The fourth time was the charm for KyKy Tandy and University Heights Academy.
UHA defeated defending titlist Lexington Christian Academy, 52-40, in the boys’ All “A” Classic championship game at EKU’s McBrayer Arena on Sunday. It was the ninth small-school state title for the Blazers, but their first since 2008.
Tandy’s teams were 0-for-3 against Lexington Christian in his time at UHA, including a lopsided loss in the first round of last year’s All “A” state tournament and a double-digit defeat in the King of the Bluegrass tournament in December.
“Everything just came together this week and we really wanted this and were focused,” Tandy said. “ … It’s just a blessing that we came out with the state championship. We finally beat them, so we’ve got them off our back.”
Tandy was named MVP of the tournament. The Xavier signee and Mr. Basketball contender averaged 22.8 points and seven rebounds through four games for the Blazers. He came up with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the championship game.
“I think if you’d have told anybody that he get 14 and we’d win the state championship, they’d probably tell you, ‘No way,’” UHA Coach Grant Shouse said. “But he’s been that way all year. He’s been scoring a lot for us but he’s also been a very good teammate and been trying to get guys involved and run the offense. He’s trying to play a little better defense. He’s just taken that step as a player to mature.”
UHA’s second half defensive intensity in the semifinals and finals proved fatal for its opponents. Shelby Valley star Cody Potter erupted for 22 points against the Blazers in the first half Saturday night but was held to three second-half points — and the Wildcats managed only 11 as a team — after UHA turned up its pressure. LCA fared better — it scored 17 in the second half — but shot 7-for-21, including a 2-for-14 clip in the final period.
Senior Taquan Hollowell, who also scored 14 for the Blazers, drew the assignments of Potter and Kyle Rode, LCA’s star senior who’s signed with Liberty University. Rode had game highs with 20 points and 14 rebounds, but was cooled down after scoring 16 in the first half.
“They got after it defensively,” LCA Coach Nate Valentine said. “Credit to them, they had a tough road, they played the late game all three nights and came in here today and were very physical. We just didn’t handle it well. This one will sting for a bit, but we’ve got to go ahead and refocus.”
UHA was in its seventh straight All “A” Classic but during that streak hadn’t advanced beyond the quarterfinals until this weekend. The Blazers used last year’s early exit from the All “A” to fuel a run to the 2nd Region title and their first Sweet Sixteen appearance in a decade.
Now they’ll look to turn a taste of statewide success into a motivator for more come March.
“We talk about that all the time, the uniqueness of the fact that you’re in a postseason, state-tournament environment, the four games in four days,” Shouse said. “We feel very fortunate that we’re able to experience that and then have a shot to win the overall tournament. We won’t be satisfied. … We’d love to have another shot at Rupp.”