Boys' high school basketball: Lexington Catholic edges Dunbar in district tournament

mfields@herald-leader.comFebruary 25, 2014 

  • Wednesday

    Boys' 43rd District semifinal at Paul Laurence Dunbar

    8 p.m.: Lafayette vs. Lex. Christian

It is not true that Pope Francis tweeted his concern when the Lexington Catholic boys' basketball team lost five of its last six regular-season high school basketball games.

So there's no need to email the Holy Father to tell him to relax, that all is right with the Knights again after they beat host Paul Laurence Dunbar 59-52 in the 43rd District semifinals Tuesday night.

Robert Dence, who had 20 points and eight rebounds for Lexington Catholic, admitted "it was tough down the stretch" losing to top-10 teams Scott County, Wayne County and Lincoln County, and to region rivals Dunbar and Madison Central.

"But we put all that behind us and focused on this one against Dunbar," the 6-foot-7 senior said. "We wanted it real bad because we want to get back to regionals and we want to get back to Rupp.

"This was the start."

Lexington Catholic's victory earned it a spot in Friday's district finals, and guaranteed it a trip to the 11th Region tournament for the 27th time in the last 28 years.

Michael Talbott, a 5-10 junior point guard who had all of his 14 points in the first half, could tell a big difference in how the Knights played late in the regular season and how they played in the district tournament.

"We weren't playing as a team very well then, but tonight everybody was doing their part, scoring, rebounding, playing defense."

Jarod Griffin had 14 points, including two big three-pointers in the first half. Tanner Johnson overcame foul trouble to finish with 10 points, four assists, four rebounds and three blocks.

Reese Ryan, Lexington Catholic's glue guy, took only one shot and had just one point, but he had seven rebounds and five assists.

The Knights shot 57 percent and had 11 assists.

Coach Brandon Salsman said he may have over-scheduled his team and they were probably tired in the final weeks of the regular season. "But we played great teams and even though we lost, we got better and we were battle-tested for games like this."

Dunbar, which beat the Knights 55-51 on Feb. 10, couldn't find its shooting eye, hitting 33 percent from the field, 1-for-16 on threes.

"When you shoot that badly and give up some key offensive rebounds, you're probably going to lose," Coach Scott Chalk said.

Sophomore Darius Williams led them with 18 points and freshman Taveion Hollingsworth had 12. But they were a combined 11-for-33 from the field.

But Dunbar's tenacity on defense and on the boards gave them a chance in the closing minutes.

The Bulldogs got a three-point play when freshman Dontell Brown hit the first of two free throws, and Hollingsworth got a putback basket to cut Catholic's lead to 55-52 with 40 seconds left.

After the Knights missed the front end of the bonus with :34 left, Dunbar was still alive. But Williams missed a 15-footer. The Knights then put it away at the foul line.

"We showed a lot of fight," Chalk said. "Even when we were playing poorly and shooting poorly, we were playing hard.

"We've come a long way with these young guys. The future is bright here."

Lexington Catholic 59, Paul Dunbar 52

PAUL DUNBAR (12-17) -- Williams 18, Hollingsworth 12, Black 7, Coruio 8, Lewis 4, Brown 3.

LEXINGTON CATHOLIC (18-11) -- Dence 20, Talbott 14, Griffin 14, Ryan 1, Johnson 10.

Paul Dunbar 6 13 18 15—52

Lexington Catholic 14 15 12 18—59

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog:

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