In big games, most coaches tell players to slow down and take a deep breath.
They tell them to think before acting and make good decisions.
Not Lexington Christian.
The Eagles had to speed things up to settle down. Once they did, they were able to race past Lafayette and win 57-50 in the semifinals of the 43rd District Tournament at Tates Creek.
The Generals were able to control the pace early and grab an 11-point lead after six straight points from McKenzie Graham late in the first half on Tuesday night.
"This isn't us," Coach Jason Seamands remembered thinking on the bench. "We're sitting ducks right now."
So the LCA coach pulled his team out of a comfortable, soft press and went to an aggressive, in-your-face press.
"Let's just speed up and play," Seamands told his team. "If we're going to lose, let's lose with all pistons firing."
That seemed to wake LCA up. After scoring just five points in the first quarter, the Eagles managed to score 11 unanswered (five from Rachel Cox) and knotted it up at 25 heading into the locker room.
"We just clicked," senior Sarah Beth Barnette explained. "That's when we knew it could happen that we could win it."
Out of the halftime break, the run continued and ballooned to a 21-4 spree that gave LCA a 35-29 advantage late in the third quarter.
"They had the momentum, and we had to fight out of a hole, which was difficult," Lafayette Coach Allison Denton said.
Barnette, a Kentucky signee, struggled early by missing her first six shots, but she settled in and made eight of her final 11 to lead the Eagles with 23 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Kelli Rinehart added 14 points and seven rebounds. Cox finished with nine points and five rebounds.
The Eagles shot 57.9 percent in the second half and held the Generals to 32 percent shooting. Denton said her team needed to be more assertive against the press.
"We didn't get to the free-throw line, and that hurt us," Denton said. "You have to get to the free-throw line to win a ball game and, if you're not getting there, you're not being aggressive."
Before the game, Barnette implored her team to play with the passion it showed in its big run. The senior wanted to make it back to the 11th Region Tournament and McBrayer Arena, where the Eagles have won three All "A" Classic championships and two region titles.
"I just said don't take anything for granted," Barnette said. "Basically I told them not to play with any fear and let loose and have fun."
After absorbing that second-half blow from the Eagles, Lafayette managed to cut it to five points twice late in the fourth quarter, but it couldn't get any closer.
The Generals were led by Lisa Hack's 18 points and nine rebounds. Hack returned late in the season from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Without her, the Generals struggled at times, but it was still a great season, Denton said.
"They gutted it out," she said. "Their attitude hasn't changed from the games we won to the games that we lost. We talk life lessons all the time and, if they could learn perseverance through all of this, then this season's well worth it regardless of our record."
LAFAYETTE (11-16) — Graham 4-10 0-0 8, Ross 3-10 0-0 8, Jam. Gillespie 2-10 0-0 5, Hack 7-14 0-0 18, Walker 4-8 0-0 8, Jar. Gillespie 1-4 0-0 3, Mynear 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-57 0-0 50.
LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN (20-6) — Bundy 1-3 1-2 3, 8-17 7-10 23, Cox 4-7 0-0 9, Rhinehart 7-9 0-0 14, Mitchuson 1-4 3-4 6, Eastham 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 22-42 11-18 57.
Lafayette 9 16 10 15—50
Lexington Christian 5 20 17 15—57