A 10-game losing streak to end the regular season didn't weigh down Paul Laurence Dunbar in the first round of the boys' 43rd District basketball tournament Monday night.
Playing free and easy and with lots of confidence, the Bulldogs mauled Lexington Christian 75-49 at Lexington Catholic.
Bulldogs Coach Justin Yeary said his team's late-season skid wasn't as bad as its 0-10 record appeared.
"We didn't feel like we were playing awful basketball," he said. "We just ended up on the losing end to some good teams.
"I give our kids a ton of credit. About 21/2 weeks ago when we weren't winning, we talked about being resilient, and having great focus and great effort in practice. That's been the difference for us."
Dunbar junior guard William Gary said the Bulldogs "didn't do anything different except we played like it meant more to us. We played with passion because we want to get to the region."
To get there, Dunbar must beat Lexington Catholic in Wednesday's semifinals.
Gary and backcourt running mate Mike Smith were devastatingly effective.
Gary had 22 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Smith, a junior, had 21 points, nine steals, seven assists and five rebounds.
They had a solid supporting cast, too.
Taylor King, a 6-foot-6 junior, had 12 points and six rebounds, and he was a defensive presence inside. Zach Herrin, a senior, also had 12 points and six rebounds. Sophomore Donnie Lewis earned praise from Yeary for his defense on Tyler Harville, LCA's best scorer.
Harville led the Eagles with 20 points, but Yeary said Lewis "made him work hard for everything he got."
Dunbar trailed 21-18 after the first quarter, but it blitzed LCA 21-4 in the second and kept building its lead the rest of the night.
Yeary said another key was that he told his players to enjoy themselves. "This is supposed to a fun time. This is why you practice all year."
It wasn't so enjoyable for LCA. Patrick Nickodem had eight points, three rebounds and three assists, but the Eagles didn't have any other reliable scorers.
Coach Tommy Huston said he wished he had used a different strategy against Dunbar. "In hindsight, we probably should've spread them out," he said. "We struggle to score against big inside guys, and we had trouble with their big kid (King) in there."
LCA played the last 15 games without senior star Taylor Barnette, who suffered a severe ankle injury in early January. The Central Florida signee suited up Monday and went through warm-ups, but he didn't play. Huston said if the Eagles had won, Barnette still would have been "day to day."
PAUL DUNBAR (17-14) — Gary 7-15 5-7 22, Smith 7-15 5-7 21, King 4-7 4-4 12, Lewis 1-4 2-2 5, Blincoe 0-0 0-0 0, Herrin 4-5 2-4 12, Haga 1-1 0-1 2, McHugh 0-1 1-2 1, Johnson 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 24-49 19-29 75.
LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN (17-12) — Harville 7-15 3-3 20, Nickodem 3-3 2-3 8, Young 2-2 0-1 4, Lannertone 2-6 0-1 4, Blair 1-5 2-2 4, Branham 1-3 0-0 2, Stein 0-1 1-2 1, Hale 2-2 0-0 4, Asberry 1-1 0-0 2, Nighbert 0-2 0-0 0, Wise 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-41 8-11 49.
Paul Dunbar 18 18 23 16—75
Lexington Christian 21 4 13 11 —49