Dragons foil Male/Glover, Warren Central stun Bulldogs in OT, advance to Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals


LEXINGTON — Omari Glover and the Warren Central High School boys basketball team have one thing figured out.

The shortest distance between yourself and the basket is usually straight ahead.

And that’s where the Dragons are headed, after their dramatic upset of second-ranked Louisville Male, a 57-54 overtime victory on Thursday morning that sends Warren Central to the KHSAA Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals on Friday night at famed Rupp Arena.

The Dragons will tangle with Murray High School in the final quarterfinal game of the day, scheduled to begin at about 7:30 p.m. CDT. Murray slipped past Henry Clay 57-54 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Male was considered one of the favorites in this tournament beforehand, and the Bulldogs hit their first six shots from the field in building a 17-6 lead in the first quarter. From there, Warren Central turned in a lockdown defensive performance, coming up with critical loose balls and rebounds to prevail in overtime.

Warren Central improved to 27-3 while Male finishes its season 28-6.

“We knew we had a chance,” Warren Central coach William Unseld said afterward. “We were very confident we’d have a chance to win at the end.”

Male tied the score at 49 in the final moments of regulation, when star forward Kaleb Glenn turned behind-the-back pass on the baseline into an easy field goal for the Bulldogs’ Demetrius White. Warren Central turned it over before the Dragons could get a shot at a buzzer beater, and the game went to overtime.

At which point the Dragons’ mental and physical toughness seemed to be the difference.

“Our kids are unbelievable,” Unseld said. “They fight, they compete … Our kids are very talented. We only play one senior (Jaiden Lawrence) … This wasn’t our best basketball. No, sir. I’d say it was probably about a C-plus …”

It was Omari Glover’s place to shine.

The 6-foot-3 guard/forward fearlessly took the ball to the rack, time and again, while leading the Dragons with 20 points and nine rebounds. Glover hit 9 of 11 shots from the field, and Warren Central had a big edge near the basket, scoring 46 points in the paint compared to the Bulldogs’ 24.

“I knew we had to move the ball around, offensively,” Glover said softly in the postgame press conference. “We didn’t want to take bad shots.”

It was a breakthrough game for the KHSAA’s 4th Region, which defeated an opponent from the 7th Region, based in Louisville, for the first time since 1985.

“Defensively, we played pretty well,” Male coach Tim Haworth said. “Offensively, we didn’t do a very good job … If we make a couple of plays down the stretch, we win this game.

“Offensively, we got a lot of good looks that didn’t fall.”

The Dragons were active defending the perimeter and picked their spots in running the fast break. Junior forward Chappelle Whitney scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds, all on the offensive end of the floor, before fouling out in the final minute of regulation.

Whitney hit a soft jumper near the basket on Jaiden Lawrence’s deft inside pass along the baseline to give Warren Central its biggest lead of the game, 48-44, with 1:10 left in regulation.

Sophomore forward Kade Unseld, the son of the Dragons’ head coach, scored the final two points in overtime, hitting back-to-back free throws with 11.6 seconds left to make it 57-54.

“I tell people all the time, (Kade Unseld) is very confident,” William Unseld said with a wide grin at the podium. “After missing that one free throw (in the final 20 seconds of regulation), Kade stepped up and hit those two in overtime.”

The Dragons’ defensive strategy was to keep the 6-foot-7 Kaleb Glenn from dominating near the basket, often double- or even triple-teaming him on the baseline, while forcing the ball back to the perimeter.

Male hit 6 of 17 shots from 3-point range, compared to Warren Central’s 1-for-9 showing behind the arc.

Male’s Dezdrick Lindsey turned in a brilliant effort, never leaving the floor while scoring a game-high 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Kaleb Glenn, a junior, finished the game with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Male teammate Jayden Johnson added 10 points.

Trailing 57-54, Male got the ball past mid-court before calling their final timeout with 8.2. seconds left in overtime.

Needing a 3-point field goal to force a second overtime, however, Male settled for Demetrius White’s drive to the basket that fell off the rim and onto the Rupp floor, meaning the Dragons would live to fight another day.

On Friday night.

Against the winner of the George Rogers Clark-Murray game to unfold in the Thursday night session at Rupp.

“We didn’t need a 2, we needed a 3 there,” Haworth said. “I’m not really sure what happened there … Any time you end your season at Rupp Arena, it’s a great year.

“We knew Warren Central would be kind of a toss-up game. This side of the bracket is kind of loaded.”

WIth one less top-flight contender, the Male High School Bulldogs.

Warren Central’s William Unseld cautioned the media members from Louisville and Lexington that high school basketball played in South Central Kentucky and in the Jackson Purchase area, along the Ohio River in the far corner of southwestern Kentucky, shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“You’ve got Bowling Green (a KHSAA Sweet Sixteen quarterfinalist last year), Greenwood, McCracken County … I think people will start taking notice now,” Unseld said.

Warren Central, Bowling Green and Greenwood all finished in the Associated Press’ final Top 10 poll after the regular season.

“We were very confident in ourselves,” Unseld said with a bemused grin. “We weren’t 26 and 3 for nothing. It told the kids, ‘Let’s just show everybody that hasn’t seen us, how good we really are.”

Consider it done.