High School Basketball

Super sophomore, stout defense have Paducah power ready for Sweet Sixteen run

McCracken County’s Cameron Cartwright drove against Mayfield’s Kent Trey Matthews during the 1st Region Tournament at the CFSB Center in Murray last week. Cartwright was named tournament MVP.
McCracken County’s Cameron Cartwright drove against Mayfield’s Kent Trey Matthews during the 1st Region Tournament at the CFSB Center in Murray last week. Cartwright was named tournament MVP. The Paducah Sun

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

Below is the team profile for the McCracken County Mustangs, who will meet Oldham County in the first round at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

MCCRACKEN COUNTY

Region: 1st

Record: 28-6

Enrollment: 2,032 (1,012 boys)

Coach’s résumé

Burlin Brower is 117-48 in five seasons at McCracken. He has led them to two Sweet Sixteen appearances.

Probable starters

00) Jackson Sivills, 6-6, So., 13.1 ppg

11) Cameron Cartwright, 6-0 Sr., 14.5 ppg

22) Trevor Winsett, 5-11, Jr., 5.1 ppg

33) Nathan Stoneciper 6-3, Sr., 14.9 ppg

35) Wes Belt, 6-0, Sr., 5.3 ppg

How they got here

“We weren’t picked to be that good out of this region, but we ended up being the best team down here,” Brower said of the Mustangs. McCracken swept city rival and onetime region favorite Paducah Tilghman in all three match-ups, including in the 2nd District finals. They then toppled Mayfield and defending 1st Region champion Graves County in the region tournament, avenging losses to both of those teams in the regular season. They beat Graves 42-37 for the 1st Region crown. The Mustangs’ season included a 13-game winning streak broken by a loss to Hopkinsville at home on Feb. 15. They went on to win the next five games heading into Lexington this week.

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McCracken County’s Jackson Sivills grabs a rebound during the 1st Region Tournament championship game against Graves County at the CFSB Center in Murray, Ky., March 6, 2018. Ryan Hermens The Paducah Sun

Players to watch

Jackson Sivills averages 13.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and “is going to be a pretty good-sized recruit for us,” Brower said of his 6-6 sophomore swingman. “He’s got a chance to be special. He’s one of the better sophomores in the state of Kentucky.” Nathan Stonecipher has topped 1,000 points and 500 rebounds for his career. Cameron Cartwright comes in as the 1st Region Tournament MVP boasting “unlimited range” as a shooting guard with the ability to cover the point, as well.

Built on defense

McCracken ranks second in the state in team defense, allowing only 47.7 points per game. And the Mustangs win their games by an average of 13.8 points, which is also among the best marks in the state this year. “We move the ball really well and we’re very good defensively,” Brower said. “We’re not overly athletic, but we have a smart group. We position well. We block out. We’re just very fundamentally sound is what we are.”

Sweet history

This is McCracken County’s first return to the Sweet Sixteen since its inaugural season in 2013-14 when it lost to Bowling Green in the second round. The Mustangs are the consolidation of three former county schools, Heath, Lone Oak and Reidland. Combined, those schools reached the Sweet Sixteen seven times, the last coming with the Lone Oak Purple Flash’s visit in 2005. Reidland’s came in 1940. Heath had five visits, last appearing in 1933.

Chris Ware | Herald-Leader staff
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