Hip deep in quicksand and looking for a way to survive.
That was Lexington Christian Academy's sticky situation against Tates Creek in the boys' 43rd District Tournament opener at Paul Laurence Dunbar on Monday night.
LCA Coach Brad Carter said when he looked at the scoreboard with his team up 28-27 midway through the third quarter, he told his assistants: "This is exactly where Tates Creek wants it. We've gotta score some points."
LCA never did get on a breakaway run, but it did cobble together enough offense, including 10 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter, to pull out a 48-39 victory and earn a shot at Lafayette in Wednesday's semifinals.
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The Eagles' escape was much closer than the final score reflected. Tates Creek trailed 42-39 and got an open shot to tie it with :40 left, but Ian Davis' three-pointer from the right corner didn't fall.
Michael Young's layup and Drew Schacht's four free throws sealed it for LCA.
"I came in knowing it was going to be a grind," said junior Drew Trimble, who led the Eagles with 15 points.
"When we play them it always seems to be an ugly, physical, low-scoring game. It's always 32 minutes, a constant battle."
Tates Creek, as is its habit, controlled the tempo with solid half-court defense and a patient offense.
"You can't speed them up and get them out of control,' Carter said.
LCA built an early 12-point lead but the Commodores fought back and trailed 23-20 at halftime.
They rallied to take a 33-32 lead early in the fourth quarter on Desmond Duke's steal and Blake Rose's layup.
But LCA responded with a 10-1 run that put it on top 42-34. Carter said Trevor Hill's fast-break basket, one of the Eagles' few transition baskets all night, was the spark.
"I was proud of the way our guys turned it around and made that run when we really needed it," Carter said.
Young, a 6-foot-5 senior, finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Matt Rose, a 6-6 junior, got all of his seven points in the second half.
Tates Creek was led by Davis' 17 points and nine rebounds. Duke had 10 points.
Duke's three cut LCA's lead to 42-37, and after the Eagles missed a pair of free throws, Davis scored inside to make it 42-39 with 1:10 left. Tates Creek then forced a turnover, setting up its chance to tie it inside the final minute.
"It was a one-possession game and we had an opportunity, but unfortunately the ball didn't fall for us," Coach Wayne Breeden said.
"It was a pretty even basketball game, but we just weren't able to make plays down the stretch to win it."
LCA will take on district favorite Lafayette, led by Mr. Basketball finalist Jackson Davis, Wednesday night.
What will it take for LCA to upset the 11th-ranked Generals and earn its first-ever trip to the 11th Region tournament?
"Jackson Davis having the flu bug," Carter said with a laugh.
"No, we need to rebound the basketball and control the pace. We don't want it to get to 80 or 90 points. We'd like it in the 50s or 60s."
Lexington Christian 48, Tates Creek 39
TATES CREEK (8-18) — Fucci 6, Davis 17, Duke 10, Hart 2, Rose 4.
LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN (18-11) — Rose 7, Young 14, Trimble 15, Stein 2, Hill 4, Davis 2, Schacht 4.
Tates Creek 7 13 9 10—39
Lexington Christian 17 6 9 16—48