Few people gave McCracken County much of a chance against Wayne County.
After all, Wayne County came into the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys' Sweet Sixteen rated No. 4 and sporting a 31-1 record.
McCracken County, rated last in the 16-team field, not only pulled off an 81-74 first-round upset Thursday, the Mustangs led wire to wire.
"We knew we had a tough game; 31-1, they're pretty good," said Burlin Brower, coach of the first-year school. "I just had a really good feeling, especially the last three or four days the way we practiced. The kids take such a business-like approach to practice, and I could tell ... they weren't just happy to be here."
Jared Burnett led the Mustangs (25-8) with 23 points. Caleb Stonecipher had 20 points, Kam Chumbler added 19 and Jason Armstrong had 11. Bryce Rodgers collected 10 of McCracken's 41 rebounds and added five points.
"I don't know where to start," Wayne County Coach Rodney Woods said. "About as disappointing as any game we've ever had on our coaching staff — we've got some guys that have been here for 28 years. Everything that could go wrong went wrong.
"First of all those guys, they just kicked us every way they could kick us. They played well. They did everything good that you need to do and we did everything bad."
Especially at the free-throw line.
"I really thought we made them do some things that they're not as good at sometimes," Brower said. "So we wanted to really force that action to them. But the main thing was we wanted to get the ball down low to try to get them in foul trouble."
Three Wayne starters fouled out, and McCracken cashed in on 34 of 43 free throws. Wayne County, the second-best free-throw shooters in the state during the regular season (75.5 percent), made just 18 of 30 chances (60 percent).
"A lot of times you put on the board things you've got to do to win," Woods said. "I think if you made a list of things you've got to do to lose, we touched on every one of them. We didn't shoot well. We didn't guard well. Didn't rebound. Didn't make free throws like we have all season."
Trey Blevins topped the Cardinals with 24 points. Peyton Woods, the coach's son, had 17 points and Jason Perkins netted 13. Nick Gillespie grabbed 11 of Wayne's 32 rebounds and scored two points.
McCracken came out crackin' and jumped to a 12-2 lead.
"We got off to a good start," Stonecipher said. "Mostly we got the ball down low to Jason and Bryce, who hit a couple of early baskets. Then our guards were able to get to the basket after that because (Wayne) had to be prepared to go down low to guard them."
With McCracken outshooting Wayne 45 percent (9-for-20) to 25.7 percent (9-for-35), the Mustangs led 34-28 at halftime.
The margin was 52-46 through three quarters.
In the fourth, McCracken scored all but seven of its 29 points at the free-throw line.
"We got off to a good early start. I think that was the biggest thing that really got us a foothold into the game," Brower said. "We made some shots early and we did a good job defensively."
Wayne County wound up shooting 35.7 percent (25-for-70) to McCracken's 51.2 percent (21-for-41).
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.