Wayne County vs. Perry County Central
1:30 p.m. Thursday
Winner plays Game 5 winner at 6:30 p.m. Friday
WAYNE COUNTY CARDINALS
Region: 12 | Record: 30-4 | Enrollment: 668
Rodney Woods has an overall record of 725-350 in 31 years, the last 25 at Wayne County where his teams have won 517 games and seven region titles. Woods was a high school star at Lone Jack (in Bell County) and played college ball at Tennessee.
Gavin Dunagan6-4 Sr. 18.1 ppg
Kyle Hopper6-0 Sr. 7.2 ppg
Ryan Hopper6-1 Sr. 9.4 ppg
Austin Shearer6-4 Sr. 17.3 ppg
Dagan Shelton6-0 So. 6.6 ppg
"When we play well, we guard people, don't give up easy baskets, we don't turn the ball over and we make free throws," Rodney Woods said. Dunagan, Shearer and the Hopper twins have been part of the program for five years. The Cards are at their best when Dunagan and Shearer do their thing — they combine to average 35 points and 15 rebounds — and the other guys contribute. Shearer is a dead-eye shooter (48 percent on threes, 88 percent on free throws). Shelton and the Hoppers are good ball handlers. Wayne County is a solid free-throw shooting team (74 percent).
Stop and go
Wayne County likes to get up and down the court. That's why Perry County Central is a tough matchup for his Cardinals. "Every strength they have is our weakness," Woods said. Perry Central is very patient with the ball. It allow only 42 points a game, fewest in the state. On a radio show last week, Woods asked former KHSAA commissioner Louis Stout if he could get a 7-minute, 30-second shot clock for the game against Perry Central. "That way we'd be guaranteed at least one possession a quarter," Woods said with a laugh.
Player to watch
Gavin Dunagan got a jump on his high school career when he saw varsity action as a seventh-grader. Wayne County won only three games that season. "We were just so bad, he was able to play for us," Woods said. Dunagan took advantage of the early experience. He's now the school's all-time leader in points (2,781) and rebounds (1,479). "One thing he did even early on was run the floor well, and he was a good rebounder," Woods said. Dunagan has since developed a solid perimeter game. Transylvania is showing the most recruiting interest.
Wayne County is in the Sweet Sixteen for the eighth time. The Cards were state runners-up to Pleasure Ridge Park in 1989.
PERRY CENTRAL COMMODORES
Region: 14 | Record: 25-5 | Enrollment: 1,060
In his fourth year at Perry Central, Allan Hatcher is back in the Sweet Sixteen with his third school. He took Graves County to six state tournaments, and Marshall County to four.
Dustin Brewer5-8 Sr. 5.6 ppg
Dillon Cornett6-8 Sr. 12.0 ppg
Dalton Cornett6-5 So. 11.0 ppg
Trevor Combs5-9 Jr. 8.6 ppg
Axl Sizemore6-3 Sr. 2.0 ppg
Perry Central has an interesting mix of players, or as Allan Hatcher describes it, "We go from one extreme to the other." The Commodores are huge inside: 6-8, 290-pound Dillon Cornett, 6-5, 230-pound Dalton Cornett and 6-4, 235-pound Sizemore. On the perimeter, Perry Central has little guys Brewer and Combs, and 5-8 seventh-grade point guard Braxton Beverly. "We try to control the game, take good shots and play good defense," Hatcher said. The Cornett brothers combine to average 14 rebounds. Providing a lift off the bench are Kyle Huff and Austin Pray. Perry Central likes to pound the ball inside. That strategy has gotten better as the Commodores' young guards have improved.
Still going strong
Allan Hatcher is in his 32nd year of high school coaching and has 745 victories, including six years and a state title at Williamson, W.Va. He's also had a couple stints as a college assistant, but high school hoops own his heart. "If you're going to coach high school basketball, the state of Kentucky is where to coach because there's nothing like the Sweet Sixteen anywhere else."
Player to watch
Braxton Beverly was MVP of the 14th Region tournament after scoring 16 points and hitting nine of 10 free throws in the finals. "People left the other night shaking their heads; they'd never seen anything like it, a seventh-grader playing like that under such pressure," Hatcher said. Hatcher said Beverly reminds him of Aaron Beth, his unflappable point guard at Marshall County who went on to play at Vanderbilt.
Perry County Central is in the state tournament for the sixth time in the last 11 years, but for the first time under Allan Hatcher.