High School Sports

Lafayette shoots for title twofer after sweeping tournament semifinals

Lafayette’s Cameron King had no intention of allowing his high school hoops career to end without a fight on Wednesday night. The senior guard scored 13 clutch points and came up with three huge steals to lead the Generals back from a 14-point hole in a 47-40 win over Paul Laurence Dunbar in the 43rd District Tournament at Lexington Christian Academy.

The Generals trailed 25-11 in the closing seconds of the first half, and King had yet to score a point. As the clock wound down, he rose up from the top of the key and rattled home a three-pointer at the buzzer to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 11 heading into halftime.

“That was a big shot,” said Lafayette Coach Michael Mendenhall. “It gave us a little bit of hope heading into halftime and opened things up for us.”

King was just getting started. As the Generals chipped away at Dunbar’s lead in the third quarter, King jumped in front of an entry pass and raced downcourt for a spectacular fast-break layup, flipping a no-look shot over the hand of a defender to get the Generals within five.

Moments later, King swiped another steal and came up with another fantastic finish, Euro-stepping and double-clutching before flushing home another layup. He slammed into the padding behind the basket then flexed toward the Lafayette bench, to the delight of his teammates.

King laughed when asked about the gesture.

“I was just trying to get my team excited. We’ve got our fans backing us up and Dunbar had the momentum the whole first half,” King said. “Coming out and getting those steals really got the momentum back then everything clicked.”

Mendenhall said King’s big plays gave the Generals the energy injection they needed to finish off the comeback.

“Those steals changed the momentum of the game. I think Dunbar got a little tired ... and those steals kind of got us going and got us playing the style we wanted to, and that’s what seniors do in the postseason.”

Lafayette took its first lead on Eric Powell’s three-pointer in the closing moments of the third quarter and the Generals never trailed again. They held Dunbar to four points in the third quarter and didn’t allow them to score for the first two and half minutes of the fourth. King’s third steal and fast-break layup put the Generals ahead 38-31 with two minutes to play.

“Like Coach Mendenhall says, if we get to the fourth quarter it’s our game,” said King. “I told my team at halftime that I’m not going home tonight and that we were going to come out here and step on their throat and get up, so we did. But you all saw it, it was tough.”

The Generals face Lexington Christian, which knocked off Lexington Catholic in a wild finish on Tuesday night, in the finals Friday at 8 p.m.


Bennett’s bombs lead girls

For a while, it looked like Lexington Christian had a real chance to avenge a pair of regular-season blowout losses to Lafayette; after one quarter the Eagles led the Generals 14-12. But that was before Caroline Bennett flipped the switch from hot to volcanic.

Bennett single-handedly outscored Lexington Christian, erupting for 35 points as the Generals routed the Eagles 68-32 in the 43rd District semifinals to set up a showdown with Paul Dunbar in Friday’s championship game at LCA.

Bennett scored the first eight points for the Generals, knocking down a pair of three-pointers in the first two minutes. She began the second half in similar fashion, nailing her sixth three and scoring Lafayette’s first five points.

By game’s end, Bennett had sank nine of 17 three-pointers and reeled in eight rebounds. Her third triple of the second half put the Generals ahead 51-27 in the fourth quarter. On Lafayette’s next possession, she airballed an NBA-range trey from the top of the key. The concept was so outlandish that she and Terri Abram shared a big laugh heading back down the court. Moments later Bennett swished her final three from the wing.

Lafayette Coach Allison Denton said Bennett’s big game came as no surprise.

“She played like she is completely capable of playing. We give her the green light at all times and told her before the game started that ‘if you can see it shoot it,’” Denton said. “And the girl can flat shoot it.”

Bennett didn’t have to do it all by herself. Fellow senior Lindi DeBilzan came up huge in the second quarter, helping turn a close game into a blowout. DeBilzan had three of her five steals in the quarter, twice going coast-to-coast for buckets. DeBilzan finished with 14 points, three assists and two blocks.

“We challenged her, we said ‘you’re one of our best defensive players out here, you need to be stealing the ball and creating things,’” Denton said. “And she took the challenge and stepped up for us. She was crucial in us running away with the game.”

The Generals have now won 36 of their last 37 games against 43rd District opponents. They’ll be gunning for their fifth straight district championship when they face Dunbar on Friday at 6:15 p.m. Denton said the Generals are ready to bring home some more hardware.

“They’re very excited. They’re ready to play in that district championship and win it.”

Josh Sullivan: 859-231-3225, @sullyjosh

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader