Newport Central Catholic and Cordia both rolled into the finals of the 2014 Kentucky Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic Saturday night at the Frankfort Convention Center.
The defending-champion Thoroughbreds (19-3) never trailed and led 52-18 at halftime in beating Lexington Christian 76-49 in the first semifinal game, while the Lions (16-5), who are making their first appearance in the tournament, scored the first 17 points of the game in an 80-52 rout of Betsy Layne in the second game. They will meet for the second time this season (NCC won 64-63 back on Dec. 27) in the championship game today at 2:30 p.m.
In the opener, junior Zach Pangallo made his first seven shots and scored 21 of his 27 points in the first half. He made his first five 3-pointers and finished 11 for 15 for the game.
“It was one of those nights where I was just feeling it,” Pangallo said. “When I got the ball, I knew I could step in and knock the shot down.”
As a team, the Thoroughbreds shot 70.4 percent in the first half and 58.8 percent for the game, including an 8-for-12 performance from beyond the arc.
“We’re not going to shoot like that every night,” said NCC coach Ron Dawn, whose team has won 13 straight games and is ranked in the top 10 in the state, “but we’ve been getting better from the 3-point line.”
Leading 15-9, NCC scored the last seven points of the first quarter before outscoring LCA 30-9 in the second quarter to build a 52-18 advantage at halftime.
The second half was played mostly with a running clock with NCC leading by as many as 37.
“We see the running clock and it’s just a sign of relief,” Pangallo said. “We came out, we played hard and we played our game.”
Six-foot-six junior Drew McDonald had 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while 6-foot-8 senior Jake Schulte added 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Thoroughbreds, who got to rest some of their starters in the second half.
“It was good for us to give some of our big guys a chance to rest,” Dawn said. “When you’re playing four straight days like that, I think it takes a toll on the bigger guys moreso than the guards.”
Junior Matt Rose had 16 points and five rebounds for the Eagles (13-9), who shot 34.6 percent from the field.
“Rose, I think he’s a really good player,” Dawn said. “I thought the first half we did a really good job on him.”
In the nightcap, seniors Anthony Tagaloa and Christen Cunningham combined for 37 points and 10 rebounds. Tagaloa scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and made 8-of-12 shots, while Cunningham had 18 points and six assists. They both had five rebounds.
“(Tagaloa) and Christen Cunningham have been leaders for us and they’ve been doing a great job as seniors and leading this team,” said Cordia coach Rodrick Rhodes, whose team has won eight straight games.
Tagaloa and Cunningham helped the Lions get off to a blazing start as they opened the game with a 17-0 run and led 32-8 at the end of the first quarter. The margin was 21 at halftime and ballooned to as many as 30 in the second half.
“We’ve never had a problem scoring the basketball, it’s always been about defense and rebounding,” said Rhodes, whose team shot 60 percent for the game. “We have a huge challenge in front of us tomorrow and it will be a huge test to see how far we’ve come.”
Junior Peyton Case scored 17 points to lead the Bobcats (19-4), who shot 35.3 percent for the game and made just 5 of 23 from beyond the arc. Sophomore Andrew Tackett scored 12 points off the bench and senior Dylan Meade added 11 points.
NEWPORT CC (76) — Zach Pangallo 27, Grant Moeves 9, Ben Weyer 9, Drew McDonald 17, Jake Schulte 11, Tanner Moeves 3.
LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN (49) — John Davis 5, John Stein 2, Drew Schacht 2, Trevor Hill 3, Matt Rose 16, Drew Trimble 6, Benton Nighbert 9, Michael Young 6.
CORDIA (80) — Christen Cunningham 18, Anthony Tagaloa 19, Fritz Lucien 2, A.J. Chisolm 2, Josh Ortiz 5, Oumar Keita 6, Felix Frimpong 5, Justin Cornett 1, Austin Combs 6, J.J. Catchings 5, Richard Chapman 9, Corey Smith 2.
BETSY LAYNE (52) — Dylan Meade 11, Nathan Hall 1, Peyton Case 17, Andrew Tackett 12, Dustin Rogers 3, Dalton Meade 4, Dylan Hamilton 4.