One of the Louisville area’s top coaching rivalries will be renewed Friday when the 70th annual boys basketball Republic Bank Louisville Invitational Tournament resumes at Valley High School.
The 5:30 p.m. quarterfinal will match two teams in the top 20 of The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – No. 2 Ballard (11-3) and No. 17 Bullitt East (12-5) – and two coaches who know each other well.
Ballard’s Chris Renner and Bullitt East’s Jason Couch were longtime rivals in the Seventh Region when Couch coached at Eastern from 2003-12.
Friday’s meeting will be the first between Renner and Couch since Feb. 24, 2012, when Couch’s Eagles beat Renner’s Bruins 79-76 in the 28th District Tournament final. Couch was 9-14 overall against Renner during his nine seasons at Eastern.
“We have a great time talking to each other, but when the ball goes up we want to beat each other’s brains in,” said Couch, who coached four seasons as Shelby County before taking the Bullitt East job last May. “We’re about as competitive against each other as anybody is. But I’ve always respected the job he’s done at Ballard, and we’ve always had some great talks.”
Bullitt East is in the quarterfinals after blitzing Pleasure Ridge Park 68-48 on Tuesday. The Chargers are led by a trio of guards in junior Luke Ezell (15.1 ppg) and seniors Jared Osborne (14.9 ppg) and Connor Green (13.3 ppg).
Ballard beat Christian Academy 69-61 on Wednesday but lost its top scorer and rebounder when senior Clivonte Patterson (18.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg) suffered a sprained ankle and missed the entire second half. Renner said Patterson is questionable for Friday’s game.
Renner downplayed the significance of Friday’s coaching matchup.
“We know each other’s styles, but it’s not going to be won by me or him,” Renner said. “He’s crafty enough to throw a couple of backdoors on us, and I’ll try to throw a few surprises on him. But the players will be the ones who win the game.”
Renner then took a playful jab at his rival.
“I do think I could take him one-on-one, but I could be wrong,” Renner said with a laugh. “I guarantee you I could get him on the golf course.”
Here’s a brief look at Friday’s other quarterfinals. The semifinals (10 and 11:30 a.m.) and final (8 p.m.) are set for Saturday.
Eastern (10-6) vs. Fern Creek (15-2), 4 p.m. – Senior Chance Moore scored 30 points to lead No. 6 Fern Creek over Fairdale 75-57 on Wednesday and now will get a chance to face his former Eastern teammates. Moore led Eastern in scoring (13.2 ppg) and was second in rebounding (4.7 rpg) last season before transferring to Fern Creek.
Tigers coach James Schooler said junior guard Ahmad Price (13.2 ppg) will play Friday after missing Wednesday’s game because of “a coach’s decision.”
Waggener (13-4) vs. Trinity (16-1), 7 p.m. – The No. 2 Shamrocks enter with a 13-game winning streak after beating rival St. Xavier 72-57 on Wednesday. In his second game back from a finger injury, senior guard Jacob King had 12 points, two steals and an assist in 17 minutes of play.
Waggener ran its winning streak to seven with Tuesday’s 63-58 victory over Male. Senior guard JacQuess Hobbs (17.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and sophomore guard/forward Jaago Kalakon (12.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg) lead the Wildcats.
Central (9-6) vs. Valley (11-3), 8:45 p.m. – Central knocked off Doss 59-53 on Wednesday as Devin Firman poured in 27 points and Dominique Knight added 11 points and nine rebounds.
Valley is enjoying a solid start under first-year coach and former University of Louisville star DeJuan Wheat. Junior guard Curt Lewis posted 19 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in Tuesday’s 59-45 victory over DeSales.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.