For the eighth time in his 19 seasons, Ballard High School boys basketball coach Chris Renner will take the Bruins to the Sweet 16.
And, yeah, perhaps this one will go down as one of the program’s more improbable trips.
“Does it surprise me? Yes,” Renner said before backing off a bit. “Am I surprised? Not necessarily. I knew we could do it, but we had a small window to be able to do it. And we did that. If we didn’t commit to playing defense and playing our pace, I don’t think we would be here today.”
Renner’s bunch showcased the stingy defense it has leaned on down the stretch this season and ended Christian Academy’s Cinderella postseason run with a 60-37 victory on Monday in the final of the Class Act Federal Credit Union Seventh Region Tournament at Valley.
CAL shot just 28.6 percent and committed 25 turnovers, which the Bruins converted into 28 points. Ballard hasn’t allowed more than 58 points in any of its past five games and held Central, Trinity and CAL to an average of 44.3 points over three regional tournament victories.
“That’s been our identity from the beginning of the year … and we really started to gel coming to the end of the season around that Brebeuf game,” said senior guard Jamil Wilson, referring to an 84-64 victory at Indianapolis Brebeuf Jesuit on Feb. 18 that started the team’s current six-game winning streak. “Our defense has been incredible since then. Me and the other seniors stepped up our game, both vocally and on the court.”
Clivonte Patterson posted 17 points and eight rebounds and Dorian Tisby added 12 points as Ballard (28-6) – No. 6 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – won the Seventh Region for the third time in the past five years.
The Bruins will face the Fifth Region champion – the winner between Adair County or Taylor County – at 1:30 p.m. on March 16 in the first round of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.
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Parker Jones posted 21 points and seven rebounds to lead CAL (24-11) before fouling out with 3:14 left in the game. It was a landmark season for the Centurions, who made the regional tournament for just the second time in program history and picked up their first two victories.
“It has been a blast,” CAL coach Chad Carr said. “Now I really understand how fun and exciting the regional tournament is and how once you get here people want to keep coming back. It’s a great experience.”
CAL’s upset hopes took a severe blow in the first four minutes Tuesday.
Behind four points each from Patterson and Tisby, Ballard jumped to an 11-0 lead at the 5:08 mark. A minute later, senior K.C. Purvis (15.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg) suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss the rest of the game.
“It’s not just how physical he is, but it’s his leadership on the floor that we miss,” Carr said. “He’s such a great leader. … That just kind of took the wind out of our sails.”
Ballard led 29-11 at halftime as the Centurions made just 4 of 18 shots (22.2 percent) and committed 18 turnovers in the first half.
“I wanted to get a hot start,” Renner said. “But sometimes when you get a hot start you keep looking at the clock and you have to maintain and it’s tough.”
Milton Wright’s 3-pointer pulled CAL within 44-34 with 5:20 remaining, but Ballard responded with a 10-1 run to put the game away, taking a 54-35 lead on a Patterson free throw with 2:26 left.
About that time, Ballard’s student section began the “Rupp Arena” chant, looking ahead to next week’s Sweet 16. Wilson, for one, can’t wait to go back.
“It was huge getting a chance to go my sophomore year,” he said. “I was a little nervous going in. Being one of the only guys who’s been, I have a lot of experience and know what it takes. I’m just going to lead my team and do what we need to do to win.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
BALLARD 60, CHRISTIAN ACADEMY 37
CHRISTIAN ACADEMY (24-11) – Milton Wright 9p, 6r; Matthew Duvall 3p; Parker Jones 21p, 7r; Wyatt Allison 2p; Michael Woodward 2p, 5r.
BALLARD (28-6) – Tyrese Duncan 2p; Marshon Ford 5p; Tyron Duncan 6p; Dorian Tisby 12p; Antoine Darby 9p, 4a, 4s; Jamil Wilson 7p; Clivonte Patterson 17p, 8r; Jaylen Price 2p.
Dr. Rudy J. Ellis all-tournament team – Jamil Wilson, Clivonte Patterson, Dorian Tisby (Ballard); Parker Jones, Milton Wright (Christian Academy); Jordan McClendon (Manual); Lukas Burkman (Trinity); Hogan Brownley (Male); James Taylor (St. Xavier); JacQuess Hobbs (Waggener); Domonique Knight (Central).