It's been a long and winding road for the Lafayette boys' basketball team this season, with the young, inexperienced Generals trying to find their way to respectability.
They arrived at their destination Tuesday night by beating Tates Creek 51-37 in the 43rd District semifinals at Lexington Catholic.
The victory assured Lafayette a spot in next week's 11th Region tournament.
"That's been our goal since I took over," said first-year Generals coach Mike Mendenhall III. "That's what we talked about at our first practice, about getting to the region.
"Tonight was sort of a symbol of how far we've come. The way the kids battled epitomized how far they've come the last couple of months."
Lafayette will play in the district finals Friday night against the Lexington Catholic-Paul Laurence Dunbar semifinal winner.
The Generals, without a senior on their roster, didn't show their youth in the pressure of a win-or-go-home tournament game.
Jackson Davis, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, was the firebrand as he played aggressively from the opening tip. He led the winners with 16 points, 11 rebounds and five of Lafayette's nine blocked shots.
"We came out full force because we knew Tates Creek would, too," Davis said.
Lafayette's superior size was the difference. Its interior defense not only featured the long arms of Jackson, but also a rotation of other big bodies — 6-8 junior Nick Trisko, 6-7 junior Charles Sweat-Washington, 6-7 junior Ethan Burlingham and 6-5 freshman Shon Wright.
Mendenhall said the Generals wanted to "create a wall around the paint" to negate the penetration of Tates Creek point guard Darius Gibson.
Gibson and the Commodores couldn't scale the wall.
Tates Creek, harrassed inside, missed a boatload of layups. Forced to the perimeter, it had no better luck.
Tates Creek shot 22 percent (12-for-55, including 2-for-16 from three-point range). It also missed nine of 20 free throws.
"We didn't shoot the ball well, but Lafayette had something to do with that," Commodores Coach Wayne Breeden said. "Nine blocked shots, five by Davis, that's a difference-maker in a high school basketball game."
Gibson and freshman Jordan Fucci each had 10 points to lead Tates Creek. Fucci also had nine rebounds.'
Besides Davis, Lafayette got solid contributions from Trisko (nine points, 11 rebounds), sophomore point guard Lance Blakely (eight points, seven rebounds, three assists) and Sweat-Washington (three points, seven rebounds, two assists).
Despite Tates Creek's offensive problems, it was still right on Lafayette's heels early in the fourth quarter. It trailed 39-37 and had two possessions to tie, but it turned the ball over both times.
TATES CREEK (12-16) — Gibson 3-18 3-5 10, Tilford 2-5 1-2 5, Epps 1-4 4-4 7, McFarland 2-8 1-2 5, Fucci 4-14 2-5 10, Mattox 0-6 0-0 0, Grimes 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 12-55 11-20 37.
LAFAYETTE (13-17) — Davis 7-10 2-4 16, Blakely 2-9 4-6 8, Chester 1-4 1-2 3, Trisko 3-7 2-6 9, Burlingham 0-0 2-2 2, Wright 2-2 0-2 4, Jeter 1-3 1-1 3, Hughes 0-1 0-0 0, Owsley 1-2 0-0 3, Sweat-Washington 1-3 1-3 3. Totals 18-41 13-26 51.
Tates Creek 7 10 16 4—37
Lafayette 12 11 13 15—51