There's no place like home for the holidays, but Knott County Central enjoys playing basketball in Lexington this time of the season.
The week before Christmas last year, the Patriots won the iHigh Fayette County Invitational Tournament while running their record to 11-0.
Knott Central is back in town this week, again undefeated, and ringing up wins in the Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.
The Patriots beat Cincinnati Princeton 83-55 in Friday's quarterfinals, and will take an 11-0 record into Saturday's semifinals.
"We're from the mountains; we like coming to the city," Coach B.B. King said with a laugh.
Camron Justice, one of four sophomore starters for the defending 14th Region champions, agreed.
"I love it up here," he said. "The iHigh tournament last year was a great atmosphere and we got the opportunity to win it by beating Henry Clay in the finals.
"This year we come up for this 21-team bracket and get a chance to play some of the top teams in Kentucky and Ohio."
Justice, a 6-foot-2 point guard, was terrific against Princeton. He had 30 points (including 4-for-5 three-pointers and 12-for-12 free throws), four rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Evan Hall, a 6-6 sophomore, had 19 points and 10 rebounds.
King thought Hall provided the spark when Knott Central stretched a 38-35 lead to 60-40 in the third quarter.
"The biggest difference was Hall came to play," said King, who has to prod Hall to be more aggressive.
King also liked the way his team executed its offense against Princeton. The Patriots shot 65 percent, including 8-for-13 on threes.
"Our first game here (a victory over Simon Kenton), we didn't play that well. We forced some shots," King said. "Our shot selection was a lot better today, and we shot the ball extremely well."
Knott Central also got solid play from sophomores Simon Christon (eight points, eight rebounds) and Chance Cornett (nine points, six rebounds).
Justice said the Patriots' youth is no factor.
"Evan played a lot as an eighth-grader. I did, too. And Simon and Chance aren't ordinary sophomores, either."
Princeton, led by Dorian Jordan and Ryan Bricking, stayed close for a half, but Knott Central took control with a 12-0 run in the third quarter that pushed its lead to 52-37. Justice and Christon hit threes in the flurry.
The Patriots continued to build on their lead which topped out at the final 28-point margin.
The only bad news for Knott Central was that senior starting guard Corey Short, who sat out last season recovering from knee surgery, reinjured the knee against Princeton. His status won't be known until he's checked out by doctors.
KNOTT CENTRAL (11-0) — Justice 30, Hall 19, Cornett 9, Short 7, Christon 8, Mosley 2, Little 2, Shrum 6.
PRINCETON (5-5) — Jordan 16, Colston 1, Bricking 12, Walters 9, Bradley 2, Bosel 4, Jasper 5, Hilson 2, Abrams 2, Tivis 2.
Knott Central 24 14 22 23—83
Princeton (Ohio) 14 21 6 14—55
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com