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Warren Central Captures Second State Title in Victory Over George Rogers Clark

Article written by:On3 imageBrady Byrdwell


Photo by Les Nicholson | Kentucky Sports Radio

The rematch heard all around the Bluegrass went down on the fabled Rupp Arena floors Saturday night in the 2023 UK Healthcare Boys’ Sweet 16 Tournament championship.

Familiar foes met as George Rogers Clark and Warren Central ran back the state title game from last season, when GRC won the crown by one point, 43-42. However, this time, Warren Central defeated the Cardinals in an epic rematch, 64-60, to capture the program’s second title.

Warren Central completed a fantastic season in which the Dragons went arguably wire-to-wire as the best team in the state. Head coach Will Unseld had the Dragons playing like a well-oiled machine all year. With the win, the Dragons finished the season with a 36-1 record. This was all thanks to Coach Unseld, who created an environment of sharing the ball and prioritizing winning.

“They’ve shared the ball all year,” Unseld said. “Any of these guys could be somewhere else and average 25 or 30 points a game. It’s hard to guard when you have five really good basketball players. I like playing teams when they have one or two.”

Unseld obviously had his men on a mission, as they had the memories of last year’s loss freshly burned into their memories. This created a team that simply was not going to lose this basketball game. GRC played well, shooting 53% from the field and 43% from behind the arc. However, the ’98 Bulls may not have been able to beat Warren Central in the 2023 Sweet 16.

Warren Central Takes Home the Crown

The Dragons had four scorers all break double-digits, including Damarion Walkup, Kade Unseld, and Omari Glover, who all scored 17 points a piece.

Warren Central, as a whole, shot an effective 55% from the field, 54% from three, and went 11-15 from the line. Throughout the game, Walkup, Unseld, Glover, and Chappelle Whitney all traded the offensive brunt as each took over the game at different times. Point guard Izayiah Villafuerte will get little attention, as he only contributed three points on two shots. However, Villafuerte was the catalyst to the entire Dragon offense, adding five assists along the way.

A string of plays in the second quarter summed up how Unseld had his team playing. After George Rogers Clark went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to two, the Warren Central offense proved why they’re ranked first in the state. GRC sat into a 2-3 zone, which caused Damarion Walkup to drill back-to-back threes. However, the big shots did not leave the Rupp Arena crowd in disbelief.

Instead, it was how a ton of high school athletes were sharing the ball. Mid-major college teams do not share the ball like the Dragons, as the rock never got stuck to a hand for longer than a second.

In the third quarter, Kade Unseld took over the game. The son of Coach Unseld had a different look about him coming out of the tunnel in the second half, and it showed. The 6-foot-5 wing scored the Dragons’ first 10 points of the half, including an 8-0 solo-run. Unseld also splashed two threes in the span, including one from the Kentucky logo.

Unseld’s Final Act

However, George Rogers Clark refused to give up their state championship that easily.

Senior Jerone Morton went for 23 points and took over the game to bring the Cardinals back into the matchup. Nine of Morton’s 23 points came in the fourth quarter, as the Cardinals fought their way back to only down two with 12 seconds left. GRC head coach Josh Cook spoke about the fight saying, “I think it defined our team when you saw us get down and you saw a team that played with such a sense of urgency and fight.”

With 12 seconds left, the Cardinals had to foul Kade Unseld. As the junior began to walk to the line, only one word could describe the look on his face: determined. With the weight of Kentucky on his shoulders, on a court that countless NBA players have played on, that NCAA championships have been won on, he stepped up to the line.

Unseld sank both, game, new champions.

After the game, Unseld backed up his free throws with more swagger.

“I told them to give me the ball, and I was going to make the free throws, and I did that.”

The state championship was not some fluke. As mentioned, Warren Central appeared in the championship game last season, losing by only a single point. In 2018 and 2019, Unseld’s squad appeared in the state semifinals (and won the region in 2020, although the state tournament was canceled).

Rejoice all of Warren Central. You are champions.

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