Lexington Catholic is going to the boys' 11th Region Tournament for the 23rd year in a row, but the Knights didn't have an easy time booking a trip to next week's shootout in Richmond.
They had to fight off spirited Tates Creek in the 43rd District semifinals before pulling out a 77-69 victory at Paul Dunbar on Wednesday night.
The Knights will play Lafayette in Friday's finals. Both teams will advance to the region tournament.
Senior star Vee Sanford had 31 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals to lead the 11th-ranked Knights past No. 22 Tates Creek.
"Vee was the MVP of the game, but we couldn't have won it without our other guys who stepped up and did a great job," Coach Brandon Salsman said.
Sophomore Taylor Martin had 14 points, including a big basket and two free throws in the last two minutes.
Tanner Peurach, a 6-foot-7 junior, had nine points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots as an inside presence.
Tates Creek trailed 40-39 at halftime, then edged ahead 43-42 early in the third quarter. But the Knights responded with a 19-3 blitz over the next five minutes that opened up a 61-46 lead.
"Patented Lexington Catholic basketball. We've been doing that since the 1990s," Salsman said. "We know we're going to get one of those runs."
Sanford contributed 12 points to that flurry.
"We couldn't guard him, and we're not bad defensively," Commodores Coach Wayne Breeden said.
Tates Creek wasn't finished, though. It battled back, with sophomore Kendalle Mack scoring seven consecutive points in one span to help cut the deficit to 66-63 with 3:30 left.
But Tates Creek would get no closer.
Fucci finished with 18 points, six assists, four rebounds and four steals. Barksdale had 17 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.
Mack and Myles Potter each had nine points off the bench.
"I was real proud of our guys," Breeden said. "We kept finding a way to fight back and persevere. This will be a learning experience for us."
This was the second year in a row Lexington Catholic ended Breeden's season.
He coached at Owensboro last year when the Knights beat the Red Devils in the Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals.
Lexington catholic 77, tates creek 69
TATES CREEK (14-12) — Barksdale 7-19 3-3 17, Fucci 7-17 2-4 18, Hagan 1-4 0-0 3, Daugherty 3-7 0-0 6, Mack 4-8 0-0 9, Garner 3-5 1-2 7, Potter 4-7 1-1 9. Totals 29-67 7-10 69.
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC (20-7) — Sanford 12-21 4-5 31, Botkin 4-6 0-1 9, Martin 5-7 3-6 14, Peurach 4-5 1-3 9, Schuette 3-6 0-0 8, Beckham 2-5 0-0 4, Conrad 1-1 0-0 2, Talbott 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-52 8-15 77.
Tates Creek 16 23 12 18—69
Lexington Catholic 19 21 21 16—77