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“Madhouse on Man O’ War” Yields Regional Final of Epic Proportions Courtesy of Top 2

@CoachRyanKY 🦉

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School is usually referred to as “The Dog Pound”. You are reminded of that with an even more prominent banner placement than the one bearing their State Championship accomplishment of 2016. To me, it felt more like the “Madhouse on Man O’ War” as the #1 team in the Commonwealth was entering what promised to be a heavyweight bout against #2, the top contender if you will. Number one being Great Crossing High School from Georgetown and the number two rank being claimed by Lexington Catholic High School on Clays Mill a mere 2.3 miles away from “The Madhouse”.

How did they get here?

The #2 Lexington Catholic Knights defeated Frederick Douglass 60-50 in the 11th Region Semi-Finals.

The #1 Great Crossing Warhawks defeated Madison Southern 85-64 in the 11th Region Semi-Finals.

Great Crossing was victorious in a late January tilt at Franklin County High School, winning the game 58-50. That game also had one of the more impressive blocks that I have witnessed all season, as Great Crossing’s force of a forward Malachi Moreno swatted a shot that was over the square on the backboard and still rising. In order to be successful in this game, Lexington Catholic would have to hit shots from deep. Moreno is THAT much of a deterrent in the paint. I didn’t foresee the Knights having any success down low against a Great Crossing squad that has zero in state losses this season.

The sold out crowd was ready, the teams were ready, and we were underway in the 11th Regional Championship Game just after 7pm. Great Crossing controlled the tip but Moreno mishandled the ball down low to give the ball to the Knights. Tyler Doyle drove through the lane and laid one high off of the glass to give Catholic the first lead of the game. Great Crossing owned momentum after a Moreno slam at 3:10 to make the score 10-6 Warhawks. John Reinhart and Tyler Doyle got involved with a quick 5 point unanswered run to put the Knights back on top with 2:06 remaining in the opening quarter. Great Crossing’s Gage Richardson tickled the twine for a triple at 1:16 to go in the first to put Great Crossing back on top 13-11. Doyle answered with a testy floater to even it up with just under a minute to play. Great Crossing held for the last shot of the quarter but failed to convert for points and we were tied at 13 heading into the second.

The second quarter began with a Rowan Williams made floater on the Knights’ first possession. Moreno was able to draw contact at 6:31 going 1-for-2 from the line to even things up at 17 a piece. Doyle laid home an impressive layup off of a spin move with just under 5 minutes to play that was sure to please the entire Bellarmine coaching staff whom was present to watch a game that many could argue would decide the eventual state championship favorite. Catholic’s Sam Smith was inspired. Dropping a corner 3 to force a Great Crossing timeout with 3:54 remaining, Catholic firmly controlled the momentum at this point and held a 5 point lead at 24-19. Moreno was able to force contact down 28-20 to go to the line with 2:15 to play before halftime. He went 2-for-2 in front of the watchful eye of Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari and Wildcat’s assistant Orlando Antigua. Vince Dawson was able to put home a midrange jump shot to narrow the deficit to 5 points for Great Crossing. Lexington Catholic led 33-28 at halftime and you could feel the entire high school basketball community of Kentucky turning their eyes to the 11th Region.

Both teams emerged from the locker rooms to the roaring sounds of both pep bands but the ominous realization began to fall over a few overheard voices from the Warhawk fan base that they would need a comeback to keep their travels on the “Road to Rupp” alive. Great Crossing owned the possession arrow and would take the ball first. Coach Steve Page drew up a beautiful play to give Dawson an easy jump shot to bring his team within 3. Junius Burrell made an impressive layup of his own after beating a Catholic defender off of the bounce to force Lexington Catholic Coach Brandon Salsman to call for a full timeout at 2:41 to regroup his senior laden squad. Catholic’s Reinhart beat the buzzer on a right handed floater to give Catholic the lead 43-40. The Catholic fans started to feel the improbable, an upset was a brewin’.

A champion was to be crowned and this was beginning to have the feelings of a game that would be talked about for many years to come by those lucky enough to find a room in “The Madhouse.” Moreno dished the rock to Dawson after beating the full court Catholic press at 30 ticks in to narrow the deficit to 1. Dawson spun through the lane after the two teams traded punches to convert a spectacular arching runner. Coach Page called a timeout with 5:48 remaining as the score sat 48-46. Jeremiah Godfrey drew the Great Crossing fans to their feet after a two handed rim rocker to tie the game at 48 all. Lexington Catholic was forced to burn a timeout to regroup. It felt like the Warhawk run that they have been known for all season was coming. Salsman would need to successfully strategize a game plan to put a stop to it. Great Crossing came out of the timeout much more patient in their offensive set, resulting in a Richardson made floater to finally give the Warhawks the lead that they had so desperately been fighting for. Score was now 50-48 with 4 minutes before this one was decided. Sam Smith touched one home that brought the Knights fans to their feet at 3:39 in hopes to break the tie at 50 points. Lexington Catholic’s Reinhart was clutch from NBA range with a triple to put his Knights on top. Catholic called for a timeout with 1:30 and Salsman called for pressure on their defensive end should Great Crossing get the ball back. Vince Dawson was feeling it, adding three with 30 seconds to go to tie it up. Lexington Catholic’s Smith missed a triple that was rebounded by Moreno at 8 seconds who hit VINCE DAWSON AT THE BUZZER!!!! GREAT CROSSING WINS!!! THE WARHAWKS ARE YOUR 11th REGION CHAMPIONS!!

What. A. Game.

Great Crossing wins 56-53

My Player of the Game: Vince Dawson, Great Crossing High School

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