From the top of the mountain to one and done.
Lexington Christian defeated Paul Laurence Dunbar 68-64 in the semifinals of the 43rd District tournament at Lexington Catholic on Tuesday, knocking off the defending state champions in the first round of postseason play for both teams.
Carter Hendricksen and Kyle Rode scored 23 points apiece to lead the Eagles, who for the first time in school history will play in the finals of a district tournament. LCA locked up its first ever region-tournament berth in the process.
“It’s unbelievable,” said LCA Coach Nate Valentine, in his third season with the team. “You don’t wanna make too much of it, but when you haven’t been to the regional tournament in school history, that was one thing that’s really ruined the last couple of summers of mine, is knowing that.”
The way the Eagles did it made the accomplishment all the better to Valentine. Dunbar jumped out to a 10-0 lead and held LCA without a point for nearly the first four minutes of action. Likely Mr. Basketball winner Taveion Hollingsworth scored four of his game-high 44 points during that stretch. He finished 15 of 22 from the field (13 of 16 from the free-throw line).
Lexington Christian clawed to within two points by the end of the third quarter, using Rode to orchestrate its offense up top while Hendricksen and junior Austin Hall used their size to pound away at Dunbar’s smaller interior.
Hendricksen knocked down a pair of free throws to give LCA its first lead, 60-58, with 2:37 to play. Hollingsworth answered with an and-one layup (he missed the free throw), and Hendricksen was called for an offensive foul on LCA’s next trip down. Hollingsworth and Rode traded baskets to even the score at 62 before Dunbar sophomore Star Ifeacho hit one of two free-throw attempts to give the Bulldogs a 63-62 edge with 39 seconds left.
Rode responded with a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left. Dunbar regained possession and allowed Hollingsworth to work the clock for a final shot, but the senior was called for a five-second violation. Rode hit two more free throws, swelling the lead to three with six seconds left. The Eagles fouled Hollingsworth as he came across midcourt; he made the first attempt and intentionally missed the second try, which failed to draw iron. Rode iced the game on the other end.
After LCA lost on a buzzer-beater last week and had a last-second heave send a game to overtime the week before (which LCA also lost), Valentine wasn’t about to let another game-deciding shot fail the Eagles.
But, what if the officials had said Hollingsworth was in the act of shooting?
“If they did, they’d have probably been taking me out of here in handcuffs,” Valentine said with a laugh.
Dunbar ended the season on a three-game losing streak. Hollingsworth, Lexington’s all-time leading boys’ scorer, finished his career with 4,295 points.
Bulldogs Coach Scott Chalk felt like his team, of which Hollingsworth was the only major contributor to last season’s state-title run, overachieved this season. While Dunbar defeated LCA twice in the regular season, Chalk said he felt the Eagles finally unleashed their size in a way that his team couldn’t withstand.
“The key to the game was they finally decided to do what they always should do, which is pound it inside ... and stay down there and rebound and pound it in,” Chalk said. “I’ll give them credit, ’cause they finally did what they should do, and that makes it pretty difficult when you don’t have any size.”
Lafayette girls advance
Lafayette’s girls cruised past Lexington Catholic 52-35 Tuesday, punching their fifth straight ticket to the 43rd District finals and the 11th Region tournament.
Juniors Tekiya Garr-Carter and Caroline Bennett combined for 37 of the Generals’ 52 points. Lafayette will meet either Paul Laurence Dunbar (1-1 in their regular-season meetings) or Lexington Catholic (2-0 this season) in the finals; those teams meet in the other semifinal on Wednesday.
Garr-Carter stepped up in a big way, scoring 19 points – about 15 more than her average on the season. Lafayette Coach Allison Denton said Garr-Carter relishes tournament action and takes her game to another level when the games really start mattering. Her scoring Tuesday matched her typical defensive intensity.
“She’s just an active member of our team,” Denton said. “She creates so much for us because she is quick and can react so quickly.”
Boys’ semifinal: Lexington Christian 68, Scott County 64
LCA (22-8) — Hendricksen 23, Stewart 3, Rode 23, Harper 12, Hall 7.
Dunbar (21-9) — Richardson 2, Yeast 8, Corio 2, Gadd 5, Ifeacho 3.
Girls’ semifinal: Lafayette 52, Lexington Catholic 35
LexCath (12-16) — Haines 3, Witt 3, Weldon 2, Ballard 11, Given 16.
Lafayette (21-9) — DeBilzan 3, Bennett 18, Pankins 1, Goff 7, Garr-Carter 19, Abram 4.
43rd District Tournament semifinals at Lexington Catholic
Girls: Tates Creek vs. Paul Laurence Dunbar, 6:15 p.m.
Boys: Lafayette vs. Lexington Catholic, 8 p.m.