Lexington Catholic boys' basketball coach Brandon Salsman loves that his team isn't rated in the top 25.
"I like to fly under the radar, so I'm happy with where we're at," Salsman said with a wry smile after his underdog Knights took down No. 3 Lafayette 59-54 to win their own Republic Bank Holiday Classic on Monday night.
Lexington Catholic upset No. 11 Knott County Central in Sunday's semifinals.
Tanner Johnson, the tournament MVP who led the Knights with 75 points in their four-game sweep, said he would like to see Lexington Catholic in the top 25, "but I see where not being ranked gives us an edge, something to prove."
The Knights proved plenty by winning their tournament for the first time since 2009.
For one thing, they proved they could hold off a Lafayette team that put together a stirring rally for the third game in a row.
The Generals needed improbable comebacks to beat Scott County and Newport Central Catholic to reach the finals, and they erased a 15-point deficit against Lexington Catholic to take a 52-50 lead with three minutes left.
But the Knights were up to the challenge.
Michael Talbott's driving layup tied it 52-52 for Lexington Catholic. After a Lafayette turnover, Reese Ryan hit one of two free throws to put the Knights up 53-52.
Lafayette then missed a shot, and with the Knights spreading the floor, Jarod Griffin was fouled and cashed two free throws to make it 55-52. Griffin followed that with a steal and layup, pushing the lead to five.
Lafayette trimmed the gap to three with a pair of foul shots, and it would have had a chance to tie it after the Knights missed a pair of foul shots. But Griffin came up with another steal and two more free throws to seal it.
"People underestimate Jarod's athleticism," Salsman said. "He's a quick leaper, and those steals won the game there at the end."
Griffin shrugged off any personal glory, though.
"We got a lot of contributions from the whole team the whole tournament," he said. "We couldn't have done it without everybody."
The Knights' team-first attitude showed in the box score.
Johnson had 13 points and seven rebounds.
Robert Dence, a 6-7 senior, had 13 points, five rebounds and helped offset Lafayette big man Jackson Davis' production.
"Rob is playing like an animal right now," Salsman said.
Dence said as team captain, "I'm just trying to help us come together as a team."
Griffin had 11 points, including 7-for-7 free throws. He was 19-for-19 from the foul line in the tournament.
Talbott had 10 points and three steals, and Ryan, the team's glue-guy, chipped in with four points, eight rebouds and six assists.
Davis led Lafayette with 18 points and 16 rebounds, giving him 94 points and 46 rebounds in the tournament.
Lance Blakley had 11 points and five rebounds. Lucky Jackson and Dequise Robinson combined for 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals.
Coach Mike Mendenhall III said he was proud of his team's comeback, "but you can't do that three games in a row against top-tier competition. I think we just ran out of gas there at the end.
"But we fought hard and had a chance, and that's all you can ask for."
Davis said Lafayette "just came up a little short." He also noted the team missed 6-6 sophomore starter Ross Jenkins, who had a death in the family.
■ Zach Pangallo and Tanner Moeves hit two free throws each in the last 43 seconds to help NewCath hold off Knott Central 56-53 in the third-place game. Drew McDonald's 14 points, six rebounds led the Thoroughbreds. Camron Justice had 21 of his 24 points in the second half for Knott Central.
■ Scott County, led by Trent Gilbert's 30 points and nine assists, beat Manual 78-61 in the fifth-place game. Teddy Ware had 18 points for the winners. Raekwon Long had 16 points, nine rebounds, and Tony Martini added 10 points, 10 rebounds. Dwayne Sutton's 20 points, 10 rebounds led Manual.
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC 59, LAFAYETTE 54
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC (9-3) — Griffin 11, Johnson 13, Dence 13, Talbott 10, Morris 4, Ryan 4, Boothe 4.
LAFAYETTE (8-5) — Davis 18, Blakley 11, Jackson 10, Robinson 8, Lane 2, Carpenter 5.
Lexington Catholic 20 16 9 14—59
Lafayette 12 8 20 14—54
All-tournament: Tanner Johnson (MVP), Michael Talbott, Jarod Griffin, Reese Ryan, Robert Dence of Lexington Catholic; Jackson Davis, Lance Blakley, Lucky Jackson of Lafayette; Camron Justice, Evan Hall of Knott Central; LaMontray Harris of PRP; Trent Gilbert of Scott County, Drew McDonald and Ben Weyer of Newport Central Catholic; Christen Cunningham of Cordia, Dwayne Sutton of Manual.
NEWPORT CATHOLIC 56, KNOTT CENTRAL 53
KNOTT CENTRAL (9-2) — Justice 24, Hall 14, Christon 6, Cornett 6, Miller 3.
NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC (8-3) — McDonald 14, Schulte 11, Pangallo 10, T,Moeves 7, G.Moeves 11, Weyer 3.
Knott Central 11 9 23 10—53 NewCath 7 16 11 22—56
SCOTT CO. 78, MANUAL 61
SCOTT COUNTY (10-2) — Gilbert 30, Ware 18, Long 16, Martini 10, Murray 4.
MANUAL (8-4) — Sutton 20, West 4, Horton 8, Harness 4, Reed 8, Boyd 12, Comstock 5.
Scott County 28 19 15 16—78
Manual 15 14 22 10—61