Lexington Christian, aiming for its first trip to the 11th Region tournament come March, has taken a couple of tough losses against teams considered to be among the best in the state this season. On Wednesday night, it picked up a huge victory over one.
LCA knocked off Pulaski County, 89-73, in its second game as part of its Central Bank Jim Rose Classic. The Eagles defeated Oakland (Tenn.), 83-73, on Monday and will look to sweep the event when they take on Franklin County at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Kyle Rode, a 6-foot-6 sophomore who’s among the top players in the 11th Region, was named player of the game after posting 22 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. That all-around performance came about 24 hours after an off night against Oakland in which he had five assists but only 10 points and two rebounds.
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“We got the win last night so that was the more important thing,” Rode said on Wednesday. “Coming out tonight, we were trying to get the ball inside, get some decent touches in the beginning then get my guys involved. It was really good.”
Lexington Christian (7-2) finished with 25 assists to 11 turnovers. That ratio was 12:1 at the end of a “near-perfect” first half, LCA Coach Nate Valentine said.
“We were able to exploit some of the mismatches,” Valentine said. “Kyle had a tremendous first half and got us off to a good start. He passes the ball so well and hits guys that are open, I thought he created a lot of mismatches for ’em.”
Pulaski County Coach John Fraley knew that LCA’s size would be an issue. In addition to Rode, juniors Austin Hall and Carter Hendrickson also stand 6-foot-6. Hendrickson had team highs with 27 points and eight rebounds while Hall finished with 14 points, five boards and five assists. All three players shot better than 50 percent.
“We talked about their size and how important rebounding was gonna be,” said Fraley, whose team was outrebounded 32-22. “ … They did a really good job of executing and did a lot of good things down the stretch.”
Steven Fitzgerald, a transfer from Southwestern, and Trevon Sylvester each scored 21 points for the Maroons (7-3).
Valentine thought his team struggled to close out the game but attributed its lack of focus to not yet having been in that situation against a team as strong as Pulaski County this season. The Eagles were unable to build significant advantages late in its two losses, to Scott County and Paul Laurence Dunbar.
“Any time you can pick up wins against teams that are favored in their region, you’ll take it,” Valentine said of the Maroons, the coaches’ preseason pick in the 12th Region. “Hopefully we can gain some confidence from this and carry it over as we head into January and February and get back into district play.”
LCA should pretty quickly get a clear picture of where it stands in the 43rd District. The Eagles will host Lexington Catholic, the preseason favorite in the district, on Jan. 3 before a rematch with Paul Laurence Dunbar, also at home, on Jan. 6.
“I feel like we can compete with anybody on any night,” Hendrickson said.
Lexington Christian 89, Pulaski County 73
Pulaski County (7-3) — Fitzgerald 21, Sylvester 21, Fraley 6, Powell 16, Elmore 7, Hardange 2.
Lexington Christian (7-2) — Hendrickson 27, Rode 22, Hall 14, Stewart 9, Harper 17.