Lexington Catholic vs. Dixie Heights
8 p.m. Wednesday
Winner plays Game 3 winner at 1:30 p.m. Friday
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC KNIGHTS
Region: 11 | Record: 26-7 | Enrollment: 865
Brandon Salsman (196-83 in nine years overall), was on LexCath's 1992 state runner-up team and was an assistant for 10 years. He's in his sixth season as the Knights' coach.
Taylor Martin6-5 Sr. 18.1 ppg
Scott Schuette6-4 Sr. 17.3 ppg
Craig Floyd6-5 Jr. 8.5 ppg
Seth Beckham6-0 Sr. 10.1 ppg
Brian Woomer5-10 Jr. 4.4 ppg
Ask any of the Knights' coaches or players the key to their success, and they'll give the same answer: Catholic basketball. It's a familiar brand: play suffocating pressure defense, rebound like maniacs and hustle for 32 minutes. It doesn't hurt to have skilled players. Martin, Schuette and Beckham have been exceptional leaders, especially in the post-season. Martin is the most versatile. Schuette is one of the best streak shooters around. Beckham seemed to come into his own attacking the rim in the region. Floyd is a threat inside and out. Woomer is an able assist maker and long-range shooter. The Knights have long-armed reserves in Patrick Keller and Jack Whitman.
Lexington Catholic became a formidable power under Danny Haney, but Brandon Salsman has done something his mentor never did. He's won three region titles in four years. "Getting to the Sweet Sixteen the first time was special," Salsman said. "The second was great because nobody thought we could do it, and very few gurus picked us to do it this year, either. But anytime we've won it, I've felt the same way: pure joy."
Player to watch
Taylor Martin, who signed to play baseball at Kentucky, plays basketball like a 90-mph fastball. He comes at you hard and fast. The Knights' most versatile player, he leads the team in points (18.1), rebounds (7.3) and steals (3.3) and is second in assists (4.0). He's also a clutch free-throw shooter. (As a sophomore, he hit two free throws in the final seconds to beat Scott County 68-67 in the region finals).
This is the Knights' 11th state tournament. They won the championship in 2002 and were runners-up in 1992 and 2000.
DIXIE HEIGHTS COLONELS
Region: 9 | Record: 29-3 | Enrollment: 1,400
Ken Chevalier, in his seventh season as Colonels coach, has an overall record of 128-86. He played for Lloyd's 9th region runner-up team in 1983.
Brandon Hatton6-2 Fr. 18.6 ppg
Parker Stansberry6-5 Jr. 11.4 ppg
Zeke Pike6-5 Jr. 13.0 ppg
Matt Trammel5-10 Sr. 9.5 ppg
Jordan Hassel6-0 Jr. 6.4 ppg
Dixie Heights' record speaks to its consistency. Its three losses were all close: 62-60 to Scott, 59-53 to Western and 62-58 to Holmes. The Colonels, on a 10-game winning streak, are led by freshman sensation Hatton, but it's been a collective effort. Ken Chevalier considers point guard Trammel, who missed most of last season because of back surgery, the team's MVP. He leads Dixie in assists (4.7), steals and free-throw shooting. Stansberry and Pike have been solid inside. Hassel does a little of everything. There's no questioning the Colonels' toughness, not after a four-overtime win against Newport Central Catholic in the 9th Region finals.
Dixie Heights junior Zeke Pike is one of the hottest quarterback prospects in the nation. His dad, Mark, played in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills. Zeke already has more than 40 Division I scholarship offers. The list includes UK and Louisville, just about every SEC school, along with Miami (Fla.), Southern California, Michigan, North Carolina, Penn State, Texas A&M, Syracuse and Wisconsin.
Player to watch
Brandon Hatton had 24 points in Dixie's win over Newport Central Catholic in the region finals. He's a veteran freshman. He played varsity as a seventh-grader and already has 1,000 career points. "He's the most sport savvy kid I've ever been around," Ken Chevalier said. "He understands the game, and he's got an awesome mid-range game." Chevalier compares Hatton's shooting ability to that of former Highlands and Vandy standout Scott Draud.
Dixie Heights played in the state tournament in 1947 and 1957 but, since then, has made it to the 9th Region finals only twice — in 1962 and this year.