RICHMOND — Before the championship game of the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic, Coach Jason Booher looked at his Shelby Valley players and asked them this question: "What do you want your legacy to be?"
Did they want to be the Shelby Valley team that wins two straight small-school state titles or the one that almost did it?
Booher got his answer quickly as the sixth-ranked Wildcats jumped out to a 17-point lead in the first half and held off a late DeSales charge to win 46-37 at Eastern Kentucky's McBrayer Arena on Sunday.
"They proved that their legacy is state champions; not just once, but twice," he said.
Booher suspected they might with eight seniors on the team. That's what made it an even more special win, said Tyler Newsome, who led all scorers with 14 points.
"It's senior year and we wanted to make sure we went out right," Newsome said.
DeSales, making its first-ever appearance in the small school state tournament, let alone in a championship game, looked nervous to start, falling behind by double digits in the second quarter.
By the time the Colts, who had a six-game win streak snapped, shook the nerves, Shelby Valley (18-3) had grabbed a big lead, shooting a blistering 60 percent (15 of 25) in the first half.
DeSales made a game of it, though, holding the Cats to just four points (one field goal) in the third quarter. The Colts scored nine unanswered and cut it to six points, 41-35.
When the game got tight, Booher had faith.
"They've been in all kinds of big games before and to have that senior-led team is just a blessing," he said.
Newsome knew the Cats, who have won five straight and 12 of their last 13, would prevail.
"They came back on us, but we knew we could hold on because we had so much experience on the floor," Newsome said.
Cody Varney had a big putback and Tyler Newsome hit two big free throws in the final minute to extend the lead to double digits again. Taylor Newsome added 12 points in the win.
"They made plays down the stretch and we didn't make plays," DeSales Coach John Mingus said. "A pass here or one less turnover there and we had a shot. ... Our kids battled and I'm proud of them."
DeSales (13-8) was led by Nick Roush's 10 points and five rebounds. Derek Thornberry added eight points.
Now that Shelby Valley's seniors have secured this legacy, their goal is to make more history in March, said Most Valuable Player Elisha Justice, who made up for poor shooting (1-for-8) with his five assists and four steals.
"We've won the All 'A' two in a row and it would just feel amazing to go (to Rupp Arena) together — best friends, played together our whole lives — and win the big state tournament," he said.
Shelby Valley 46, DeSales 37
All 'A' Classic at Richmond
Shelby Valley (18-3) — Justice 4, Hatfield 8, Ta.Newsome 12, Varney 6, Ta.Tackett 2, Ty.Newsome 14.
DeSales (13-8) — Maynard 5, Brooks 2, Sliter 2, Keehner 6, Ritchie 4, Thornsberry 8, Roush 10.
Shelby Valley 20 15 4 7—46
DeSales 13 7 10 7—37
MVP—Elisha Justice, Shelby Valley
Ashley Hatfield, Taylor Newsome, Tyler Newsome, Shelby Valley; Brandon Ritchie, Derek Thornberry, Corbin Maynard, DeSales; Ryan Hudson, Matt McGowan, University Heights; Jacody Taylor, Danville; Cameron Hall, Kerrington Bradley, Glasgow; Josh Whitaker, Hazard.