Sanford lifts LexCath to OT win

mfields@herald-leader.comMarch 20, 2009 

Lexington Catholic star Vee Sanford began the game feeling fatigued because of an adrenaline rush.

But by the end of the game Sanford had worn out Bowling Green with his sensational play at crunch time and sparked Lexington Catholic to a 70-62 overtime victory in the first round of the National City Boys' Sweet Sixteen Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-3 senior, who plays with flair and finesse, had 28 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

Sanford, who was being watched from press row by Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie, was at his best down the stretch.

Afterward, Bowling Green Coach D.G. Sherrill said he told his team, "You got beat by a guy you'll probably watch play on TV ... When the game mattered, he put them on his back."

Sanford scored Lexington Catholic's last nine points in regulation, and helped rally the Knights from a five-point deficit in the final 90 seconds.

His floater in the lane tied it at 58-all with 25 seconds left.

Bowling Green had a last shot at victory. Sherrill hoped to spread the floor and have one of his quick guards get to the rim. But Lexington Catholic's zone clogged up the lane, and the Purples' Charlie Williams wound up missing a baseline jumper.

Lexington Catholic dominated the overtime, scoring the first seven points and effectively ending the Purples' upset bid.

Sherrill said there was nothing his team could do to contain Sanford.

"We put our best defender on him. We ran guys over to help. One time I think he beat three of 'em to the rim.

"We thought we had him a little tired, but I guess he found an extra gear. That's what good players do."

Lexington Catholic Coach Brandon Salsman made it clear he wanted Sanford to assert himself when the game was on the line.

"I told him, 'You're first-team All-State; we need the ball in your hands.' "

Sanford said once he settled down, he was fine.

"I kept my composure and had trust in my teammates," he said.

Fellow senior Taylor Botkin came up big, too, with 16 points and eight rebounds.

"These two seniors are the heart and soul of this team," Salsman said. "They've carried us the last 10 games."

Tanner Peurach, a 6-7 junior, gave Lexington Catholic an inside presence with 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots.

Freshman Jaylen Beckham hit five of six free throws in overtime.

For Bowling Green, Tevin Barksdale had what Salsman called "a magical night."

Better known as an All-State football player, Barksdale showed he knows hoops, too. The 5-10 senior had 28 points, including four three-pointers, and seven rebounds.

Williams had 13 points and D.J. Ray added 11.

"Bowling Green played a phenomenal game," Salsman said.

The Purples handled Lexington Catholic's pressure defense pretty well. They made only 12 turnovers, but they shot only 40 percent, and hit only five of 19 three-pointers.

The Knights' overall length kept Bowling Green from getting many close-in looks.

"We didn't have the size or strength to make the adjustments we needed to make," Sherrill said.

And after his Purples missed on their last-second shot in regulation and the game went into overtime, Sherrill didn't have a good feeling.

"Sanford got a different look in his eyes, and he got the job done," he said.

Lexington Catholic has a chance to reach the Sweet Sixteen semifinals for the seventh time in its past seven state tournament appearances.

To get to the final four again, the Knights have to beat familiar foe Holmes in Friday's quarterfinals. Holmes beat Lexington Catholic 57-50 in last year's semifinals.

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