GAME SIX: 1:30 P.M. Thursday
Lexington Catholic vs. Boyle Co.
Region: 11th | Record: 24-8 | Enrollment: 810
Brandon Salsman is in his 10th season as Knights coach. Salsman was on Lexington Catholic's 1992 state runner-up team, and was an assistant for 10 years. He coached at Bourbon County three seasons before returning to his alma mater. He has an overall record of 287-123.
No. Player Ht. Yr. Ppg.
1 Michael Talbott 5-11 Sr. 9.8
3 Jarod Griffin 6-2 Sr. 11.8
21 Tanner Johnson 6-5 Sr. 20.8
22 Reese Ryan 6-3 Sr. 6.0
34 Walker Boothe 6-6 Sr. 4.0
Lexington Catholic seems to be peaking at the perfect time, with five senior starters who were determined to cap their careers in Rupp Arena. The Knights were at their best in the region, led by point guard Talbott, the tournament MVP. Griffin, a lefty, is a three-point threat and also attacks the basket. Johnson, with his size, can post up, but he prefers to fire from long range. He's hit 91 of 246 threes this season. Ryan contributes passing, rebounding and defense. Boothe and 6-7 sophomore Peter Whitman are counted on for board work. Donovan Morris and J.J. Ogbogu provide a spark off the bench. Salsman said his team has proven itself: "Look at who we had to beat to get here. Arguably one of the best Dunbar teams in the history of their school. Lafayette, whose (coach Mike Mendenhall III) is like my brother. Woodford County, coached by a great guy (Scott Hundley). Henry Clay, which was playing lights out. And Bryan Station, which was absolutely phenomenal. These guys are battle-tested."
CHASING HIS MENTOR
Danny Haney led the Knights to the Sweet Sixteen five times in his last 11 years as coach. Salsman, who played for and was an assistant to Haney, has led the Knights to the Sweet Sixteen four times in 10 years as coach.
PLAYER TO WATCH
If Salsman, who's always careful to parcel out praise to all of his players, was forced to pick a team MVP, he'd probably choose Ryan. A star quarterback in football who's headed to Western Kentucky University, Ryan is the ultimate team player in basketball. He rarely looks to score, but always looks to set up a teammate (he leads the Knights in assists), set a screen, grab a rebound or a loose ball. Salsman calls him the "glue" that holds everything together.
This is the Knights' 12th state tournament appearance. They won the championship in 2002.
Region: 12th | Record: 26-6 | Enrollment: 825
Steve Adams is 111-87 in seven years with the Rebels. The Mercer County graduate coached 10 seasons at Tennessee Wesleyan, then went into private business for four years before returning to coaching at Boyle County.
No. Player Ht. Yr. Ppg.
23 Hagen Tyler 6-3 Sr. 21.5
1 Jeremiah Bell 6-0 Sr. 20.8
35 Chapman Bean 6-0 Sr. 5.9
25 Colton Elkins 6-6 Jr. 7.2
4 Keagen Hinkle 5-11 Sr. 4.6
There's no questioning Boyle County's resolve. On consecutive nights the Rebels beat two-time defending champ Wayne County, then Lincoln County on the Patriots' home floor to win the region. Boyle County edged Lincoln County 48-46 on Tyler's two free throws with :01 left. "With the snow and everything getting pushed back, to win those games like we did showed the kids' mental toughness and will to win," Adams said. Boyle County has one of the best guard tandems in the state in Tyler and Bell (a transfer from Butler). "It's a secure feeling having them out there," Adams said. "Jeremiah adjusted well from the start of the season. You'd thought he'd been here since kindergarten." Elkins, who missed a couple weeks with a back problem at midseason, gives the Rebels a rim protector and rebounder. (He had 10 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks against Wayne County).
Boyle County and Lexington Catholic have a long-running, intense rivalry in football. In last fall's installment, the Knights swept Boyle County in the regular season and playoffs. When the schools met in basketball this season, Lexington Catholic romped 65-47 in their holiday tournament in front of an amped-up crowd. Adams credited the Knights for playing great that night, but he noted it was the Rebels' fourth tough game in four days. Boyle County has several basketball players who also play football, including quarterback Josiah Robbins and receiver Keagen Hinkle. So you can bet the Rebels will be motivated to settle the score in Rupp.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Adams remembers when Tyler was a freshman. "He was a skinny kid who could only do one thing — catch and shoot," Adams said. "But he worked hard on attacking the basket, his mid-range game, his ball-handling, defense, rebounding. It's amazing the improvement he's made. He has a nice all-around game now." Tyler was voted the 12th Region's player of the year. He will play college hoops at Northern Kentucky University.
Boyle County is here for the fourth time. In its last appearance, in 2006, it lost to PRP in the first round.