Lexington Christian Academy won the boys' All "A" 11th Region as expected, but not in the expected way.
The Eagles were a solid pre-season pick to qualify for the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic state tournament, but that was before they lost three players to injury.
Neil Rose, a 6-foot-7 senior, has been out for more than a month due to a concussion. Junior guard Brad Calipari suffered a season-ending knee injury just before Christmas. And 6-6 junior Matt Rose, LCA's top scorer and rebounder, has missed the last couple of weeks with a foot injury.
But the Eagles still won the All "A" region in fairly easy fashion, an accomplishment Coach Brad Carter attributed to the team's deep bench.
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"Early in the season we talked about how depth was our strength," Carter said. "We told all our guys to stay ready so when they got the opportunity they could step up. That's what they've done."
Michael Young, a 6-5 senior, has been a mainstay in the middle and was MVP of the region tournament.
Drew Trimble, a 6-7 junior, and Trevor Hill, a 6-2 sophomore, have raised their games. Both made the all-tournament team.
"Everybody's playing pretty good basketball for us now," Carter said. "Different guys are stepping up when we need them."
Carter noted that when Trimble got in foul trouble in the region finals against Sayre, Benton Nighbert picked up the slack by contributing five points, seven rebounds and four assists.
"It was a real confidence-builder for us to win three games in the region like we did," Carter said.
There's a chance Matt Rose could be back for LCA's opener against Elliott County in the All "A" state tournament Thursday morning. Carter said it'll be a game-day decision.
Sizing up the All "A" field, Carter pointed to defending champion Newport Central Catholic as an obvious favorite.
"If we play well, we've got a shot," said NewCath Coach Ron Dawn, who led the Thoroughbreds to the small-school title in 2000. (He's in his first season back at the helm.)
NewCath, No. 4 in Dave Cantrall's Rating the State, has played a difficult schedule that has included Ballard, Pleasure Ridge Park (twice), Lafayette, Knott County Central and Cordia.
"We've played a lot of really good teams and seen a lot of different styles of play, and we hope that'll help us in this tournament and at the end of the year," Dawn said.
NewCath is led by 6-7 junior Drew McDonald, who was MVP of the 2013 All "A", and 6-8 senior Jake Schulte. They combined for 113 points and 63 rebounds in four games in last year's tournament.
While NewCath is a clear-cut favorite in the top half of the bracket, Carter said the bottom bracket is "loaded" with contenders, including 2007 champ Bishop Brossart, Cordia, Jackson County and 2011 champ Betsy Layne.
The All "A" field also includes eight-time champ University Heights Academy, and 2001 titlist Glasgow.
Green County qualified for the boys' All "A" for the first time in 22 years. First-year coach Keith Young, who guided Adair County to the 1995 Sweet Sixteen, said the Dragons' fans are excited about the team's success.
"The community is really hungry for a winner," he said. "It's a sports-minded school and the administration is doing whatever it can to help.