High School Basketball

Lexington Christian boys confident entering All "A" Classic

If it weren't for bad luck, Lexington Christian Academy would have had no luck at all in the boys' Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic in recent years.

LCA has lost in the first round of the small-school state basketball tournament five years in a row, including two overtime losses to University Heights Academy.

"I cannot explain it," LCA Coach Tommy Huston said.

"But I think it's going to be different this year. I think we're going to play well."

Huston figures the Eagles' 55-51 upset of Scott County last Friday "will pay dividends" in terms of his team's confidence. LCA held Scott County to 31 percent shooting, while the Eagles hit 47 percent, led by Tyler Harville's 6-for-6 performance that included four three-pointers.

"The most consistent thing we've had this year has been our defense," Huston said. "If we can cut down on turnovers and get open looks for our shooters, I like our chances."

LCA plays Louisville Christian in Thursday's 8:30 a.m. opener in Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena. Louisville Christian beat the Eagles 51-48 in their season opener.

"That's a little more motivation for us, fuel to the fire," LCA's Taylor Barnette said.

Louisville Christian has played a difficult schedule, including losses to No. 1 Eastern, No. 4 Jeffersontown, No. 8 Trinity and No. 11 Pleasure Ridge Park.

Newport Central Catholic, which won the title in 2000, is rated the All "A" favorite. The No. 21 Thoroughbreds are the only team in the tournament in Dave Cantrall's top 25.

But NewCath Coach Grant Brannen said there's no dominant team like Shelby Valley, which won the All ''A" the last two years.

"There's a mix of some really good teams this year," he said, rattling off a list that included UHA, LCA, Bardstown, DeSales and Louisville Christian.

What about NewCath, which is led by 6-foot-7, 240-pound Jake Giesler, averaging 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots?

"I'd definitely say we're up there and have as good a shot as anybody else," Brannen said. "If we're No. 1 going into it, so be it. But that doesn't mean anything."

UHA is the gold standard in the All "A" with eight titles in 16 previous appearances.

Bardstown has a history in the tournament. The Tigers won it in 2006 and were runners-up in '07. They have a familiar first-year coach in James "Boo" Brewer, a Bardstown star in the late 1980s who went on to play at Louisville.

Bishop Brossart beat NewCath last week to brand itself a contender. The Mustangs won the title in 2007.

Hazard is the only other former champ in the field. The Bulldogs won it in 2004.

Brannen agreed with Huston that success and failure in the All "A" is often tied to shooting well in the open spaces of McBrayer Arena.

"It's a different background and different kind of atmosphere for the kids," Brannen said. "That's why you've really gotta grind it out and try to get to the basket.

"If you're shooting 20 threes down there, more than likely it's not going to be a good thing."

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