Ballard finishes off Male with 20-2 run in Seven Region basketball semifinal

After delivering a strong body blow in the first quarter, the Ballard High School boys’ basketball team saved its knockout punch for the third.

The Bruins jumped to a 22-2 lead, saw Male pull within two points early in the third quarter and then put the game away with a 20-2 run in a 77-53 victory in a Seventh Region Tournament semifinal on Sunday at Valley.

Bruins coach Chris Renner was pleased with the way his team responded to Male’s run in the third quarter, especially with senior forward Kelan Martin on the bench battling foul trouble.

“We withstood their punches,” Renner said. “It was big in the third quarter to stretch out the lead with Kelan sitting out.”

Martin scored a game-high 21 points, Quentin Snider added 18 points, six assists and four steals, and Raeshaun Robinson pitched in 14 points as Ballard (29-5) — No. 1 in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings — advanced to face No. 2 Trinity (28-5) in the regional final at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Ballard beat Trinity twice during the regular season.

“You have two teams with opposite styles of play competing for a regional championship,” Renner said. “It should be a fun one.”

P.J. Scott scored 20 points and Will Parker added 15 points and 11 rebounds for Male (17-16). The Bulldogs made just two free throws and were 0 for 9 from the field in the first quarter to fall behind 20-2.

“That’s probably the best quarter we’ve played all year,” Martin said. “We came out as a team and defended. The first time we played them (a 73-70 Ballard win on Dec. 13) they jumped out on us quick, but we came out and balled this time.”

Male coach Larry Miller said his team didn’t respond well to Ballard’s pressure early.

“We came out and looked like we were scared to death and didn’t do anything we practiced,” he said. “When we started sharing the ball we got right back in the game, and then (Ballard) made another run.”

Steve Julian’s dunk gave Male its first field goal with 7:02 to go in the second quarter and started the Bulldogs’ gradual climb back into the game.

The Bulldogs cut Ballard’s lead to 32-23 at halftime and pulled within 35-33 on Brandon Horne’s jumper with 5:57 left in the third quarter.

But the Bruins put on a fantastic offensive display over the next four minutes, getting three-point plays from Snider, Corey Douglas and Malik Dow. Jalen Perry pitched in a dunk during the run, and Dow capped it with a layup for a 55-35 lead with 1:20 remaining in the third.

Renner said he’s seeing signs of his team playing its best in the season’s biggest games.

“We’ve had some really good practices, and guys are responding to what we’re doing,” he said.

Miller also was impressed with the Bruins.

“This is the first team I’ve watched in a while that didn’t have a real apparent weakness,” he said. “They’re really talented and play extremely hard, particularly when they’re in pressure situations. … I really think they’ll win the state tournament this year.”

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