After a talented group of seniors graduated last spring, Lexington high school boys' basketball figured to be a little less competitive overall this season.
But if you go by what happened in the Commodore Classic at Tates Creek this weekend, the city may be stronger than most people expected.
After No. 17 Bryan Station whipped No. 2 Holmes Friday night, unranked Henry Clay knocked off No. 8 Christian County 73-67 Saturday.
Tates Creek almost made it a 3-for-3 weekend for city teams pulling upsets, but No. 12 Male escaped with a 59-57 win in Saturday's nightcap.
Christian County was missing four of its top eight players, who are on the football team that has reached the Class 5A finals. But the Colonels still have plenty of firepower as they showed in beating No. 5 Warren Central Thursday night.
Christian County Coach Kerry Stovall said he doesn't buy into the notion that the city is down in talent.
"Lexington is Lexington," he said. "You can talk about names graduating, but as soon as those guys go out the door there's another group coming in right behind them.
"You could sit here last night or sit here tonight and understand it's not really true that Lexington is 'down.' "
Henry Clay, which was rated eighth in the 11th Region in the pre-season, led Christian County from start to finish.
Senior guard Prince Stewart led the way with 30 points and six rebounds. Sophomore Daniel Keisling had 17 points, and Bradley Tilford contributed seven points, five rebounds and four assists.
Henry Clay, which led by as many as 14, had to withstand a late Colonels rally.
Gary Bowman's three-point play and Daquan Murden's three-point bomb cut the Blue Devils' lead to 68-67 with 24 seconds left.
But Henry Clay kept its poise. After Marquel Johnson hit one of two free throws, Brandon Nichols came up with a steal and Stewart cashed in a pair of free throws to help the Devils hang on.
Corey Wilford led Christian County with 18 points. Veontae Lewis had 13, and Shaquille Wilson, one of the top juniors in the state, added 13.
"Kerry's teams always play better later in the year, and when he gets all his kids back, they'll be really good again," Henry Clay Coach Daniel Brown said.
He also agreed with Stovall that Lexington hoops won't see much of a dip this season.
"We may be down as far as big-name players, but we've got a lot of young talent coming on across the city," he said. "People just don't know the kids by name yet."
Male 59, Tates Creek 57: The Commodores let their chances at an upset slip away in the closing seconds.
With the score tied at 57, the hosts got the ball after a turnover, but they missed a shot.
Male's D'Carlo Hayes hit two free throws with two seconds left to put the Bulldogs ahead.
Tates Creek wasn't finished yet, though. Marcellus Barksdale was fouled on a shot attempt with three-tenths of a second left. He missed the first free throw, then missed the second on purpose but Male grabbed the rebound.
"Our inexperience showed up down the stretch," Tates Creek Coach Wayne Breeden said. "A well-coached and talented Male team was able to make the plays. We didn't, and that comes from not having a lot of game experience."
Barksdale, a 6-3 sophomore, had a game-high 21 points. Hayes led Male with 19 points.
Henry Clay 73, Christian Co. 67
CHRISTIAN COUNTY (1-1) — Wilson 13, Wilford 18, Lewis 14, Gipson 12, Bowman 3, Murden 7.
HENRY CLAY (1-0) — P. Stewart 30, Keisling 17, Tilford 7, Johnson 9, Barnes 4, Nichols 2, T. Stewart 2, Wilder 2.
Christian County18 13 17 19—67
Henry Clay 23 20 10 20—73
Male 58, Tates Creek 56
Male (1-0) — Hayes 18, Reynolds 7, Glenn 14, Horne 2, Duncan 7, Bell 8, Brasher 2.
Tates Creek (1-2) — Gibson 3, Fucci 2, Hagan 3, Potter 10, Daugherty 2, Mack 2, Cuyler 2, Barksdale 21, Garner 12.
Male 12 17 11 18—58
Tates Creek 5 23 14 14—56