For the first few minutes of Wednesday night’s game, it looked like Southwestern’s improbable run through the postseason might continue for at least a couple more days.
The Warriors — upset winners of the 12th Region last week — scored the first eight points in their Sweet Sixteen matchup with favored Warren Central and took a four-point lead into the huddle at the end of the first quarter.
This time, the magic didn’t last.
Warren Central went on a 21-0 run in the second quarter and rolled the rest of the way, eliminating Southwestern with a 68-44 victory in the first round of the state tournament at Rupp Arena.
The Warriors had lost five of six games before pulling three consecutive upsets in the 12th Region tournament to advance to Rupp, entering this week ranked 13th among the teams in the Sweet Sixteen.
Jonathan Gallagher scored 10 points in the first quarter against the Dragons on Wednesday, and Southwestern led 8-0 midway through the first quarter and 19-13 early in the second period.
That’s when the Dragons woke up.
The 4th Region champs unleashed a 21-0 run from that point on, and the margin never got back into the single digits.
“I was proud of our kids, the way they had to weather the storm early,” said Warren Central Coach William Unseld. “We didn’t want to call a timeout, because I thought we could handle it. We had three seniors on the floor, and also two juniors that play a lot. I just wanted them to relax and play, and once they started doing that, we did a good job of putting some stops together and making shots.”
The Dragons drained five three-pointers and forced eight Southwestern turnovers in that decisive second quarter. Warren Central scored 21 points off turnovers in the second period alone.
“We’ve done that all year where we make big runs,” Unseld said.
Skyelar Potter made the three to cap the 21-0 run, and he finished the game with 23 points and eight rebounds. Fellow senior Jordan Cousin hit two big threes in the second quarter and ended up with 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“We just had to get our nerves out,” Potter said. “We just had to get out and run. Coach said he didn’t call a timeout because he knew we would get going eventually.”
Micale Mee, the Dragons’ other senior starter, also hit a three-pointer in that second quarter.
“I think we started slow because the gym’s so big — the bright lights and stuff,” Mee said of the sluggish start in Rupp. “But once we calmed down and got a couple buckets, I think we got going. And then we were fine.”