Wayne County isn’t accustomed to winning at the Boys Sweet Sixteen, but the Cardinals got their first state tournament win in 22 years when they defeated Perry County Central 68-58 in their first-round game Thursday.
(Click here for the box score and play-by-play.)
It was only the second time in eight state trips that Wayne has won, and all of its only previous wins came in 1989, when coach Rodney Woods’ first regional championship team won three games before losing to Pleasure Ridge Park in the finals. The Cardinals went out in the first round in their next five appearances, often as victims of a tough draw.
“It feels good to win,” Woods said after Thursday’s game. “For the coaching staff, it’s been a long dry spell.”
This is the first Sweet Sixteen for the current players — Wayne’s last trip was in 2004 — and they handled themselves well on the Rupp Arena stage, hitting nine of 20 3-point shots and outrebounding a larger Perry team 31-29. The game was close throughout, with Wayne leading for most of the way but never by more than seven points until it scored five straight points to take a 60-50 lead with 2:44 remaining.
The Cardinals shot 43 percent from the field, while Perry shot 51 percent and scored 36 of its 58 points in the paint.
Gavin Dunagan led Wayne with 22 points and 12 rebounds, Ryan Hopper went 5 for 6 from 3-point range and scored 21 points, and Austin Shearer had five assists. The game’s leading scorer was Perry’s Braxton Beverly, a 5-8 seventh-grader who scored 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting and who will be a player to watch in the mountains for years to come.
Wayne moves on to a 7:30 p.m. Friday quarterfinal against Rowan County, which defeated Daviess County 45-32. Rowan is coached by former Somerset coach Shawn Thacker, who has reached the Sweet Sixteen for the first time and who went head to head with Woods countless times during his years in the 12th Region.