Paul Laurence Dunbar reaffirmed its position as Lexington’s team to beat this season with a 79-71 come-from-behind victory at Lexington Christian on Friday night. Both teams were rated No. 10 in the season’s first Cantrall Ratings released this week.
Taveion Hollingsworth scored 40 points on 13-of-26 shooting for the Bulldogs, who trailed by as much as 13 points in the second half following a seven-point second quarter and a sluggish start to the third period. A 34-point splurge in the final eight minutes helped push Dunbar to its fourth straight victory, improved its record against Lexington competition to 5-0 this season and kept it in the 43rd District driver’s seat.
“Everybody looks down on us cause we lost everybody from last year,” Hollingsworth said of the team’s attempt to defend its 2016 state championship. “We’re just building it game by game and we’re getting the job done.”
Hollingsworth, who scored 26 points in the second half and had seven rebounds and three steals, was Dunbar’s only returning starter after three players graduated and fellow senior Dontell Brown was injured playing football. This season, he’s the only Dunbar player left of eight who saw the court in the state finals.
The Western Kentucky University signee noted that when a cold spell hit the other Bulldogs on Friday night, it was time for him to ramp things up.
“Nobody on my team was scoring so I had to step up and play the role that I needed to be playing,” he said. “Shooting the ball more, attacking the basket. So that’s what I did.”
Javea Richardson, a senior, scored 12 points for the Bulldogs. Isaiah Yeast had eight points on 3-for-4 shooting, including two three-pointers that pulled Dunbar within single digits heading into the final period.
Lexington Christian went up 56-49 on a midcourt strip-and-score by Chandler Stewart with about seven minutes left in the game. On Dunbar’s next possession Hollingsworth drew a foul and went 1-for-2 at the line. As LCA came up court, Hollingsworth lunged for a steal, promply turning it into a three-pointer after shaking off his defender. JaQuon Gray, who had three steals in nine minutes of play, stole another pass after LCA regained possession and got it to Hollingsworth, who dished it to sophomore Jared Gadd for a quick-trigger triple from the corner; 56-56.
LCA briefly regained a 60-56 lead after two Austin Hall free throws and a Carter Hendrickson scoop shot, but momentum was in Dunbar’s corner after Gadd’s triple ignited the Bulldogs faithful in attendance.
“That sparked us up real good,” Hollingsworth said. “We were all hyped, the crowd was hyped. I think that’s what got us going.
“I felt like their crowd was hyped for a second. It was real loud. It felt like we were at home really.”
Hollingsworth scored 12 of Dunbar’s final 19 points, and put the Bulldogs ahead for good after a steal-and-run to the basket with about four minutes left in the game. Lexington Christian pulled within three points but couldn’t erase the late deficit.
Dunbar Coach Scott Chalk was happy with how his team responded to adversity against a talented 43rd District foe, especially defensively.
“They didn’t start getting all pouty,” Chalk said. “They showed a good comeback spirit. ... At times we feel like they’re a little too laid back, so that was good.”
Sophomore Kyle Rode had 32 points, five assists and four rebounds for LCA before fouling out with 22.9 seconds remaining. Hall and Hendrickson each scored 13 for the Eagles.
Paul Laurence Dunbar 79, Lexington Christian 71
Dunbar (11-4) — Richardson 12, Yeast 8, Corio 5, JaQuice Gray 5, Hollingsworth 40, Gadd 4, Ifeacho 5.
LCA (11-4) — Dalton 2, Hendrickson 13, Rode 32, Hall 13, Harper 8, Stewart 3.