Chris Renner went back to his coaching roots Friday night and helped his Ballard High School boys basketball team pick up a victory.
Up seven points after three quarters, the Bruins milked the clock in the fourth, hit 13 of 16 free throws and pulled out a 72-61 victory over Bullitt East in the quarterfinals of the Republic Bank Louisville Invitational Tournament at Valley.
Ballard has been renowned in recent years for staying in attack mode regardless of the score, but Renner said that wasn’t the case in his early coaching days.
“We held the ball a bunch, and people criticized me for doing it at that point,” Renner said. “We had some success, and we had some times we weren’t.”
Renner said he installed the offense during Thursday’s practice after top scorer and rebounder Clivonte Patterson was diagnosed with a sprained ankle that will keep him out at least two more weeks.
“We were shorthanded, and we felt we could maximize getting (Bullitt East) to come out and guard,” Renner said. “I thought the guys did a really good job with it.”
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Jamil Wilson scored 16 points and Tyron Duncan added 11 points and four assists as the Bruins (12-3) – No. 2 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – advanced to face Fern Creek in Saturday’s 10 a.m. semifinal. A win would give Ballard a spot in the LIT championship game (8 p.m. Saturday) for the fifth straight year.
Connor Green scored 22 points and Luke Ezell added 17 points, four assists and three steals for No. 17 Bullitt East (12-6).
Chargers coach Jason Couch said he’s never seen a Ballard team go into stall mode as it did during the fourth quarter Friday.
“I know we lost, but that’s a testament to what time of team you are if Ballard is pulling it out,” Couch said. “That hurt us. You’re in a game when you think you have so many possessions … and that last four or five minutes we didn’t get as many.”
Ballard hit 12 of 17 shots in the first quarter for a 28-14 lead, and Antoine Darby scored the first four points of the second quarter for a 32-14 edge.
But the Chargers put together a 20-2 surge – getting 10 points from Green and seven from Ezell – to tie the score at 34 with 1:28 left in the half. Couch said the next 88 seconds were crucial, as Ballard scored the final seven points of the half for a 41-34 lead.
“If we had been a little tougher with the ball, who knows?” Couch said. “Maybe we make a run or two and we grab the lead once or twice.”
Bullitt East pulled within four points twice in the fourth quarter, the latter coming on Derrick Donigan’s tip-in that made it 60-56 with 3:40 remaining.
But the Bruins stayed patient, forced Bullitt East to foul and hit 10 of 12 free throws in the final 2:33 to seal the victory.
Ballard was 20 of 27 (74.1 percent) from the charity stripe for the game and – even with the 6-foot-4 Patterson sidelined – won the rebounding battle 34-31.
“We knew everybody had to step up and rebound, even me,” Wilson said. “We had to be more efficient. Each possession is more valuable now with a big part of our offense gone.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
BALLARD 72, BULLITT EAST 61
BALLARD (12-3) – Tyrese Duncan 6p, 3a; Kereion Douglas 4p; Marshon Ford 9p; Tyron Duncan 11p, 4a; Dorian Tisby 7p, 7r, 2b; Antoine Darby 8p; Delonta Wimberly 9p, 9r; Jamil Wilson 16p; Alexander Holley 2p.
BULLITT EAST (12-6) – Luke Ezell 17p, 4a, 3s; Connor Green 22p; Sean Johnson 3p; Jared Osborne 9p; Konnor Polson 6p, 7r; Grant Skaggs 2p; Derrick Donigan 2p.