Warren Central opened the season under less than ideal conditions against visiting Wayne County on Tuesday night.

The Dragons had to play without their leading scorer from last season, junior guard Kobe Brents, who sat out the game while still nursing a sore knee. That’s 14 points – at least – that Warren Central is counting on each and every game.

But against the Cardinals, the Dragons unveiled another dangerous scoring threat. Senior guard Tayton Smith, a defense-first option last year who averaged two points a game, matched teammate Dre Boyd with 18 points as Warren Central picked up a 72-56 victory.

“I was proud of the way Tay played,” Warren Central coach William Unseld said. “I think he’ll be an all-region type guy this year. He’s been playing really, really well for us in our scrimmages. He’s long, he rebounds – almost had a double-double tonight, so he can shoot it.”

Smith buried five 3-pointers and added seven rebounds in the win, helping the Dragons get off to a solid start coming off last season’s run to the KHSAA Sweet Sixteen semifinals.

“I feel like this team might be better than last year’s because we’ve got more chemistry now,” Smith said. “We all work together and we put all that arguing and stuff aside, just help each other out.”

The Dragons seemed to pull away in the second quarter, using an 8-0 run to stretch their lead to 36-23 before a late spurt by the Cardinals made it a 10-point game at halftime.

Wayne County (0-1) closed to within six early in the third quarter, but Boyd and Smith had plenty of answers with a combined 13 points in the frame. Boyd’s 3-pointer with 19 seconds left in the third stretched the Dragons’ advantage back to 16 at 57-41.

The Cardinals still managed to cut deficit to single digits in the fourth quarter, mostly at the free-throw line as they sank 9-of-10 in the final eight minutes. But Warren Central held them to only two field goals in that time as they steadily pulled away over the last 4 1/2 minutes.

“We stopped gambling,” Unseld said. “We stopped flying all over the place, doing stuff we told them not to do and we got some stops.”

Thomas Spencer led Wayne County with 21 points and eight rebounds. Bryson Tucker (11 points) and Mason Burchett (10) also reached double digits for the Cardinals.

Joining Boyd and Smith as double-digit scorers for the Dragons were Tegra Muleka (13) and Kamden Lawrence (11).

Unseld was happy to get the win, even if he still saw plenty to improve on for the next game. Warren Central will host Owensboro on Dec. 10.

“We fouled way too much,” Unseld said. “They scored 56 points and if we don’t foul them they might get 40. But it’s the first game of the year. I was happy with the effort. We played hard, got some key stops when we needed to. Typical first game, though. We’ve got a lot to improve on.”

Wayne County 15 11 17 13 – 56

Warren Central 19 17 21 15 – 72

Wayne County – Spencer 21, Tucker 11, Burchett 10, Gehring 7, Sexton 4, Humble 2, Gregory 1.

Warren Central – Boyd 18, Smith 18, Muleka 13, Lawrence 11, Barbee 5, Nishimwe 4, Wright 2, Floyd 1.

Russellville 54, Warren Central 35, girls

Russellville’s Anastasia Dowlen dominated in the paint all night, finishing with game highs of 16 points and 21 rebounds along with two blocks as the Lady Panthers rolled to victory over the host Lady Dragons.

“She’s a heckuva player,” Russellville coach Cameron Jackson said of Dowlen, a 6-foot-1 junior. “The last two years she’s been one of the top rebounders in the state. I think this year we’re really challenging her to be a scorer. She averaged eight or nine (points) the last two years. This year we’re looking for her to average a double-double every night.”

Dowlen said she’s been trying to boost her offense for this season.

“I just come to practice and work on what I need to work on to get better so I can put it into the game,” Dowlen said.

Russellville (1-0) got an instant boost in its opener as Warren Central gifted the Lady Panthers two points off the opening tip by scoring in the wrong basket.

It was an ill omen for the Lady Dragons, who struggled with turnovers (28) and shooting (18.8 percent) in losing their opener.

“First-game jitters, and it showed,” Warren Central coach Joe Hood said. “We missed a lot of layups. I don’t know if we made even one layup tonight. We started the season scoring on the other end. That’s just something that had them off-guard and we never really regrouped from that. Right off the tip, we scored a bucket for them and never really had any momentum in the game.”

Despite the rough start, Warren Central (0-1) was still within range down just six (18-12) at halftime.

A 3-pointer from La Auhnni Lewis (team-high 15 points) to open the third quarter got the Lady Dragons to within three, but the Lady Panthers turned up the pressure on defense to spark a decisive 8-0 run capped by Amiyah Collier’s layup off a steal.

“That’s been our style of play is just pressure basketball,” Jackson said. “Today we were without our junior starter Chloe Whitescarver, who is probably our second or third top scorer. It was really good to see some of those young girls, which we started four freshmen today, it was really good to see some of those young girls step up in different roles.”

Collier, a freshman, finished with 12 points and fellow freshman Brinley Mason added nine points.

Russellville is at Marshall County on Thursday. Warren Central hosts Grayson County on Thursday.

Russellville 14 4 20 16 – 54

Warren Central 8 4 10 13 – 35

RHS – Dowlen 16, Collier 12, Mason 9, Kees 6, Morris 4, Underwood 4, Hines 3.

WCHS – Lewis 15, Johnson 7, Robinson 5, Leach 4, Conner 2, Ray 2.{&end}

– Follow sports editor Jeff Nations on Twitter @Jeff_NationsBG or visit bgdailynews.com.

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