It had been five long, long years since Lafayette had advanced to a region tournament. The final few seconds of Tuesday night's 43rd District semifinals must have felt even longer than that for Coach Damon Kelley and his Generals, who clung to a lead late over Lexington Christian.
But, in the final 20 seconds at Paul Dunbar, the Eagles missed two strongly contested layups that would have sent the game to overtime, and Lafayette was able to hang on to win 40-38 and advance to Friday's district championship and the 11th Region Tournament next week.
"We were in there fighting and fighting and, fortunately, the buzzer sounded before they could get the ball in the basket," Kelley said. "Give these guys credit on defense. They made the plays when they had to."
In addition to the two contested shots in the waning seconds, LCA also missed a wide-open three-pointer and a 15-footer in the final 1:30 that could have tied it or put the Eagles ahead.
"I was worried a little bit there at the end," junior Mike Walker said.
He could have been worried early, too, when Lafayette (10-17) trailed by as many as 12 points before using a 14-2 run to tie it up. Walker had seven of his game-high 13 points in that rally. He also led the Generals with three steals.
Micah Miller added eight points and Tyler Barber six points and eight rebounds for Lafayette, which snapped a four-game losing streak. The district win also was the Generals' first of the season.
Walker's three-pointer late in the third quarter gave Lafayette its first lead of the game. A Miller shot in the lane midway through the fourth put the Generals up for good.
"I can't even describe it," Walker said of earning a trip to the region tournament. "I've got no words for how this feels."
Grant Sparks had 10 points for the Eagles, who were denied their first trip to the region tournament. Will Evans had seven points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
LAFAYETTE 40, LEXington CHRISTIAN 38
LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN (10-16) — Burdette 4-11 0-2 8; Hellig 1-1 0-0 2; Kindred 1-1 0-0 2; Evans 3-6 1-2 7; Barnette 1-3 0-0 3; Sparks 5-8 0-0 10; Helton 2-6 0-0 4; Gullett 1-1 0-0 2; Stephens 0-1 0-0 0. 18-38 1-4 38.
LAFAYETTE (10-17) — Yarbrough 0-6 3-4 3; Napier 1-6 2-2 4; Lawless 1-3 0-0 3; Walker 5-14 1-1 13; Miller 2-5 4-6 8; Barber 3-5 0-1 6; Linton 0-4 3-4 3.
Lexington Christian 16 4 10 8—38
Lafayette 6 12 10 12—40