RICHMOND — Brenton Covington was a star in Madison Central's 42-41 upset of Tates Creek in the boys' 11th Region basketball tournament semifinals in EKU's McBrayer Arena on Saturday.
But Covington, who hit the game-winning three-pointer with eight seconds left, had to share the glory with a gimmick defense that smothered Tates Creek stars Ryan Fucci and Marcellus Barksdale.
"I've been coaching 25 years, and I've never used a triangle-and-two in my life," Indians Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. said. "But I couldn't think of a better time than the semifinals of the region. What do you have to lose?"
The defense sparked Madison Central's victory over No. 11 Tates Creek and earned the Indians a trip to the region finals for the first time since they went to the Sweet Sixteen in 2006.
No. 17 Madison Central (22-9) will play No. 5 Lexington Catholic (25-7) in Monday night's title game. The Knights, who won the region in 2008 and '09, outlasted Woodford County 71-57 in Saturday's second semifinal.
Tates Creek beat Madison Central by seven points twice during the regular season, but the third time was a charm for the Indians.
Fucci and Barksdale were shadowed every second. Fucci was 2-for-10 from the field and finished with nine points, seven rebounds and four assists. Barksdale was 1-for-6 and had six points and 11 rebounds.
"They did a great job defensively on us," Tates Creek Coach Wayne Breeden said. "It bothered us in getting the ball to Marcellus and Ryan in scoring areas. We've seen it all year in spots. We just weren't able to negotiate it today."
Despite its offensive woes, Tates Creek rallied from a seven-point deficit to go up 39-35 with two minutes left. Kendalle Mack, Darius Gibson and Todd Bradley supplied big points in the comeback.
But Madison Central got clutch baskets from Dominique Hawkins and Quan Taylor to stay alive.
After Braxton McFarland hit one of two free throws to put Tates Creek up 41-39 lead with 32 seconds left, the stage was set for Covington. The 6-foot senior fired up a quick three that missed, but Nick Ford got the rebound and passed to Covington.
The shot swished. There was some question whether he was behind the three-point line, but officials ruled he was. (TV replays later showed he was over the line.)
"Oh, well, it takes a little luck," Covington said with a smile.
Tates Creek still had eight seconds to salvage victory. Fucci drove deep into the crowded lane but couldn't get off much of a shot. Barksdale got the rebound but was too far behind the basket, and his twisting leaner didn't come close.
"We had a four-point lead with two minutes left but couldn't finish it off," Breeden said. "When you get your butts beat you congratulate the other team. I'm really proud of this bunch. We'll look back on it and see we had a tremendous season."
Lexington Catholic 71, Woodford County 57: Coach Brandon Salsman said his players heard early-season "talk that we weren't good enough to win the region, but here we are in the region finals, and that's all that matters."
Lexington Catholic built a 24-point lead late in the first half, but the Knights didn't have an easy time putting Woodford County away for good. The Yellowjackets, without a senior on their roster, battled back behind Jay Johnson.
The 6-foot-6 junior, who had 24 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocked shots, led a comeback that cut the deficit to 10 with a minute to go.
"Johnson was a monster in there," Salsman said.
But Lexington Catholic seniors Scott Schuette, Taylor Martin and Seth Beckham kept their cool. "Our three seniors help us stay confident. We keep playing strong," said Schuette, who led the winners with 25 points.
Martin had 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Beckham and Craig Floyd had 10 points apiece.
Woodford County first-year coach Scott Hundley praised his players' never-quit attitude and gave them a pep talk after the game. "I told them it's no time for tears. It's time to get back to the gym and get back to work for next season."
Madison Central 42, Tates Creek 41
MADISON CENTRAL (22-9) — Hawkins 3-9 6-9 12, Covington 2-8 3-4 9, Ford 1-3 2-4 4, Allen 2-6 1-1 5, O'Bryan 1-3 0-0 3, Taylor 3-5 0-0 6, Pyatt 0-0 2-2 2, Bosley 0-2 1-2 1. Totals 12-37 15-22 42.
TATES CREEK (24-5) — Fucci 2-10 5-6 9, Barksdale 1-6 4-5 6, Bradley 2-3 0-0 4, Gibson 2-6 3-4 7, Mack 4-10 3-6 11, McFarland 0-0 1-2 1, Fugate 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 12-39 16-23 41.
Madison Central 16 2 13 11—42
Tates Creek 12 8 8 13—41
Lexington Catholic 71, Woodford Co. 57
WOODFORD CO. (20-10) — Johnson 10-19 4-12 24, Greenwell 4-13 4-4 14, Stover 1-5 0-0 2, Starcher 1-6 0-0 3, Gross 3-9 0-0 6, Young 1-5 2-2 5, Hollin 0-1 3-4 3. Totals 20-58 13-22 57.
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC (25-7) — Schuette 10-22 0-0 25, Martin 4-9 9-12 17, Floyd 3-5 4-4 10, Beckham 5-12 0-4 10, Woomer 2-3 0-0 4, Whitman 0-2 0-0 0, Keller 2-2 0-0 5. Totals 26-55 13-20 71.
Woodford Co. 5 15 19 18—57
Lexington Catholic 18 22 19 12—71