It became apparent about midway through the second quarter of Lexington Catholic’s 68-47 victory over Sayre in the boys’ 11th Region semifinals that the Knights were in a different league than the small-school Spartans.
Sayre, playing in its first 11th Region tournament since 1998, had gone on a 5-0 run to cut the Catholic’s lead to 24-17. Knights senior Luke Johnson stormed down the court, approached a Sayre defender and dished a left-handed pass behind his back to teammate Zan Payne at the free-throw line. Payne took two steps and dunked the ball with one hand.
Payne finished with a game-high 18 points for the Knights, who will play in their ninth 11th Region championship game since 2001 on Monday night. Catholic’s five titles are the most of any school in the region in that span.
Lexington Catholic Coach Brandon Salsman said his team’s surprise loss to Lexington Christian in the 43rd District finals gave him an opportunity to get their attention.
“We got where we needed to be and came out here and we played two great games,” Salsman said. “We’re gonna have to play another one.”
Sayre and Catholic traded leads for the first six minutes before Catholic used an 8-0 run over the end of the first quarter and beginning the second to build a double-digit advantage. The Knights went ahead by as much as 15 points before taking a 37-23 lead into the locker room. Catholic cruised from there.
Johnson, who averages a team-best 23.2 points for Catholic, finished with 12 points and eight assists.
“This year we have people who have stepped up so I’m able to distribute more, which I feel like is a strong part of my game,” said Johnson, who’s signed with Loyola-Maryland.
The Knights had a noticeable size advantage and finished with a 30-23 advantage on the boards. It’s edge in paint scoring was even more pronounced at 48-16.
“Strength and size have been our Achilles’ heel all year,” Sayre Coach Rob Goodman said. “It’s just something where we gotta keep getting stronger and better.”
It was a sour close to what might have been the most successful season in Sayre boys’ basketball history. The Spartans won a school-record 23 games, defeated three city public schools — Bryan Station, Henry Clay and Tates Creek — over the course of the season, and saw senior star Jake Duby claim the school’s scoring record for his own.
RJ Smith, a junior, led Sayre with 11 points and four rebounds. Duby was held to four points on 1-for-6 shooting and fouled out after 21 minutes of action.
“I’m so proud of our guys for everything,” said Goodman, who was recognized as the boys’ 11th Region Coach of the Year during a ceremony between semifinals. “… I kept telling the guys, ‘Everything you’ve accomplished this year will never be forgotten.’ There aren’t really a whole lot of words right now I can use to describe it.
“It hurts now but they’ll really enjoy this later on.”
Lex. Catholic 68, Sayre 47
Sayre (23-10) — Duby 4, Blanton 4, Silverburg 7, Goodman 4, Smith 11, Atkins 5, Carey 4, Newton 5, Brumley 1, Bowie 2.
LexCath (24-8) — Payne 18, Whitman 9, Price 8, L. Johnson 12, Scott 2, Neuer 3, Hardin 9, Bailey 5, Sparkman 2.