Lexington Christian came up short of the championship game in its first 13 All “A” Classic boys’ state tournament appearances. For a stretch, it looked like trip No. 14 would not yield a finals visit, either.
LCA overcame a four-point halftime deficit — its first of the 2018 tournament — and defeated Knott County Central, 54-44, in the semifinals Saturday night at Eastern Kentucky University’s McBrayer Arena. The Eagles will play Walton-Verona, which defeated Mayfield 56-38 in the second semifinal, in the finals at 2 p.m. Sunday.
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Kyle Rode scored a game-high 17 points for the Eagles (16-6), most of it coming from the free-throw line. He was 10-for-11 from the stripe while shooting just 3-for-16 from the field. Carter Hendricksen had 11 points and a game-best 15 rebounds for LCA.
LCA overcame an early deficit and evened the game at 10 after the first quarter. Knott Central scored the first 11 points of the second period. A six-point possession by the Eagles toward the end of the quarter — Rode connected on a three-pointer as a foul was called, and then found Ezekiel Greer wide-open on the inbound for another three-pointer — was pivotal in closing the gap before the break. The Eagles scored 11 of the first 13 points in the second half to take the lead for good.
Knott Central (15-5) was the eighth-ranked team in the field coming in while LCA was the favorite to win the tournament. Some were surprised that LCA struggled with the Patriots, but LCA Coach Nate Valentine was not among them.
“Anybody who didn’t think we could be (trailing) was wrong, cause Knott County Central’s a really good team,” Valentine said. “They’re strong, physical, they shoot it well. ... We knew it was gonna be a tough game. I wish we’d hit the hole a little earlier, but you miss those first couple of shots and the basket gets a little tighter.”
Girls’ finals set
Neither Murray nor Shelby Valley had much trouble advancing out of the semifinals on Saturday.
Murray toppled Edmonson County, 62-37, and its starters played no more than 20 minutes. Macey Turley, a guard and likely Miss Basketball candidate, finished with 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting in 18 minutes. Alexis Burpo had eight points, 12 rebounds and five assists for the Tigers, who will play for their second All “A” championship in the last three years.
Shelby Valley punched its first finals ticket with a 49-33 finish against Williamsburg, which upset Walton-Verona in overtime to reach the semifinals in its inaugural tournament trip. Summer Rose had 22 points — including a 4-for-8 mark from behind the three-point line — to lead Shelby Valley, which became the first 15th Region girls’ team to reach the All “A” finals.
The Wildcats (19-3) will try to become the first eastern Kentucky team to win the girls’ title since Jackson County in 2002. They’re unbeaten against Kentucky competition but have not played a team ranked in the top 25 of the Cantrall Ratings; Murray (21-2) is ranked sixth overall with losses to No. 8 South Warren and No. 9 Male and multiple top-25 victories.