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Newport Central Catholic Advances to Vie for Another All "A" Classic Title

Newport Central Catholic extended their winning streak to 24 games in the Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic Tournament, by beating Lexington Christian, 55-51, in the semifinal round at the Frankfort Convention Center on Saturday evening.

New Cath for the majority of the game had the lead—mostly in double figures—but Lexington Christian came up just short in a furious late rally that made for an entertaining game for the Thoroughbreds who had been on a streak of lopsided blowouts.

“I think it will do us good,” New Cath head coach Ron Dawn said about the close game. “They're a good team, they're big and strong and matched up well with us and we knew it was going to come down to making some plays at the end and being tough and I thought we did a really good job of that so hopefully this will help us down the stretch.”

Lexington Catholic posed an interesting line up challenge because of their height. That being said, the Eagles are not a team composed of very big guys, but more tall, lanky players. Their tallest player, Drew Trimble, is unquestionably a guard in their system despite being listed at 6'8''. Forward Matt Rose is 6'7'', but he too is not necessarily an inside presence.

Because of this height oddity, the more traditional large front court of Drew McDonald and Ben Weyer, who are generally bigger players, dominated the glass and kept the ball out of the paint for the most part. McDonald had a rock solid game with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Weyer kicked in 10 points, six boards and four blocks. There was one particularly impressive play in the second half where Weyer changed a shot for a miss because of his length, which McDonald then recovered and hit a streaking Weyer on the other end with a nice outlet pass. It showed a lot of the tandem's talents in one play.

“Drew is a load in there,” said Coach Dawn. “He's got such good footwork, big hands and he knows how to use his body in there.”

Yet, for all of the talk about height, it was the stabilizing force of the guard play, led by senior point guard Zack Pangallo, who continues to play virtually mistake-free for Coach Dawn, that advanced the Thoroughbreds to the next round. The execution and decision-making of all the regular contributors for New Cath is consistently impressive as the ball movement and shot selection are seemingly always on point. They only committed five turnovers in the game, and have 19 combined in their three games in Frankfort.

Pangallo finished with a game-high 21 points (7-13 FG), including three makes from beyond the arc and only two turnovers in 31 minutes.

“We felt we had an advantage at the guard spot,” New Cath head coach Ron Dawn said after the game. “They way the play ball screens, they kind of go under, we felt we could take advantage of that.”

The first quarter was a story of runs by both teams. Lexington Christian's Matt Rose got hot early with seven points in four trips down the floor to put the Eagles up 7-1, then Drew McDonald found his scoring rhythm with a variety of scoring moves including jump shots, drives to the rim and post moves. McDonald finished the quarter with a team high eight points, eight rebounds and really propelled the Breds back into the game. He did not miss a shot in the first half.

NCC senior point guard Zack Pangallo then exploded from the three-point line, swishing three from the beyond the arc and scoring on aggressive takes to the basket. Pangallo led all scores at halftime with 14 points.

At the end of the first quarter and into the beginning of the second, New Cath stepped up its defensive intensity and forced multiple turnovers by overplaying the passing lanes. The combination of turnovers and quality shooting for the Thoroughbreds allowed New Cath's lead to swell all the way to 27-14. It appeared that perhaps we were on our way to yet another blowout win, but something shifted in the game back toward LCA's favor.

Eagles forward Tre King came off the bench to knock down a three and then a layup to start a rally. New Cath then got a little sloppy on defense and what had been a struggle for LCA to get open looks, turned into a rash of fouling for the Breds. Once forward Kyle Rode made a three-pointer, suddenly had shrank to just six.

New Cath stopped the bleeding momentarily at the very end of the half and went into the locker room up 32-25.

In the third quarter, the Eagles showed some fight and cut it to as close as four points, but thanks to the Breds big men, and Pangallo's buzzer-beating three to end the quarter, New Cath found themselves headed to the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead.

The game flowed along evenly until when five minutes left to play, Lexington Christian mustered up one last surge.

Pangallo was called for an offensive foul away from the ball, presumably for an illegal screen, which gave the ball back to the Eagles, down 49-43. Trimble then got an offensive rebound and put-back off the glass which really got the LCA faithful fired up.

After a few possessions where New Cath took a lot of time with the ball, Grant Moeves missed a pair of jumpers with under two minutes and Trimble made it a one-possession game with a free-throw, 51-48. Pangallo was then fouled and missed the back end of a one-and-one.

Eagles forward Matt Rose then sank a crucial three with 30 seconds left, slimming the margin to just one. Once Drew McDonald converted on both of this free-throw attempts, it was up to one last three-point attempt by LCA.

When they inbounded the ball though, New Cath forward Erik Anderson got his hand on the pass and stole the only real chance for the Eagles. All night the Breds had been playing the passing lanes, and it came in huge in the end.

“We thought we could put pressure on their point guard, and then we do that, you can cheat a little bit more and gamble a little bit more in those passing lanes and we were able to do that,” Dawn said.

This was the second year in a row New Cath beat Lexington Christian in the semifinals of the All “A” Classic, and the third year in a row they will advance to the final game. NCC (19-3) will play Monroe County (22-2) on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the championship game in Frankfort.

OTHER SCORES

(3) Holmes 83, Simon Kenton 59

(4) Dixie 68, Grant County 35

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor