Ballard’s uncanny record in games decided by three points or fewer — the Lady Bruins have won six of them — continued when Brandi Ray knocked down a 3-pointer at the horn to beat Eastern 55-53 Wednesday in the second round of the Republic Bank Coca-Cola Girls’ Louisville Invitational Tournament.
“I was looking for the open man and I knew we needed to score,” Ray, a senior, said outside the locker room at Bellarmine University’s Knights Hall. “I knew time was running down.”
Everybody on the Ballard bench was shouting “shoot” to anyone who had the ball, and that was Ray — who hit her shot from the back left side of the foul circle.
“I was surprised I was so wide-open,” Ray said of the only three she took in the game. “This is the second time this has happened to me this season.”
Ray hit a 10-footer at the buzzer to beat Bullitt East 52-50 on Dec. 23 in the Lady Chargers’ tournament.
Ballard coach Frank Wright didn’t know if anyone was going to take the final shot after two free throws by Markeia Porter had given Eastern a 53-52 lead with 21 seconds left.
“I was getting a little skittish toward the end,” Wright said. “I wanted someone to get off a shot. We passed up a couple of opportunities earlier.”
Ray’s basket gave her seven points in the game and sent Ballard (17-2) — the state’s No. 8 team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings — into Friday’s 7 p.m. quarterfinal game against No. 2 Anderson County (14-3).
“Eastern came to play,” Ray said. “I feel they outplayed us, but the game is never over until the end.”
Javonna Layfield had 17 points and nine rebounds for Ballard, with Brianna Mishler adding 13 points. Mishler hit 3 of 7 threes.
No. 18 Eastern (12-5) got 22 points from senior Madison Raque, who has signed with North Carolina Wilmington. Raque scored 15 points in the second half, including a three and two three-point plays for nine points in the third quarter.
“We’ve been waiting for Madison to get on a stretch like that,” said Eastern coach Josh Leslie, who saw his team’s bid for an upset go up in smoke at the end.
Ballard led 52-49 before Porter hit a layup to make it 52-51. Porter then stole the ball and was fouled on another layup attempt at 0:21. Porter, who scored 12 points, hit two free throws for a 53-52 lead.
“We had four possessions where we turned it over at the end,” Leslie said. “We missed a couple of point-blank shots. I wasn’t sure if Ballard would get off the last shot, but they did, and it was an uncontested shot.”