High School Basketball

43rd District tournament: Lexington Christian takes title crown for first time

Lexington Christian Carter Hendrickson (3) dunked the ball in the final minute as Lexington Catholic hosted Lexington Christian in the 43rd district basketball finals on Friday Feb. 24, 2017 in Lexington, Ky.
Lexington Christian Carter Hendrickson (3) dunked the ball in the final minute as Lexington Catholic hosted Lexington Christian in the 43rd district basketball finals on Friday Feb. 24, 2017 in Lexington, Ky.

Four wins, 25 losses. That’s how Lexington Christian’s first season of boys’ basketball ended in 1990.

It took 27 years, but LCA finally has a boys’ basketball title to show for the efforts of that inaugural ball club. The Eagles routed host Lexington Catholic, 58-36, in the finals of the 43rd District tournament Friday night.

LCA’s made the most of its first appearance in the finals of a district tournament, a feat it accomplished after upsetting defending state champion Paul Laurence Dunbar — ranked ninth in the newest Cantrall Ratings — in the semifinals. Carter Hendricksen, a junior, led the third-seeded Eagles (ranked 18th in the state) with 21 points and 15 rebounds against No. 1 seed LexCath (ranked 12th overall statewide) in the finals.

“I’m very happy,” Hendricksen said. “It’s just a crazy feeling.”

Lexington Catholic won two regular-season meetings against the Eagles: the first was a tight affair, 50-46, at LCA while the second was tight until LexCath erupted in the fourth quarter for a 64-43 finish at home.

Friday’s contest appeared on track for a familiar closeness through four minutes. LCA jumped out to a five-point advantage before LexCath answered with six straight. The Eagles went back in front on a Hendricksen basket, the first of what would grow into an 18-0 run ending with about five minutes to play in the second period. Catholic never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way.

“We got behind in the Dunbar game and I said, ‘Man, it’d be nice to just come out and let these guys go and let them make plays,’” LCA Coach Nate Valentine said. “And they did tonight. We just got to stand over there and watch. It was a lot of fun.”

Valentine said LCA struggled against Catholic’s zone in its first two meetings. The Eagles went a combined 8-for-38 in those games; they were 6-for-11 from long range on Friday.

The Eagles ended with a 35-28 advantage on the board, and nearly had as many defensive rebounds (25) as the Knights did total rebounds. They took care of the ball well, too, finishing with as many turnovers (9) as LexCath.

“Two weeks ago when we were over here they really took it to us,” Valentine said. “We’ve been having one- or two-minute droughts where we just turn the ball over and it’s been costing us eight or 10 points at a time.

“I just kept telling them, if we can limit those increments, we’ll have a great chance to win.”

Both teams will play in the 11th Region tournament, which begins Wednesday. That too will be a debut for the Eagles.

Regional trips are old hat for Lexington Catholic, which will make its 29th appearance in the last 31 years. Knights Coach Brandon Salsman, who played at the school and has been part of nine regional championship teams as a player, assistant and head coach, observed the silver lining in spite of the punch to the chin his team took Friday night.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be in enough of these that I’ve won ’em and I’ve lost ’em,” Salsman said. “You always know that you have the draw tomorrow to see what’s going on.

“We’ve lost a district before and been able to come back and win the region, so hopefully that’s in the cards for this team. We’ll have to be a lot better than what we were tonight. They beat us pretty good.”

Boys’ finals: Lexington Christian 58, Lexington Catholic 36

LCA (23-8) — Hendricksen 21, Rode 15, Harper 7, Stewart 2, Hall 13.

LexCath (22-8) — Payne 12, L. Johnson 15, Hardin 7, Scott 2, Whitman 0.

LCA

16

13

16

13

58

LexCath

6

11

6

13

36

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