Lexington Catholic came into Lexington Christian’s gym and walked away with a victory 11 days ago. With about eight seconds left to play Tuesday night, it looked like the Knights would do it again.
Max Sparkman hit a go-ahead layup to put Lexington Catholic up 52-50 with 22 seconds left. LCA senior Austin Hall missed a pair of free throws on the other end and LexCath called a timeout with about eight seconds remaining. LCA junior Kyle Rode tipped the ensuing inbound pass and senior Carter Hendricksen came up with a steal at midcourt. Hendricksen weaved into the paint and connected on a layup while drawing a foul. He made the free throw and, following a series of timeouts, LCA held off a game-winning shot attempt by the Knights on the other end to emerge with a 53-52 comeback win in the semifinals of the 43rd District tournament.
The Eagles (24-7) secured their second straight berth to the 11th Region tournament (and second in school history) and a spot in the 43rd District finals. They’ll defend their district crown against either Lafayette or Paul Laurence Dunbar (who play Wednesday) in the championship game on Friday night.
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Hendricksen, who’s signed with North Florida University, finished the night with 16 points to lead the Eagles. Rode had 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds while senior Austin Hall had 10 points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Rode interjected when Hendricksen was asked if the go-ahead play was the greatest shot of his high school career.
“I mean, that would be LeBron’s biggest shot of his career,” Rode said with a laugh, referencing NBA star LeBron James.
Hendricksen shied away from taking total credit for the win. He noted that Rode tipped the inbound and that multiple teammates stepped up when their number was called throughout the evening.
He lauded Rode’s defense against LexCath freshman Ben Johnson, who connected on seven of his 10 three-point attempts and finished with a game-high 25 points.
“They’re really deliberate about what they do. I’m pretty sure we played a possession where we played three minutes on defense, and Kyle’s chasing Ben around the court the whole time,” Hendricksen said. “I know he was gassed, I was gassed just watching him.”
It was LCA’s first victory over the Knights (18-10) since eliminating them in the 43rd District semifinals last season. Lexington Catholic took a 52-40 decision at home on Jan. 2 and won 76-73 in overtime on Feb. 9 despite losing senior Zan Payne, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, to a season-ending knee injury in the final seconds of regulation.
“We talked about three things before the game that we’ve talked about since the beginning of the year, and that’s work hard, do what’s right and have faith that everything else will work out and take care of itself,” LCA head coach Nate Valentine said. “And if you can’t see that in that 32 minutes right there, you can’t see it.”
Lexington Catholic head coach Brandon Salsman said he’s never been more proud of one of his teams than he was on Tuesday night.
“They were awesome and played for each other and played for Zan with an energy and passion that is hard to find today,” Salsman said. “They handled adversity these past two weeks better than any coach I have coached. All of them were just awesome. … So much good except the score, which falls on me. I’m glad these guys took me with them. I will never forget their effort or this game.”
Lexington Christian 53, Lexington Catholic 52
Lexington Christian (24-7) — Carter Hendricksen 16, Ezekiel Greer 5, Kyle Rode 15, Austin Hall 10, Will Hacker 3, Isaiah Hunt 4
Lexington Catholic (18-10) — Keegan Bailey 10, Ben Johnson 25, TC Price 13, Max Sparkman 4, Brice Scott