Lexington boys basketball coach Bailey Harris has seen his team play solid basketball for long stretches this season. He’s also seen some stretches where things were not so good.
You can classify the Wildcats’ 10-minute stretch in Tuesday night’s 61-44 victory against rival White Knoll as maybe the best of season.
They turned a three-point game late in the first quarter into a 20-point halftime lead and coasted to their fifth victory in six games.
“We had that one stretch there in the second quarter where we kept getting second-chance points,” Harris said. “I thought our man-to-man defense was very good. We didn’t give them anything. That was as good of stretch as we’ve had all year.”
The Timberwolves went nearly 10 minutes without a basket in the 19-2 run. The only points of the second quarter came on a Julian Johnson layup with 56 seconds remaining before the half.
White Knoll (12-8, 2-3 Region 5-4A) missed nine shots in the run, turned it over six times and went 0-for-2 from the free throw line during that stretch, which began with 2:30 remaining in the first quarter.
“They got us out of rhythm, and we took bad shots — which their defense had a lot to do with,” White Knoll coach Bret Jones said. “We couldn’t get into our sets, and they hit some 3s, controlled the boards and it snowballed.”
Lexington hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter, but it was second-chance points that turned the tide. Nine of the 19 points during the run came on second-chance points.
“The offensive boards helped us gain control early,” Harris said.
Nelson Spence led four players in double figures with 14 points. Grant Hendrix and Nygel Gates added 13 apiece, and Maverick Bishop added 10. All four contributed during the second-quarter run.
Hendrix started it with a 3-pointer before Gates had three straight put-backs off offensive rebounds. Spence added a three-point play and another put back on an offensive rebound before Bishop added a layup.
Behind Emarius Logan and Johnson, White Knoll played a much better second half, but the deficit was too much to overcome. The closest it got in the final half was 15 points despite a game-high 21 points from Logan and Johnson adding 15. No other Timberwolves player tallied more than two points.
Jones had to dismiss three seniors — two starters and the first player off the bench — over the past two weeks, so the learning curve is larger as the first half of region play comes to a close. Johnson is the only senior on the roster.
“We’ve lost three players in the last two weeks and we only have one senior, so we’re still trying to figure out lineups and who does what well,” Jones said. “We’re young and having some growing pains.”
Harris has his team in contention for another run at a region title. Lexington (14-7, 4-1) went into Tuesday night tied with Aiken atop the lead. There are five games remaining, and the Wildcats get Aiken at home on February 1.
“The second time around is always different,” Harris said. “This second time through is when you start separating things out. These five games could be a difference for a lot of teams in the region going into the playoffs.”