Happy hoops and a happy new year.
Lexington Catholic's boys' basketball team should be in a good mood as it dribbles into 2009 after clocking Clark County 70-51 in the finals of the Republic Bank Holiday Classic on Tuesday night.
Nobody saw this rout coming. Not after Clark County, rated sixth in the state, manhandled No. 10 Hazard 61-36 in Monday's semifinals.
But No. 9 Lexington Catholic used a 24-3 run to start the second half and crushed the Cardinals.
"Championships are never won in December, but this sure as heck feels pretty good," Knights Coach Brandon Salsman said.
Vee Sanford led the winners with 31 points, most of them coming on acrobatic floaters in the lane and along the baseline.
Another star for Lexington Catholic was Tanner Peurach. The 6-foot-7 junior's challenge was to match up against Clark County's big guys — 6-4 Corey Rogers and 6-8 Vinny Zollo.
Peurach did his job, banging for 14 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots. His tenacity didn't show up in the box score.
Clark County Coach Scott Humphrey said he was "shocked that (Peurach) hurt us as bad as he did.
"There's no question he was the difference in the game.
"We knew Vee would have a special night because he's a special player. But the big guy was the star of the game."
Salsman said he knew Peurach was capable of muscling with the Cards' big men and predicted a bright future for him: "He's gonna be a monster by the end of the season."
Peurach is part of the Knights' young supporting cast that is learning the system under senior veterans Sanford and Taylor Botkin.
Sophomores Taylor Martin and Scott Schuette, and freshman Jaylen Beckham figure to keep improving, too.
"We know Vee is going to play good every night, but the rest of us know we've got to match it," Peurach said. "I think we're going to keep getting better and better."
Clark County, led by Robbie Stenzel's four three-pointers, played right with the Knights in the first half. The Cards went into the locker room trailing 36-35.
But Humphrey noticed something at the break.
"I could tell at halftime we were gassed," he said. "I don't know if Hazard took it out of us last night going against their big bodies.
"But I'm not making any excuses. Lexington Catholic was tremendous. As good as we played (in the semifinals), they returned the favor tonight."
Rogers led Clark County with 15 points and five rebounds. Stenzel had all of his 14 points in the second half.
Lexington Catholic's defense forced 21 turnovers, which they converted into 23 points.
This is the second year in a row Lexington Catholic has won its own tournament by beating the 10th Region favorite in the finals. The Knights knocked off eventual state champ Mason County in the 2007 title game
"It's great to win it again and bring it back to back," Peurach said.
Lexington Catholic 70, Clark Co. 51
CLARK COUNTY (8-3) — Stenzel 5-12 0-0 14, Hatton 2-4 3-4 8, Daniel 1-5 0-0 2, Brewer 1-2 0-0 3, Zollo 3-7 2-2 9, Rogers 6-11 3-7 15, Bailey 0-1 0-0 0, Willaims 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 18-43 8-15 51.
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC (11-2) — Sanford 15-26 1-1 31, Martin 3-6 0-0 7, Schuette 2-4 0-0 5, Beckham 3-6 2-2 8, Botkin 1-5 3-4 5, Peurach 6-9 2-4 14, Talbott 0-0 0-1 0. Totals 30-56 8-12 70.
Clark Co. 16 19 5 11—51
Lexington Catholic 20 16 24 10—70
Vee Sanford (MVP), Taylor Martin and Taylor Botkin of Lexington Catholic; Robbie Stenzel, Robert Hatton and Corey Rogers of Clark County; Josh Whitaker and Michael Campbell of Hazard; Brian Gunter of St. Xavier; Branden Burdette of LCA; Josh Sewell of Trinity; Darren Ballou of Adair County; Jon Hood of Madisonville; Aaron Watts of McCreary Central; Steven McFarland of Boone County; Chuck Jones of Hopkins Central; Jeramie Conner of Newport Catholic.