Sunday afternoon, LCA tried to win its second-consecutive All A State title. But it wasnt to be, as University Heights felled the Eagles 52-40. To put this run into context, before 2018, the LCA boys' basketball program had never even made the championship game. Sunday made it two straight years.
Leading up to the finals, the Eagles defeated #10 Walton-Verona. Lexington Christian Academy and Walton-Verona were tied at six points apiece after one quarter of play and had as many makes between them — three each.
It would be a while before the Bearcats got their fourth: LCA blew open a tight bout with a 16-2 spread in the second quarter to defeat Walton-Verona, 48-22, in the first semifinal of the boys’ All “A” Classic at EKU’s McBrayer Arena on Saturday night.
Dieonte Miles scored a layup to put Walton-Verona up, 6-4, with 3:14 left in the first period. The Bearcats missed nine straight shots over the next 12:34 of game action — including the entire second quarter — and went 8-for-34 on the night without a three-point make (0-for-16) after shooting 50 percent from the floor in their quarterfinal win over Knott County Central on Friday.
Miles, a 6-foot-10 star who’s signed with Xavier University, made two free throws for the Bearcats’ only points in the decisive second quarter. He finished with six points on only three field-goal attempts against an LCA unit that swarmed him any time Walton-Verona attempted an entry pass into the post.
“It’s really, really hard for big guys to score on little guys,” LCA Coach Nate Valentine said. “He’s much better scoring on a 6-8 guy. When you’ve got 5-7, 5-8 guys running underneath of ya, it’s really tough to score. I think that bothered him a little bit, but he’s a terrific player. “
Miles’ defense was a difference-maker early. Two of his six blocks came in the first quarter, in which Walton-Verona’s zone held the Eagles to 3-for-11 shooting (0-for-2 from the 3-point line).
LCA started cooking in the second quarter: They hit six of their 10 shots, including four of five tries from long range. The Eagles finished 17 of 36 (47.2 percent) in what was a rematch of last year’s All “A” Classic championship; LCA won that game to claim its first title.
“I think the difference was we made shots and they didn’t,” Valentine said. “That’s usually what tournament games come down to. That zone obviously gave us trouble early. ... Once we got the ball moving, and Tanner Walton did a great job of coming and getting that ball into the middle, he really go that thing going. Then you get the lead and you can really start doing what you want to do. If it’s a close game you’ve got to play in their hands.”
LCA for the seventh straight game held its opponent below its season scoring average. Walton-Verona came into the night averaging 63 points a game, making this the most impressive defensive feat yet during that stretch for the Eagles.
“That’s the only chance we have to win games, is to defend and rebound,” Valentine said. “Sometimes we do it, sometimes we don’t. We’ve cut down on our live-ball turnovers and giving the other team points, and that’s helped hold it down.”