While proud of the program's first appearance in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 State Basketball Tournament at Rupp Arena, the McCracken County Mustangs have plans to stay in Lexington as long as they can. They just don't want to be satisfied that they made it.
"We're there and the hardest thing to do is to get there, and while we're here we might as well keep on winning," McCracken County coach Burlin Brower said. "These kids really want to keep it going.
"This time of year a lot of kids may be ready to call it quits, but my kids are really wanting to play more basketball and seem to be enjoying it. Practice has been going great and we're a lot more focused than I thought we'd be. They have been very focused during this whole thing."
Said senior guard Kam Chumbler: "It's really exciting to be in it. But we're expecting to go up there and make some noise and not just go up there and play one game."
And there is some anticipation about playing in Rupp Arena for the first time.
"That's going to be unbelievable," senior guard Jared Burnett said. "I'm a UK fan, and I've been to Rupp once when I was little. It's an unbelievable place to look at and be in. I just can't believe I get to play in Rupp."
The First Region champion Mustangs (24-8) will play in their first-ever Sweet 16 game when they as the home team meet up with 12th Region winner Wayne County (31-1) at 11 a.m. today in a first-round game.
The winner will move onto a Friday quarterfinal game at 5:30 p.m. against the winner of Knott County (25-6) and Bowling Green (27-6).
McCracken County, winners of eight straight and 11 of its past 12, earned its spot in the Sweet 16 with a 43-41 overtime win over Marshall County in the First Region championship game last week at the CFSB Center in Murray.
Wayne County punched its ticket by dispatching Southwestern, 78-74, in the 12th Region tournament final. The Cardinals â “ which have won 31 of 32 games this season â “ are making their second consecutive Sweet 16 appearance and 10th in program history.
The Cardinals are led by 6-foot-2 junior guard Peyton Woods and his 24.9 points and 8.3 rebounds a game average, while 5-9 sophomore guard Trey Blevins adds 18.2 points and 6-1 sophomore forward Corey Steams puts in 17.7 points and 8.3 boards.
Wayne County averages 80.4 points to McCracken County's 65.1 and allows opponents to score 61 points, to MCHS's 54.5 points.
The Mustangs know the prevailing thought is Wayne County's record and overall experience is supposed to be too much for them to handle. But McCracken County â “ led by Chumbler's 12.5 points a game, Burnett's 11.9 points, junior guard Caleb Stonecipher's 11.2 points and senior forward Bryce Rodgers' 5.8 rebounds â “ just isn't buying it.
"We feel like we've played in a tougher region, and not taking anything away from them, but we feel like we have a great chance to win this game," Stonecipher said. "We have to play good, though, and shoot well and play good defense. That's the thing we have to do if we want to win."
Said Brower, "They've got a good basketball team, but we're not bad either. I'm not for sure we're not the more physical team, and we built this team around being physical. We said from day one that we wanted to be as physical as anyone in the state, and we are physical. Our guards are physical and get to the rim. Our post players, they love to play physical, so I don't think that's going to be a weakness for us when we get there.
"Wayne County is not super big or athletic, but they are a quality basketball team and they shoot it very well. But they're not sending a couple of 6-8 guys that we'd have trouble matching up with. We match up with them pretty well."
Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.
Boys Sweet 16
at Rupp Arena, Lexington
South Oldham vs. Hopkinsville
Louisville Trinity vs. Owensboro
Scott County vs. Fleming County
Campbell County vs. Johnson Central
McCracken County vs. Wayne County, 11 a.m.
Knott County Central vs. Bowling Green, 12:30 p.m.
Bardstown vs. Pleasure Ridge Park, 5:30 p.m.
Clay County vs. Covington Catholic, 7 p.m.
McCracken County Stampede to State
Second District Tournament
Community Christian 83-45, semifinals
St. Mary 65-61 (OT), championship game
First Region Tournament
Calloway County 55-48, 1st round
Graves County 58-51, semifinals
Marshall County 43-41 (OT), championship game