FRANKFORT – For the second year in a row the Lafayette Central Catholic Knights knocked off the Rossville Hornets in the 1A boys’ basketball regional semifinals.
The No. 10 Knights (16-9) defeated the Hornets (11-16) by a score of 74-65 Saturday afternoon to advance to the regional final againstthe No. 4 Liberty Christian Lions (24-3), which was played later in the evening.
The Hornets began the semifinal down 8-0 early, but fought back to tie the game at 17-all after the first quarter of play.
“Right there at the start we looked like we were a little tight,” Rossville coach Cory Dunn said after the game. “But then we settled down as we normally do and really went toe-to-toe with them.”
A back-and-forth second quarter, which featured seven lead changes, ended with the Knights up 37-35.
Central Catholic began the second half with a quick basket, but Rossville answered with a basket inside by senior Clayton Howard (20 points, 4 rebounds) and a 3-pointer by senior Neil Beery (6 points, 3 rebounds), to tie the game at 40.
The Knights held the Hornets to three points during the final five minutes of the third quarter to take a 55-46 lead into the final eight minutes of play.
Junior Enrique Rangel, who finished the game with a team-high 22 points for Rossville, scored seven points during a minute and a half span to bring the Hornets within four points late in the game.
“Enrique was very big for us,” Dunn said. “The first time we played [Central Catholic] their speed hurt us. It hurt us again tonight, but he was another guy we didn’t have when we played them the first time, and I think that helped us to be able to run with him and his ability to make plays, he’s a playmaker.”
Howard was the other Hornet to reach double-digit points in the game.
“Clayton, he just plays with every single thing he’s got,” Dunn said. “He was on fire there early, really helped keep it close.”
During the closing moments of the game Rossville was forced to intentional foul in hopes of getting the ball back while keeping the score close. Central Catholic was able to cash in on its late free throw attempts to help seal the victory.
“I thought both teams played extremely aggressive,” Dunn said. “[Central Catholic] is quick when they get the ball down the floor. You score on them and they’re gone.”
Rossville finished the season winning five of its last seven games, including the team’s second consecutive sectional championship.
“When you think of the regular season it was a season of adversity with all we had faced with injuries and tough losses,” Dunn said. “Instead of getting down on ourselves we learned from those, and I think it showed here in the last couple weeks of the season and in tournament play.”