High School Basketball

Their top players left them for a rival. Now ‘they’re a walking Disney movie.’

Southwestern boys’ basketball coach Chris Baker (blue) coached his team against Mercer County in the 12th Region finals on March 6, 2018.
Southwestern boys’ basketball coach Chris Baker (blue) coached his team against Mercer County in the 12th Region finals on March 6, 2018. Danville Advocate-Messenger

The 101st Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen basketball state tournament tips Wednesday at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

Below is a team profile for the Southwestern Warriors, who will meet Warren Central in the first round at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

SOUTHWESTERN

Region: 12th

Record: 18-14

Enrollment: 1,270 (643 boys)

Coach’s résumé

Chris Baker is 42-20 in two years at Southwestern and 191-148 oversall as a head coach. He spent time at Breathitt County, Green County and McLean County before becoming an assistant at Southwestern in the 2011-12 season.

Probable starters

1) Joe Floyd, 6-2, Sr., 9.2 ppg

2) Matt Jones, 6-1, Sr., 5.5 ppg

12) Hunter Stevens, 5-10, Sr., 24.9 ppg

21) Logan Dykes, 6-2, Sr., 5.4 ppg

24) Jonathan Gallagher, 6-3, Sr., 12.8 ppg

How they got here

Do you believe in miracles? Southwestern does.

The Warriors were 1-5 over their last six games entering the 12th Region Tournament, including losses to Boyle County (73-62), Mercer County (73-69) and two to Pulaski County (90-73 and 61-57) — all considered better than them in the region. They came into the regional as a runner-up after falling to Wayne County by 15 in the 48th District championship.

Southwestern reached the Sweet Sixteen after knocking off Boyle County, host Pulaski County and Mercer County in the course of a week after suffering four losses to those same teams in an 11-day stretch.

“I won’t lie, it looked pretty bleak,” Baker said of Southwestern’s chances after it scored only 24 points in the district finals. “We beat the best three teams in this region to get here. ... This bunch, they’re a walking Disney movie.”

Player to watch

Logan Dykes hit what will go down as one of the biggest shots in Southwestern history. The senior gathered a loose ball coughed up by Mercer County star Trevon Faulkner after he fell in the waning seconds of the region championship; Dykes bolted down the court and put a buzzer-beating, game-winning layup off the glass to cap the Warriors’ wild run to a title.

“Twenty-seven years of coaching and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that in my entire life,” Baker said.

It was a career highlight for Dykes, a former 12th Region Soccer Player of the Year who broke his foot midway through his last season on the pitch.

“He really struggled with his health for a long time. He hasn’t quit,” Baker said. “He kept playing and fighting through pain and everythimg. I’m really happy for that kid to be the one who got that feeling to hit that shot.”

‘The JV kids’

Pulaski County seniors Steven Fitzgerald, the co-Player of the Year in the 12th Region and a Samford signee, and Danny Butt played their first four years of high school basketball at Southwestern before transferring to Pulaski County ahead of their junior seasons. Butt and Fitzgerald led the rival Maroons to a region title last season.

Baker was ecstatic that the “leftovers” could go out and “get one of their own.”

“They were the JV kids. They were the practice bodies. They were the kids that filled in the gaps, raised money, were good for the program cause you had to fill out a roster,” Baker said. “There were kids that transferred in and played ahead of em, there were kids that were nurtured and raised up ahead of ’em. Then they all left and these kids were left alone. They felt really rejected. They had a chip on their shoulder. They bonded together and used that as fuel, to be honest with you.

“They wanted to prove they were as good as anybody and that they were worth something. It’s amazing. This team, if you look at us physically, you wouldn’t think much of it. Our best player’s about 5-8. .. I feel honored to even share this stage with them right now.”

Sweet history

This is trip No. 2 in program history for the Warriors, who last made it in 2012.

Chris Ware | Herald-Leader staff
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