyons.

It didn’t happen.

Lyon County put on a dazzling offensive display and kept the Dragons at bay, rolling to an 87-74 victory before an overflow crowd of about 2,500 in the Lyons’ cozy gym.

Perry, the son of Lyon County coach Ryan Perry, led his team with 37 points, and University of Tennessee-Martin signee Brady Shoulders added 20. The Lyons average just under 90 points per game and they’ve cracked the 100-point barrier three times in 14 games.

Lyon County’s girls squad opened the night with a 50-43 triumph over archrival Caldwell County, and players from both of those teams made sure to stick around for the high-profile matchup pitting Warren Central and Lyon County, two boys teams that are coming off back-to-back appearances at the Sweet 16 at Lexington’s Rupp Arena.

The Dragons were playing for the first time since December 14, when they slipped past Franklin-Simpson, 67-65, in Franklin. Some of their key players, including WKU signee Kade Unseld and Elijah Starks, a 6-foot-5 transfer from Bowling Green High School, were playing for the first time this season. The Lyons built a double-digit lead midway through the first quarter and stayed comfortably in front, improving to 13-1 overall.

Warren Central dropped to 1-6, and the Dragons will open KHSAA 14th District play on Friday night at crosstown rival Greenwood High School (9-4). Veteran WCHS coach William Unseld adjusted his schedule after his son, senior swingman Kade Unseld, underwent meniscus surgery on his knee. The Dragons have shown flashes of their brilliance from the last two seasons, but they remain a work in progress.

“We didn’t have any rhythm, we didn’t have any flow,” William Unseld said in the visitors’ locker room, nearly an hour after the Lyons finished the task at hand. “It was the first game for three of our players (Kade Unseld, Starks and Robbie Dye) … We missed a lot of layups, a lot of inside shots.

“If we can hit some early layups, some early free throws, we’re right there. We missed more free throws than we made.”

Warren Central went 7 for 18 at the line.

The Lyons excel from beyond the 3-point line, but Brady Shoulders gives them a strong inside game, too. Travis Perry set the tone for the game by scoring 13 of his team’s first 15 points, first from the 3-point line and later on a baseline drive and a put-back. The Dragons settled down and trailed by just four points, 15-11, with 3:14 left in the first quarter, but Lyon County’s offense went back to work and the Lyons led by as many as 20 points for the duration of the first half.

Elijah Starks drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing in the final moments of the first half, and the Dragons trailed 50-36 at the break. Kade Unseld opened the second half with a couple inside baskets, and WCHS point guard Cadin Hammer hit an open 3 from the left wing, allowing the Dragons to cut the deficit to 52-43.

The Lyons went on a 13-3 run from there, and Warren Central’s Drevin Bratton, the team’s scoring leader, picked up his fourth foul. The fourth quarter was little more than a formality, with the Dragons unable to mount a serious challenge.

“We let people shoot,” Warren Central coach William Unseld said. “We told our kids, ‘Don’t lose Perry (on the perimeter). Don’t lose (3-point threat Jack) Reddick (who had 16 points). We’re going to be really good, when we get going. Kade has to shoot it more. He’s got a different role with this team, but he really likes to pass the ball. He’s got to trust his (surgically repaired) leg.

“We need him to score.”

Kade Unseld said he felt good, physically, and he believes he’s finding his game, admittedly on the run.

“I’ve got to be more aggressive, and we’ve got to get back in the gym,” Kade Unseld said.

Lyon County officials stopped the game on a couple occasions to honor Lyons teammates Travis Perry and Brady Shoulders. Perry set a KHSAA career record for made free throws, with 838 for his distinguished career, while Shoulders broke the mark for 1,000 career rebounds.

“We try to emphasize defense, and turning it into offense,” Shoulders said.

“When we take the hits, we try to give ’em right back,” Perry added. “A state championship is the end goal, but it’s one game at a time. Like everyone else. We just try to take what the defense gives us.”

That’s a football expression, of course, taking what the defensive gives you. But Lyon County High School doesn’t sanction football, and Shoulders said his graduating class is about 80 students.

Elijah Starks led the Dragons with 24 points, while teammate Drevin Bratton added 20. Point guard Cadin Hammer and Kade Unseld finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively.

William Unseld is still keeping the big picture in mind, pointing out that the Dragons will be playing three games a week for some time.

“We’ll figure it out,” he said. “We’re gonna be all right.”