LEXINGTON – Statement week.
That is what Lexington coach Andrew Hick and his Tigers called this past week in the season beginning with a win over Chester County on Jan. 6.
The statement was finished on Tuesday as Lexington beat the defending Class AA state champions South Side 71-66 at home.
“We knew we had five games in seven days,” Lexington coach Andrew Hicks said. “The guys felt that we needed to take care of business and make a statement about who we are.”
The past week for the Tigers (13-3, 4-0) included district wins over Chester County, Fayette-Ware and South Side to give Lexington sole possession of first place with South Side (10-7, 3-1) sitting one game back.
The Tigers also beat Riverside and lost to Whitney Young (Ill.).
Lexington brought a balanced scoring attack against South Side with four players in double figures. Dillon Smith led the way with 18 points, Nick Marshall had 16 points, David Frasier with 15 and Tariqious Tisdale with 11.
“Everybody was sharing the ball, and when we play this way we are dangerous,” Smith said.
Marshall hit some monstrous dunks in the first half that forced South Side to cheat back on him, and that gave players like Frasier and Smith lanes to the basket.
“We try in our sets to put guys in good situations for their strengths,” Hicks said. “South Side made some good adjustments at halftime, and some of the things that worked in the first half didn’t in the second half.”
South Side wouldn’t give Lexington much of a lead, but the Tigers won each of the first three quarters to take a 10-point lead into the final eight minutes.
Smith hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer at the end of the third quarter to extend the lead to 10 points.
The Hawks, just as any other good team, were ready to make a push in the fourth quarter.
Chris McNeal, a Western Kentucky signee, scored 15 of his game-high 34 points in the fourth quarter to aid a comeback.
A 3-pointer by McNeal with 6:33 remaining cut the lead to four points (60-56), and a two free throws by McNeal with 1:58 cut the lead to three points for the second time in the quarter (66-63).
“We have talked about finishing games,” Hicks said. “In two of our three losses, we had leads late, and we couldn’t close out the game. We would turn the ball over or not grab a big rebound. I told them free throws and rebounds are going to win games late.”
But baskets by Smith and Marshall on consecutive possessions helped close out the win.
“This week showed that we are ready to compete with any team in the state,” Smith said. “After not being ranked in the state poll, we had to make a statement.
“Late in the game, we just had to keep calm, and be smart. We had to hit our free throws and get rebounds.”
South Side 48
The Lady Tigers (11-4, 3-1) gave South Side its first District 14-AA loss of the season to force a three-way tie for the top spot in the standings along with McNairy Central.
The third quarter hurt the Lady Hawks (15-4, 3-1) as they struggled to score (six points) and didn’t play good defense, as Lexington put up 17 points to turn a four-point deficit into a seven-point lead (40-33).
Brilee Bromley led the Lady Tigers with 15 points, Kaitlyn Kelley added 13 and Adi Hale had 11.
South Side was led by Dakota Kinnie with 13 points.
Michael Odom, 425-9754