For those thinking this season’s Paul Laurence Dunbar boys' basketball team was just going to be the Taveion Hollingsworth show, Lexington Catholic found out otherwise Friday night.
The Mr. Basketball candidate did indeed put on a show, going for 30 points in a 79-62 win over the visiting Knights, but senior swingman Javea Richardson’s 21 points proved just as devastating to Lexington Catholic’s hopes of staging an upset.
“Javea can play. He’s a good player,” Dunbar Coach Scott Chalk said. “A lot of people don’t know about him. Last year was his first year really being on the team. He was hurt the year before, the entire year. … He can do some stuff. He’s got a nice shot, and he’s pretty quick.”
Joking after, Hollingsworth poked fun at Richardson’s breakout performance.
“Yeah, this is the first game he’s actually played hard for me,” Hollingsworth said as Richardson shook his head and smiled. “We needed him, you know, this is a district game, and when we needed him the most, he stepped up.”
To be fair, Richardson had averaged 9.3 points per game this young season. The average rose to 11.6 after Friday’s outburst.
“I play hard every game, sometimes the shots just don’t fall,” Richardson answered. “I guess I was playing real hard. The crowd got me going.”
The early season showdown of 43rd District rivals nearly filled the lower risers at Dunbar’s S.T. Roach Gymnasium with sizeable attendance from both the Dunbar and LexCath student sections. It made for a March-like atmosphere.
Junior guard JaQuice Gray scored 11 and led the Bulldogs (4-1) with seven rebounds, and sophomore Jared Gadd added 10 points despite being limited by foul trouble.
Lexington Catholic’s size and determination on the boards looked to be a problem for Dunbar as the Knights grabbed a couple of offensive rebounds to put them up 7-3 early in the first quarter.
But Dunbar replied with a 13-3 run capped by a Richardson steal at halfcourt and an easy layup. The Knights committed four turnovers in that stretch as Dunbar stepped up its pressure all over the court.
The Knights looked to have forced Hollingsworth into a turnover on the quarter’s final possession, but the loose ball found its way to Bulldogs sophomore forward Michael Corio, who spun and flipped in a 10-foot buzzer-beater to make it 24-12.
Richardson’s put-back of a missed Hollingsworth three-pointer extended the Dunbar lead to 14 just more than a minute into the second quarter. But when Hollingsworth picked up his second foul moments later, Dunbar’s momentum stalled.
LexCath (1-4) soon began chipping away as Blake Scott and Zan Payne led a 10-1 run that cut the Dunbar lead to 29-24 with 1:46 till half. It could have been even closer, but the Knights could not convert Dunbar fouls into points at the free-throw line, going just 5-of-16 there in the first two quarters, including four misses during its rally and three more to end the half.
Payne, LexCath’s junior forward, found baskets in the center of the lane from about 10 feet out all night, but was 1-of-7 for the game just a few steps beyond at the charity stripe. He finished with 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
The Knights kept it close in the third, getting key three-pointers from TC Price and Javen Hardin along the way. Max Sparkman’s turnaround jumper in the lane brought LexCath within 49-45 at the end of the quarter.
“It was tough,” Chalk said. “It’s a district game. They’ve got a good team. It’s going to be a battle every time. … I was proud of our resilience. This team’s young and they’re inexperienced, so that’s big for us being able to handle those kinds of runs by the other team and make a positive play to get it back.”
LexCath struggled to open the fourth quarter with a turnover, a couple more missed free throws and three consecutive three-point misses.
After the third LexCath miss, Dunbar got two straight offensive rebounds from Corio to set up a Hollingsworth three-pointer that pushed the lead back to 57-45 with 5:49 left in the game. LexCath Coach Brandon Salsman called a timeout, but the Knights would not threaten again.
Senior Guard Luke Johnson led the Knights in scoring with 17 points. Center Peter Whitman added 11.
Paul Laurence Dunbar 79, Lexington Catholic 62
Lexington Catholic (62): Hardin 3, Price 4, Bailey 3, Johnson 17, Sparkman 4, Scott 9, Payne 11, Whitman 11.
Paul Laurence Dunbar (79): Richardson 21, Corio 3, JaQuice Gray 11, Hollingsworth 30, Gadd 10, Ifeacho 3, Browne 1.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Records: Lexington Catholic (1-4); Dunbar (4-1).