The quarterfinals of the 99th annual Whitaker Bank Sweet 16 was the most exciting day of the tournament yet.
Paul Laurence Dunbar trailed Bowling 23-9 at the end of the 1st quarter and,even after a rally in the next quarter, the Bulldogs went into the break down by ten 36-26.
During the second half, Dunbar outscored the Purples 31-15 and won 57-51 thanks in large part to their physicality on defense and big games from Darius Williams, Taveion Hollingsworth, and Justin Kelley.
For the second game in a row, the Doss Dragons jumped out to an early lead, this time over Taylor County, only to watch their opponent climb back into the game. However, each time the Cardinals seemed ready to seize the momentum, the Dragons patient play and exceptional defense slammed the door shut to send the 6th Region champions on to the Final Four.
South Laurel started slow against South Oldham but the Cardinals caught fire in the second half and easily dispatched the Dragons.
Ben Weyer of Newport Central Catholic put on another tremendous performance in the first quarterfinal of the day. This time he demonstrated the versatility of the game and hurt Murray from deep when the Tigers gave him room to shoot.
March 18th Scores
Newport Central Catholic 75. Murray 54
Paul Laurence Dunbar 57, Bowling Green 51
Doss 69, Taylor County 58
South Laurel 71, South Oldham 42
March 19th Preview
Newport Central Catholic (30-4) vs. Paul Laurence Dunbar (31-6)
The clash between the Bulldogs and the Wildcats pits the tournament’s best players (Ben Weyer) vs. the tournament’s best overall team (Dunbar).
The Bulldogs have a slight advantage on the perimeter thanks to Darius Williams, Taveion Hollingsworth and Jordan Lewis. Senior Justin Kelley’s steady performances have been an asset for Dunbar and another will take the pressure off the main trio if one of them has an off game.
Dunbar will have to find a way to contain Weyer. His length and combo. game is something that the Bulldogs haven’t faced all tournament long, but Weyer isn’t the only player PLD needs to worry about. Wildcat guards’ Brennan Adams and Luke Moeves are deadly from the three-point line and if their aim is true then that will give NCC a balance that will be hard for the Comeback Bulldogs to overcome.
Doss (29-5) vs. South Laurel (29-6)
The second half of tonight’s doubleheader at Rupp is a complete surprise. Few would have predicted that Doss and South Laurel would crash the Final Four, but the Dragons and the Cardinals have played inspired basketball thus far.
Doss is balanced on offense, tough on defense and plays with more poise and patience than any other team in the tournament. South Laurel cannot afford to fall behind the Dragons early or they will fall into the same trap of having to play from behind as Lawrence County and Taylor County.
Big Caleb Taylor gives the Cardinals the edge on the inside but South Laurel will need to get him going early like they did against South Oldham. Andrew Griffith’s ability to drive and dish might also open up the floodgates for South Laurel’s shooters.