As Lafayette filed into the locker room after a 58-56 victory over Paul Dunbar in the boys' 43rd District opener Monday night, Generals Coach Greg Coldiron had a message for his players:
"Smile, guys! You just won won a game in the district tournament!"
Lafayette's 8-18 regular season didn't generate much joy for the Generals, but they started the post-season on a happy note.
"After all they've been through, I want them to enjoy this one," Coldiron said after Lafayette survived a grudge match against Dunbar.
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Lafayette will play No. 6 Lexington Catholic in Wednesday's semifinals.
Dunbar beat Lafayette two out of three times during the season, but this was the one that really counted.
"We've had our ups and downs, and hadn't done so well up till now," Jackson Davis said. "But when it comes to one-and-done in the tournament, it seems we all work together and get it done."
Davis, a 6-foot-7 freshman, led the winners with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Snoop Johnson, a freshman point guard, added 17 points, including two clinching free throws with 10 seconds left.
"The two freshmen stepped up big," Coldiron said. "But we got contributions from just about everybody. It was a real team effort."
Nick Trisko had seven points and seven rebounds. David Ross had six points, including four in the last two minutes.
Dee Yarbrough opened the second half by drilling a pair of three-pointers, and football player Bubba Johnson had four key points in the last quarter.
Dunbar got a season-high 22 points from senior guard Clay Coyle.
"He played tremendous," Coach Justin Yeary said.
Sean Lamanna had 14 points and six rebounds for the Bulldogs. Lamont Johnson had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Yeary figured Davis would get his customary double-double, but he wanted to limit Yarbrough's effectiveness.
Dunbar did that. Yarbrough was just 2-for-11 shooting, although he also got five rebounds and four assists.
What the Bulldogs didn't count on was Snoop Johnson's 17 points.
"As it turned out, he was the X-factor," Yeary said.
Dunbar finished 10-19 in Yeary's first year as coach.
"It was all a good learning experience," he said. "I wanted more for our seniors, but overall I think it was a step in the right direction."
Lafayette, meanwhile, prepares to face Lexington Catholic. It lost to the Knights twice during the regular season, but Coldiron will be sure to remind his team that it was a big underdog to Lexington Catholic last year when it pulled off a stunning upset in the district tournament.
"Yes sir, I remember," Davis said with a smile.
LAFAYETTE (9-18) — Davis 6-12 6-6 18, S.Johnson 6-13 2-2 17, Yarbrough 2-11 0-0 6, Ross 3-5 0-1 6, Evans 0-1 0-0 0, Wilkerson 0-3 0-0 0, B.Johnson 1-8 2-3 4, Trisko 3-8 1-1 7. Totals 21-61 11-13 58.
PAUL DUNBAR (10-19) — Gary 3-10 4-6 10, Coyle 5-13 9-10 22, Lamanna 6-9 2-4 14, L.Johnson 4-11 2-3 10, Herrin 0-3 0-0 0, Adu-Peasah 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 18-48 17-23 56.
Lafayette 8 17 15 18—58
Paul Dunbar 9 16 15 16—56