LCA girls make the record books

RICHMOND — Some Lexington Christian players said it might hit them on the bus ride home from McBrayer Arena.

Others said it might hit them at dinner that night.

Others said it might take the rest of the season for it to sink in that they made history Sunday with their dominant 70-43 win over Green County in the championship game of the Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic.

For junior Sarah Beth Barnette, the magnitude of what the No. 7 Eagles did hit her immediately.

"We made history," she said. "When you think about it, that's pretty incredible."

With this title, LCA became the first school — boys or girls — to win the small school state tournament three straight times.

The final score also was the most lopsided title-game victory for any girls' team in tournament history.

"We were ready for back to back to back," senior Courtney Clifton said. "We wanted this championship, this third one. It means a lot to us to get it."

Clifton, a senior guard headed to Western Kentucky, led all scorers with 24 points, five rebounds and three assists. She scored 11 points in a big third-quarter run that erased any hopes of a Dragons comeback.

The Eagles didn't look so sharp early, falling behind before Coach Jason Seamands called a timeout to regroup.

It resulted in a big change in rebounding. Before the time out, the Dragons were outrebounding LCA 6-1. The Eagles' high-flying transition game was suffering.

"He said we were beating ourselves, that we weren't playing hard and doing the things we needed to do," tournament Most Valuable Player Anna Martin said. "We didn't have a championship effort."

Once Seamands righted the ship, his big three of Barnette, Clifton and Martin helped the Eagles go on an 18-0 run midway through the first half to grab a commanding 21-6 lead.

After fouling out and getting a technical late in the semifinals, Barnette wanted to make it up to her teammates in the title game.

The University of Kentucky commitment made her first four shots, including a three-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer. The junior had 12 points and nine rebounds and two blocked shots at the half, and finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks.

"I knew that after that game I had to take that energy and turn it into positive energy, which is what I tried to do today," Barnette said.

Once LCA (18-4) got its running game going, the Dragons, who had won eight straight, struggled to find their rhythm.

"We played a little nervous," Coach Chris Blaydes said. "It's a big stage, and we struggled with that at times. ... We might have been a little too wound up."

Green County, making its first finals appearance, was led by Megan Hartfield and Kelsey Mitchell with 13 points apiece.

The Dragons (18-4) used a quick 6-0 burst to go into halftime down 33-20, but LCA quickly responded with a 15-6 run in the third quarter to pull way ahead.

Clifton had nine points in that run.

Martin had 10 of her 18 points in the second half. She also added nine rebounds and four assists.

"These girls are amazing players, and when you have amazing players, good things happen," Seamands said. "We don't have attitudes, and you can see it in the way we play. ... We're able to put big runs on teams because they like each other, they like passing to each other."

And they liked winning their third straight championship trophy. It was especially meaningful to seniors Clifton and Martin.

"They're some of my best friends, so it's so cool to have this experience with them again," Martin said. "It's just awesome."