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Regional Finals Set in Saturday Semi Final Action

@CoachRyanKY 🦉

Dunbar High School played host to the 11th Region Semi-Finals on Saturday. Frederick Douglass, Lexington Catholic, Madison Southern, and Great Crossing all successfully advanced in District tournament play to continue their travels on the “Road to Rupp” heading to the KHSAA Sweet 16. The interesting part of the KHSAA Sweet 16 is that the top sixteen teams do not necessarily find themselves as participants, only the winner of each respective regional tournament does. Many personalities and media outlets in the Commonwealth have Lexington Catholic and Great Crossing as their top two teams remaining in tournament play. Only one would make it out of the 11th Region. The overladen anticipation I had seemed to be confirmed by the early arriving crowd that this was going to be a pivotal Saturday to set up a potential rematch between Great Crossing and Lexington Catholic for all of the glory.

Game 1: Lexington Catholic vs Frederick Douglass, Noon ET

Lexington Catholic Knights against the Broncos from Frederick Douglass High School. Lexington Catholic would need to lean on the leadership of Bellarmine commit, Tyler Doyle and 3 point sharp shooter John Reinhart to defeat Douglass’s star player Armelo Boone, a Western Kentucky Hilltopper commit. From a scouting perspective sophomore Demarcus Surratt, brother of former Lafayette star and current NCAA Manager Games standout Ray Surratt, is going to be a name to keep in your rolodex. He also is a stud on the gridiron, but if he chooses to pursue basketball…watch out. The Lexington Catholic Student Section, dubbed “The Dungeon” reeked with patriotism as it appeared their theme for the game was red, white, and blue. ‘Murica and basketball, what could be better?

The game was off to a feverish pace. There isn’t a shot clock in the KHSAA, but it wouldn’t have been needed. Lexington Catholic doubled up Douglass with 1:56 remaining in the 1st quarter forcing a Bronco timeout. The score sat at 16-8 and the Broncos would need to find an answer for the Knights full court pressure/patient offense combination. Tyler Doyle closed out the quarter with a thunderous slam dunk with 9 seconds to play to put Catholic firmly in control at 20-8. Catholic Head Coach Brandon Salsman urged his team to keep it up. “You gotta play!” he passionately pleaded in their huddle.

The Broncos controlled possession after the first quarter Catholic run, but the lid was on the basket and they could not get anything to drop. The Knights continued to apply the pressure that Coach Salsman so passionately sought them to find after the first quarter and widened the gap to 16 with 1:25 remaining. Armelo Boone had the opportunity to cut into that gap after contact at the rim but went 0-for-2 from the charity stripe. Tyler Doyle nailed another buzzer beater to close out the half, this time from 3 land. “LET’S GO!” he yelled to “The Dungeon” after swishing nylon. His Knights took a 20 point advantage into the locker room as the score was 33-13 and it felt like Frederick Douglass was heading to the offseason.

The Knights had the possession arrow out of half. Demarcus Surratt quickly stole the ball and then nailed a triple from the left corner to narrow the lead to 33-19 with 6:22 remaining in the 3rd quarter. The Broncos could use any momentum they could get, maybe that will be what helps them storm down the closing furlongs in the shadows of Keeneland. Armelo Boone started to cook, scoring on consecutive possessions before Surratt converted a tough bucket to draw the foul but missed the free throw. 37-25, Catholic lead with 4:10 to play before the deciding 8 minutes would begin. With 2:27 to play, Armelo Boone slung the rock to Surratt to make the score 43-29, prompting an immediate timeout by Douglass Head Coach Stephon Harris. Avieon Chenault put a Catholic Defender on a poster with at least a 45 inch vertical leaping slam with 1:29 remaining to narrow it to 12 before finding Boone on the next possession to finally bring it back within a single digit deficit for the Broncos. The momentum was firmly in possession of Douglass after Armelo Boone was on the receiving end of an alley oop thrown off of the backboard. Catholic still remained on top 43-36 at the conclusion of that action packed quarter. But the Broncos appeared to be off to the races.

The final quarter got underway with Douglass owning the possession arrow and their fans cheering boisterously as they felt the comeback in the air. Inspired, Armelo Boone was good for a deep triple to narrow it to 4 points. Rowan Williams answered immediately on the Knights end with a three of his own! This was shaping up to be a classic. 46-39 Knights with 6:53 to decide who was going to be playing in the championship game. More importantly, which team is still going to keep their dreams of a “shot at glory” alive in the KHSAA Sweet 16 next week down the road at Rupp. Jake Mitchell of Douglass entered the game and let one fly from his left hand with success from NBA range with just under 5 minutes to play to bring the Broncos within 5. The lefty was fouled on the next Broncos offensive possession, going 1-for-2 from the line. The spark he provided off of the bench made the score 48-43 as Catholic called a timeout with 4:22 to go to strategize how to get some points on their own offensive end, the ball had gone cold on them this quarter. Tyler Doyle got a clutch steal with 2:49 remaining to prompt Salsman to take a timeout protecting a 50-43 lead. He masterfully crafted a play to give Tyler Doyle a two handed rim rocker to widen the lead to 9 out of the timeout. That was going to be too much for the Broncos to overcome as they started fouling with 1:58 remaining. “The Dungeon” serenaded the Bronco faithful with “Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye.” Catholic will move on to the championship game on Tuesday night to face the winner of Great Crossing vs Madison Southern.

Final Score:

Lexington Catholic 60 Frederick Douglass 50

My Player of the Game: Rowan Williams, Lexington Catholic

(Stats unavailable)

Game 2: Great Crossing vs Madison Southern, 4pm EST

The second game of the day would feature my state title pick, the Great Crossing Warhawks finding themselves in a bird fight against the Madison Southern Eagles. Great Crossing features Malachi Moreno, a 7’1” force on both ends of the floor that a keen eye could spot behind the University of Kentucky bench at Rupp Arena as of late. Madison Southern would bring athletic combo Jay Rose and the Hudson twins, Braden and Zach, who recently committed to Coach Austin Newton’s squad for next season at Berea College. Both teams made the short trek to Lexington. Madison Southern looked to pull off the seemingly impossible and hand the Warhawks only their second loss of the season. Great Crossing also relies heavily on the offense of junior guard Vince Dawson III, who can score in flurries from all over the hardwood. Both teams brought the brass as the bands provided the early arriving crowd with entertainment before things got back underway.

Great Crossing controlled the tip and were able to convert 2 points on their first possession of the game. The Eagles came out clawing, they were battling with a veracious intensity. Great Crossing’s height and athleticism were difficult to overcome as they held a 6-2 lead just before we reached the midway point of the opening quarter at 4:19. Moreno slammed home a dunk followed almost immediately by a 3 point shot by Junius Burrell to force a Madison Southern timeout at 2:48. The Great Crossing lead had widened to 9 points at 11-2. Madison Southern’s spark plug Braden Hudson converted 3 the old fashioned way and then drew a rarely seen charge to bring his Eagles within 8 with just over 2 remaining. Berea is getting a special player in Braden, I suspect he will make an impact at the D3 level. After Quarter 1, the score was 17-8 with the Warhawks leading the way.

The Warhawks pounced on the Eagles early in the 2nd quarter, forcing a Madison Southern timeout with 5:57 remaining as the lead had widened to 12 at 24-10. Great Crossing brought the rain in the forecast and started filling the cylinder with 3’s from everywhere. Vince Dawson nailed one of his own to make it 44-21 with just over 1:30 to play before rehydration time in their respective locker rooms. Braden Hudson found bottoms to make it a 20 point game with 15 seconds to play, but Moreno’s height again proved to be too much for the Eagles as he drew contact and went 2-for-2 with .6 seconds left to make the halftime score 46-24. Doom and gloom could be heard from the Madison Southern faithful as they could all but see their season coming to a conclusion in the near future.

Both teams returned from the locker room and Moreno got started where he left off, converting 3 the Naismith way. Braden Hudson cancelled those out on the ensuing Southern possession to make it 49-27 with just over a minute played in the deciding half. The feeling seemed to fill the gym, or at least filled me, that this game was about to get chippy after a few toughly fought loose ball battles. Zach Hudson was good from 28 feet to narrow the gap back to 20 points at 52-32 with 5:13 remaining before the final round of this fight.

We entered the “final round” with Great Crossing holding a commanding 64-44 lead. Madison Southern’s Head Coach encouraged his team to keep fighting until the end, passionately drawing up plays in the huddle that he hoped would spark a comeback for his Eagles. The Eagles fought hard, but Great Crossing has been the #1 team in the Commonwealth all season for a reason. They will face Lexington Catholic to decide who gets to represent the 11th Region at the Sweet 16 in Rupp Arena on Tuesday night in the Regional Championship game at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. #1 vs #2…..Let’s go!

Final Score:

Great Crossing 85 Madison Southern 64

My Player of The Game: Malachi Moreno, Great Crossing (28 pts, 15 rebs, 3 blk)

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