FRANKFORT — It's nice to have a pair of MVPs on your side when you're chasing history. Newport Central Catholic has that luxury as it tries to become the first three-peat boys' champion of the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic.
Drew McDonald was MVP when NewCath took the small-school title in 2013, and Zack Pangallo was MVP when the Thoroughbreds got to the winner's circle last year.
They delivered solid performances again in leading NewCath to a hard-earned 55-51 victory over Lexington Christian in the All "A" semifinals Saturday night in the Frankfort Civic Center.
Pangallo, a senior point guard, had 21 points and kept the 'Breds under control in the tense closing minutes.
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McDonald, a burly 6-7 senior, powered his way to 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Ben Weyer, a 6-6 junior, contributed 10 points, six rebounds, four blocked shots and some pretty good defense on LCA star Matt Rose.
NewCath's 11th consecutive victory in the All "A" earned it a spot in Sunday afternoon's finals against Monroe County.
The Falcons beat Owen County 55-46 in Saturday's second semifinal.
LCA, which lost to NewCath 78-49 in last year's final four, battled the 'Breds down to the wire in the rematch.
"This is good for us. We'll learn a lot from this," said NewCath Coach Ron Dawn, whose team had won its previous six "A" playoff games by an average of 42 points.
Pangallo liked the thrill of a close game, too, but said "it's a little more nerve-wracking. You gotta be mentally tough to stay in the game."
LCA made it tough on NewCath. The Eagles trailed by 15 points midway through the second quarter, pulled to within seven at halftime, then came on strong in the fourth quarter.
Led by seniors Rose and Drew Trimble, and eighth-grader Kyle Rode, LCA pulled to within 52-51 with :30 left.
NewCath then missed the front of the bonus, but McDonald chased down the rebound and was fouled. He hit two free throws to make it 54-51 with :22 left.
"It seemed every loose ball, every 50-50 ball in the fourth quarter, they got," LCA Coach Nate Valentine said.
The Eagles never got a chance to try to tie it with a three. They made a turnover, and Weyer clinched it with a free throw with :02 left.
"It's frustrating that we didn't give ourselves that opportunity at the end," LCA Valentine said.
Rose led the Eagles with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Trimble had 14 points and four rebounds. Rode had 11 points and four rebounds.
Valentine credited NewCath for "putting you in a position where you've got to do things you're not used to doing."
But the Eagles' first-year coach was encouraged by the way his team competed with the No. 4 team in the state. "We've got a lot of bright days ahead," he said.
Monroe County 55, Owen County 46: Monroe County came into the All "A" rated No. 2 behind NewCath, but Coach Steve Kirkpatrick didn't know if his team could play up to such expectations.
He knows now.
"Those rankings, they're fun, but it comes down to how the kids play," Kirkpatrick said.
The kids played great against Owen County.
Led by Dillon Geralds 22 points and eight rebounds, the Falcons were in control most of the way. They led by 15 (45-30) before Owen County rallied to within 47-40 with two minutes left.
"We knew they wouldn't give up," Geralds said. "We had a little bit of a comfort zone, but we had to keep playing and keep scoring."
Skyler Geralds had 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists. John Austin Geralds had 10 points and four rebounds.
Kirkpatrick saluted Owen County star Carson Williams. The 6-6 junior had 19 points and 19 rebounds.
"He's special," Kirkpatrick said. "We double-downed on him, and even triple-downed on him some. He's just so strong."
Dillion Geralds, a 6-3 senior, had his best game of the week. He was 4-for-9 from three-point range.
"Dillon got his confidence level back up, and that's because he was hitting some shots," Kirkpatrick said.
Geralds said he knows NewCath will be a tough test in the finals, but the Falcons will enjoy the challenge.
"We're new to this," he said. "Monroe County's boys have never been in the championship game before, so we're going to enjoy it and have fun."
Newport Catholic 55, LCA 51
Newport Central Catholic (19-3) — McDonald 13, Pangallo 21, Weyer 10, Moeves 8, Anderson 3.
Lexington Christian (17-7) — Rose 14, Rode 11, Trimble 14, King 7, Nighbert 3, Schacht 2.
Newport Catholic 15 17 17 6—55
Lexington Christian 14 11 14 12—51
mONROE cO. 55, oWEN cO. 46
Monroe County (22-2) — D.Geralds 22, S.Geralds 10, J.Geralds 10, Arnett 4, Summers 7, Curtis 2.
Owen County (21-3) — Williams 19, Forsee 10, Fitzgerald 2, McDonald 4, Toftness 4, Tackett 4, McAnally 3.
Monroe County 16 14 11 14—55
Owen County 12 6 12 16—46