For the Ballard High School boys’ basketball team, its good side beat out its evil side once again.
Trailing heavy underdog Johnson Central 28-26 midway through the second quarter, the Bruins found their magic potion and went on to post a 75-54 victory in the first round of the Sweet 16 in Rupp Arena.
“We’ve been Jekyll and Hyde,” coach Chris Renner said. “We go through stretches where we’re really good. We go through stretches where we’re not really good.”
Ballard, No. 2 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, was good enough for the final 20 minutes to run its winning streak to 16. The Bruins (30-4) will face the Knott County Central-Clay County winner in today’s 8 p.m. quarterfinal.
The “Big Three” of Kelan Martin (22 points, eight rebounds), Quentin Snider (16 points, eight rebounds, five assists) and Lavone Holland (12 points, six steals) once again led the way for the Bruins.
Shane Hall, a 6-foot-9 junior, had 28 points and eight rebounds to lead the Golden Eagles (22-11). Johnson Central had 25 turnovers, which the Bruins converted into 26 points.
“We couldn’t afford to turn it over, especially in the backcourt where they could get easy buckets,” Golden Eagles coach Tommy McKenzie said.
Ballard jumped to an 11-2 lead, but Johnson Central fought back and took a 24-20 edge on Hall’s 3-point play with 6:46 left in the second quarter.
Renner said his backups struggled as Johnson Central made its run.
“We struggled a little bit when we subbed with our first substitutions,” Renner said. “They did not do their job and looked a little shaky out there.”
Hall’s two free throws gave Johnson Central a 28-26 lead with 3:56 left in the first half, but Ballard closed with a 15-3 run to take a 41-31 halftime lead. Martin had back-to-back three-point plays to start the run, which included six Johnson Central turnovers.
“I saw the Louisville Ballard team I knew we were going to see,” McKenzie said.
Kyle Gullett’s basket pulled the Golden Eagles within 41-33 to open the third quarter, but they never got closer. Hall, who had 19 points at halftime, managed just two in the third quarter as the Bruins took control.
“We’re not designed to take just one guy away,” Renner said of his team’s trapping defense. “We didn’t do a good job in the first half of bodying up with (Hall), and we let him get a lot of touches in the middle of the defense. …
“Kelan started to adjust and body up a little bit and deny him the ball. When we did that, it limited his touches and his scoring to a degree.”
Said Hall: “I felt them pushing me a little bit more in the second half. It’s something I’ve dealt with the whole year.”
Holland, then a freshman, was the only current Ballard player on the roster when the Bruins made their last trip to the Sweet 16 in 2010. Renner said it was important for the first-timers to get a feel for the atmosphere.
“The first couple of minutes I was kind of nervous, but I got used to it,” Snider said. “It’s a nice atmosphere. I was surprised.”