While most of the state's sports fans were glued to a TV watching Kentucky and Louisville do basketball battle Saturday afternoon, Lexington Christian Academy was focused on beating Bullitt East 69-56 in the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.
At least most of the time.
"We had a kid on the bench checking the score," confessed LCA senior Benton Nighbert.
After a sluggish start, LCA locked in against Bullitt East and outscored the Chargers 57-36 over the last three quarters. UK and U of L would have killed for that kind of point production.
Matt Rose led the Eagles with 23 points, 17 coming in the second half. The 6-foot-7 senior also had five rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Nighbert, a 6-4 senior, had 15 points on 5-for-8 three-point shooting. He said he had his stroke in warm-ups, and when that happens, "I'm gonna let it fly."
Kyle Rode, a 6-5 eighth-grader, had 11 points, five rebounds and six assists.
Rode provided the spark as LCA opened the second half with a 9-0 run. He hit a three-pointer, had a steal and breakaway layup, and threw an alley-oop pass to Rose, who finished it off with a rim-rattling dunk.
Rose credited Nighbert and Rode for getting the Eagles off and flying.
"That's what a team is — when someone's doing well, we're all happy," Rose said. "(Nighbert) hit some big shots, and Kyle's steal and three really got us going."
LCA Coach Nate Valentine wasn't surprised by Rode's contributions.
"Kyle plays in the summer against the best competition in the country," Valentine said. "He has a real high basketball IQ. He has a ton of confidence, not arrogance. I have just as much confidence in him as any of his teammates."
Valentine also credited his veterans — seven seniors — for being able to shake off their slow start.
"That's a sign of an experienced, mature team," he said. "They know things aren't always going to go right, but they stay patient until they get things turned around."
LCA's depth also came into play. The Eagles were without starting guards Trevor Hill and John Stein. Hill suffered a season-ending knee injury a couple weeks ago, and Stein, who runs the point, is sidelined (day-to-day) with a back injury.
"Trevor's our spark. He always got us hyped in the locker room," Nighbert said. "He's hard to replace, so everyone's gotta step up."
Drew Schacht took over at the point and had five assists. Drew Trimble added 10 points for LCA, and Tre King came off the bench to get six points and six rebounds.
Bullitt East was led by junior guard Tyler Sharpe's 23 points, seven assists and four steals. Brandon Klefot had 11 points and six rebounds.
LCA advances to Sunday night's quarterfinals where it faces No. 1 Trinity. The Shamrocks beat Oldham County 58-38 on Saturday.
LEX. CHRISTIAN 69, BULLITT EAST 56
BULLITT EAST (7-3) — Sharpe 23, Klefot 11, Farris 6, Bacon 9, Wilson 2, Wheeler 5
LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN (8-2) — Rose 23, Trimble 10, Rode 11, Schacht 4, Nighbert 15, King 6.
Bullitt East 20 6 13 17—56
Lexington Christian 12 13 24 20—69