How terrific was Christian County's Anthony Hickey in rallying the Colonels to a 67-62 victory over Lexington Catholic in the PNC/KHSAA Boys Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals Friday afternoon in Rupp Arena?
"On a scale of one to 1,000, I'd say 1,000," Christian County Coach Kerry Stovall said.
"I'd probably say 1,000, too," Hickey said sheepishly.
A grand scale for one of the most breathtaking performances in state tournament history.
Never miss a local story.
Hickey, a lightning-quick 5-foot-11 senior point guard, stuffed his stat line with 31 points, nine steals, eight rebounds and seven assists to push Christian County into a semifinal showdown with No. 1 Eastern on Saturday morning.
Hickey twice resuscitated the Colonels when they were on the verge of flat-lining against Lexington Catholic.
After Scott Schuette hit four three-pointers to help stake the Knights to a 22-10 first-quarter lead, Hickey started the second period by scoring Christian County's first 15 points to cut the deficit to 27-25.
Hickey did it every which way, stealing and scoring in transition, nailing a three, tipping in a miss. But soon after that he picked up his third foul and had to go to the bench.
Lexington Catholic took advantage of his absence and stretched its lead to 38-27 at halftime.
Hickey was ready to roll to start the third quarter, though, and he rang up his team's first 11 points, pulling Christian County to within 39-38.
"He almost willed us back into the game," Stovall said.
Lexington Catholic senior Taylor Martin sensed the Colonels had a new attitude in the second half: "They brought up their energy level and they punched us in the mouth."
Hickey said he was trying to set an example with his whirling-dervish effort: "With our team, if one guy goes hard, we all go hard."
Sure enough, teammate Donovan Kates took over a couple minutes later.
The 6-5 senior drilled a three-pointer to give Christian County its first lead of the day at 46-45. He then scored the Colonels' first 10 points of the fourth quarter, including a couple more bombs, to put them ahead 56-49.
"When he's hitting those 30-foot threes, there's nothing you can do," Lexington Catholic Coach Brandon Salsman said. "I thought our kids played great defense; he just hit great shots."
Kates said desperation was his motivation. "I wanted to make sure we could play another round," he said.
The Knights made a couple of last-ditch runs, and twice pulled to within three in the last 20 seconds. But Kates, who finished with 26 points, and fellow senior Nick Riley each made two free throws.
An emotional Salsman saluted his seniors — Schuette (25 points), Martin (15 points, 13 rebounds, four assists) and Seth Beckham (15 points, nine rebounds).
"When nobody expected they could do it and everybody told them they couldn't do it, they had a great year.
"When this wears off in a week or so, they'll think back on these moments and say it was a great run."
Stovall noted his Colonels' grit in coming back from an 11-point halftime deficit.
"Everybody thought we were down and out," he said. "But people saw what these kids are made of. They're the most amazing group I've ever coached. Fight and heart doesn't begin to describe how they played in the second half."
Hickey led the fight with his non-stop hustle on defense as he helped force Lexington Catholic into 27 turnovers.
"I knew he was fast," Salsman said. "But he looked like he was at another level, forcing turnovers left and right on us. He's a tremendous, tremendous player."
Hickey was hurting after the game, nursing a sore leg.
"Pain only makes you better," he said. "Just give me a couple more games and I'll be all right."