A trip to sunny Scottsdale, Ariz., seems to have worked wonders in shaking the Lexington Christian Academy boys' basketball team out of its December doldrums.
After winning a tournament out in desert country last week, the Eagles opened 43rd District play by upsetting No. 14 Lexington Catholic 78-76 in double-overtime Tuesday night.
LCA continued its strong play by knocking off another district rival, Paul Laurence Dunbar, 65-59 Friday night.
Matt Rose's 22 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots sparked the Eagles to their sixth win in a row since a loss to Dunbar on Dec. 17.
"Arizona really helped us," the 6-foot-6 junior said. "It wasn't that good of competition, but we came together more as a team. We're sharing the ball better and getting better shots."
LCA Coach Brad Carter agreed that the trip out West helped bring the team closer together. He and several players got hung up traveling, and it took them almost 24 hours to get to Scottsdale.
"We had to sleep in the airport, and we bonded a lot there," he said with a laugh.
But Carter said it's also about the Eagles adjusting to each other on the court.
"We had some new pieces to start the season, and we're still finding our identity.
"We're playing with more confidence, moving the ball and making shots. And now when we're not making shots, we're giving ourselves a chance by rebounding, taking better care of the ball and playing better defense."
Junior guard Drew Schacht said the "awesome" victory at Lexington Catholic was a "big confidence booster" that carried over to Friday night.
LCA looked like it was on its way to a comfortable win over cold-shooting Dunbar when it led by 17 points in the first half, and by 15 late in the third quarter.
But the host Bulldogs, led by sophomore Darius Williams, stormed back and cut the deficit to 51-49 with three minutes left.
After LCA extended its lead to 60-53 with 1:11 left, Dunbar rallied again and was within 60-57 and had the ball. But the Bulldogs missed a shot and the Eagles escaped.
Michael Young, a 6-5 senior, had 11 points and nine rebounds for LCA. Trevor Hill and Benton Nighbert each had nine points.
Dunbar had a nightmarish shooting night. The Bulldogs missed 20 of their first 25 field goal attempts and seven of their first 10 free throws.
They finished the game 15 of 56 (27 percent) from the field, including 0-for-15 on three-pointers. They made 29 of 40 free throws, 16 of 19 in the fourth quarter.
"We started out not executing very well and we took a lot of off-balance shots early," Coach Scott Chalk said. "Once you miss a few of those, you start clanging it around. It was just one of those nights.
"But I was more disappointed in that we missed a lot of defensive assignments. We did a lot better job the first time we played them."
Williams led Dunbar with 27 points, including 13 of 15 free throws. Donnie Lewis had 11 points.
"Even though we weren't shooting it well, we played hard and got back in it. We wouldn't have been able to do that a month ago, so we're making progress."
Lex. Christian 65, Paul Dunbar 59
LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN (8-5) — Rose 22, Young 11, Trimble 8, Nighbert 9, Hill 9, Schacht 4, King 2.
PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR (5-9) — Williams 27, D.Lewis 11, Hollingsworth 5, Davis 6, Black 3, Corio 4, J.Lewis 3.
Lex. Christian 11 15 16 23—65
Paul Dunbar 6 9 18 26—59
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.