Lexington Catholic used a non-stop full-court assault to wear down Paris and come away away with a 65-52 victory in the semifinals of the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic on Thursday night.
Paris, the smallest school in the field this season, couldn’t maintain its offensive energy in the second half of its fourth game in four days. The Greyhounds went up by 10 points in the second quarter and held a 31-28 lead at the break, but went 5-for-26 from the field in the second half, including 1-for-11 in the final period. They finished 17-of-53 from the floor.
Tired legs were likely a factor, but LexCath’s aggressive 2-2-1 press did the Greyhounds no favors.
“That’s kind of been the signature of Catholic basketball for 25 years,” said LexCath Coach Brandon Salsman.
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Luke Johnson, who’s signed with Loyola-Maryland, had a game-high 31 points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals for the Knights. Johnson’s first block was a chase-down that he pinned against the backboard, a play requiring a level of effort he at times lacked on defense last season, he admitted.
“Last year I felt like I was more of an offensive player, and I took some defensive plays off,” Johnson said. “This year I’m focused on defense. It helps out the team a lot if I’m playing defense.”
Zan Payne had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Knights, who reached the championship game of their home tournament for the fifth time in six seasons. They’ll play the winner of Cooper vs. Lafayette, who tipped off at about 9 p.m. Thursday.
Eric Johnson led Paris with 20 points, while Jekobi Wells scored 19 for the Greyhounds, who will meet the loser of the Cooper-Lafayette game in Friday’s third-place game.
Salsman went out of his way to praise the effort of Paris Coach Terence Brooks, whose team knocked off three larger schools to reach the semis.
“Their kids play extremely hard, and that’s the sign of a great coach,” Salsman said. “He’s done a really good job.”
Salsman continued with a grin, “I’m glad I’m not the Bourbon County coach anymore and have to coach against them twice a year, I tell ya that.”
Lexington Catholic 65, Paris 52
Paris (9-5) — Cunningham 6, Johnson 20, Wells 19, J. Davis 2, R. Davis 5.
LexCath (8-5) — Hardin 5, Price 8, Johnson 31, Sparkman 2, Scott 4, Payne 13, Whitman 2.