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Mustangs Start State Tourney Run Against Chargers

The McCracken County Mustangs’ defense of their 2020 regional championship title happened because of their defense, and now the Mustangs' hope the strong defense displayed in Murray travels to Lexington for the KHSAA Boys Sweet Sixteen Basketball Tournament.

(22-6) McCracken County’s pursuit of a state title kicks off Thursday afternoon against (15-8) Bullitt East. The postseason run for McCracken County has been a continual display of elite level defensive pressure. In their six postseason games this season, the Mustangs have yet to allow an opponent to reach 50 points in a game. Community Christian Academy scored 49 points against McCracken County in the opening round of the district tournament, but since then, it has been lights out for opposing offenses, including holding Marshall County to 29 points in the regional semifinals.

Previous to the district tournament, the Mustangs had a stretch where they gave up quite a bit more scoring than normal. McCracken County head coach Burlin Brower pointed to getting back to the basics as the remedy for getting the defense back on track.

“I think the big thing (that led to worse defense) was we were playing a lot of games at one time,” said Brower. “We were getting into some bad habits and getting worse on little fundamental stuff defensively. So we had a week of no games and really got back to the fundamentals of our defense”

The results prove that to be accurate. The six games prior to the week-long break, the Mustangs were giving up an average of 67 points per game. Since the break, the Mustangs are giving up only 42 points per game.

The Chargers charged through the 6th Region Tournament, pulling an improbable championship away from heavy favorite DeSales, who was ranked 8th in Kentucky. Bullitt East knocked off DeSales in the semifinals, 62-58, before beating Western in the championship game.

“I think we’ll have to contain Tucker Blanford and not let him get easy buckets and we’ll have to find a way to score against their length,” said Brower. “They start 6’5 and 6’4 and will we be able to get to the rim and get buckets? That could be a problem.”

Blanford, a 6’5” junior forward, averages just under 17 points per game for the Chargers this season. While also a threat inside the paint, Blanford has proven the ability to also shoot the ball from the perimeter as well. Will Blanford averages 12.3 points per game and Collin Powell average 11.7 points per game for the Chargers.

Though the McCracken defense has been the headliner, this postseason, the Mustangs continue to score at a high rate offensively, having four different players average double-digits in scoring per game. Senior guard Noah Dumas continues to shine during the postseason. Dumas led in the team in scoring all three games of the regional tournament and was the game-high scorer in two of those three contests. Fellow senior Ian McCune was just as vital in the 45-40 championship win over Murray, scoring the Mustangs’ first seven points of the game. Junior Ian Hart has had a terrific postseason run, averaging near 17 points per game over his last ten games. And junior Brant Brower continues to be the strongest defender while also averaging 10 points per game.

The Mustangs and the Chargers tip off in the opening round of the KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 State Basketball Tournament Thursday at 1pm Central Time at Rupp Arena. You can listen to the game on 99.5FM The Fan.
Apr. 01, 2021

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