Lexington Christian’s return to the girls’ All “A” Classic state tournament was short-lived and sloppy, but the result won’t derail the team’s demeanor as the regular season winds down and it looks to make a push in the postseason.
Shelby Valley defeated the Eagles 55-18 to pick up its second All “A” victory in three appearances. The Wildcats (17-3) will look to advance to their first semifinals when they play Nicholas County (15-5) at 8 :30 a.m. Friday.
LCA committed 26 turnovers leading to 28 points for the Wildcats. The Eagles led for about three minutes as the game got underway after a tip-in by freshman Gracie Royalty but didn’t score again in the first quarter; Shelby Valley scored 16 points over the last 5:20 of the period.
Kayla Newsom led Shelby Valley with 10 points and eight rebounds and Alyssa Elswick also chipped in 10 points off the bench. Eighth grader Cassidy Rowe had eight points, eight assists and five steals. Royalty led LCA with six points and seven rebounds.
Coach Mike Menifee told his LCA team in practice this week that the Wildcats were fundamentally sound and loved to share the ball. Shelby Valley ended the game with an 18-3 advantage in assists.
“They’re not looking for that first pass. They’re looking for that second and third pass so they get the best quality look,” said Menifee, who’s in his first year leading the program. “I told them, ‘That’s something that’s tough to guard if we don’t stay down and stay disciplined.’”
The Eagles (8-12) shot 13.9 percent from the floor and had their lowest scoring output of the season. Menifee thought his team — which has five juniors but no seniors on its roster — performed above his expectations on the big stage.
It was LCA’s first trip to the All “A” Classic state tournament — an unofficial event held for 16 regional qualifiers that are among the 120 schools with the smallest enrollment — since 2012, which capped a streak of 12 straight trips.
“It’s been awhile for the program so there’s a lot of excitement, and that kind of consumed the girls,” Menifee said. “And being on this stage, their first time on a college floor, that’s an adjustment and affected us.
“We kind of lost focus and started turning the ball over, and once you turn the ball over against a team like that, that score shows you what’s gonna happen to you.”
LCA defeated Frankfort, Sayre and Berea over the course of six days last week to represent the 11th Region in the tournament. The Eagles went 2-6 against those programs over the last five seasons.
“That’s one of the trap things of the All ‘A,’” Menifee said. “Teams put so much into it to get here and if it doesn’t go their way, it can either make or break you on the back end of the schedule. We can learn from this game.
“We’re gonna play other quality opponents like that, like Dunbar and Lafayette as we head into the districts, so this is gonna prepare us to where hopefully that sticker shock doesn’t hit us as much when we’re playing those teams.”
Menifee’s current team was knocked out, but he planned on returning Wednesday night to watch Danville’s girls take on Covington Holy Cross in the final game of the first round.
The Danville native coached the girls’ team at his alma mater over the last two seasons. He got a little choked up when asked if he’d be in attendance for the Admirals’ matchup.
“I have to support my girls. They texted me at seven o’clock this morning saying, ‘Good luck coach, we’re rooting for ya,’” Menifee said. “That means more to me than anything.”
All ‘A’ Classic
When: Through Sunday
Where: McBrayer Arena in Alumni Coliseum, Eastern Kentucky University
Boys’ bracket: bit.ly/2ructDb
Girls’ bracket: bit.ly/2DZmQBu