High School Basketball

‘This is one of two.’ LCA boys take the first leg of desired state-title sweep

Lexington Christian Academy made the finals of the boys’ All “A” Classic basketball tournament for the first time on Saturday after rallying from a halftime deficit. It made sure that effort wasn’t wasted on Sunday.

LCA defeated Walton-Verona 47-41 in the finals at Eastern Kentucky University’s McBrayer Arena. The Eagles, ranked eighth overall statewide in last week’s Cantrall Ratings, led by as many as 16 points in the third quarter but had to fend off a rally by Walton-Verona in the final minutes in order to make school history.

“These guys have battled,” LCA Coach Nate Valentine said. “We play in a brutal district and a brutal region, so sometimes you have some really good teams and they don’t get to reap many of the benefits of all their hard work, so I’m really excited for ’em. You’ve basically got half the state involved in this tournament, so to come out and to be the only state champion means a lot.”

Kyle Rode, a junior whose offers include Northern Kentucky, Samford, Lipscomb and Wright State, was named MVP of the tournament. The 6-foot-6 junior had game-highs with 17 points, nine rebounds and three steals.

The Bearcats (17-5) began a 13-0 run midway through the third quarter after LCA senior Austin Hall, who is headed to Cumberlands, put the Eagles (17-6) up 35-20 on a three-pointer.

An intentional foul call against Rode on a block attempt at the end of the quarter ignited Walton-Verona’s crowd and helped extend the Bearcats’ momentum into the fourth period, where they pulled to within 35-33 on a three-pointer from Zack Clinkenbeard. Bearcats junior Trey Bonne took a hard fall and appeared to hit his head on the technical play.

“I was making a play on the ball but I just got into his arms and it took his momentum backwards, so that’s my fault,” Rode said. “I’m just glad he was fine and that it didn’t affect our team’s chances of winning.”

Carter Hendricksen, a North Florida signee, scored eight of LCA’s final 10 points down the stretch to help fend off the Bearcats.

“They came out and hit a lot of shots in the second half, but we came out with the victory,” Hendricksen said. “I was just trying to win. We weren’t losing this game. I wasn’t gonna let it happen.”

Rode said how he felt going into the game today was reminiscent of how he felt going into last season’s 43rd District finals, which LCA reached for the first time and also won. The next goal is to avoid an All “A” Classic letdown and build on last year’s postseason success.

“I know we’re gonna celebrate it tonight and then we’re back to work Monday,” Rode said with a laugh. “We have a hard schedule coming up and we’re just gonna keep using this momentum and grow for it. That’s all you can do.

“This is one of two. We want to win our district, win the region and win the state. I think we’ve got a shot.”

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps