Pressure, mistakes plague Ballard Bruins in Girls' LIT

Even with one of them battling a virus, Anderson County High School’s two Miss Basketball finalists proved a bit too much for Ballard’s one.

Eriel McKee scored 23 points and Makenzie Cann added eight points, five rebounds and three assists as Anderson County topped Ballard 51-44 in a matchup of top-10 teams in the Republic Bank/Coca-Cola Louisville Invitational quarterfinals at Bellarmine University’s Knights Hall.

McKee, a Morehead State signee, and the Cincinnati-bound Cann both were named Wednesday among seven finalists for Kentucky’s Miss Basketball award. Cann missed Tuesday’s win over Bryan Station with a virus and wasn’t 100 percent Friday, hitting just 2 of 11 shots.

But McKee was clutch, hitting 9 of 13 shots and using her long arms as a disrupting presence at the front of Anderson County’s zone.

“I feel comfortable passing (Cann) the ball any time,” McKee said, “but I felt like I needed to take the pressure off of her tonight and help her a lot more.”

Anderson County (15-3) — No. 1 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings — advanced to face the Sacred Heart-LaRue County winner in today’s 11:30 a.m. semifinal at Christian Academy.

Javonna Layfield, also a Miss Basketball finalist, posted 27 points and 16 rebounds to lead No. 8 Ballard (17-3). The Bruins played without two starters because of injuries — senior Keana Richardson (knee) and junior Alex Martin (ankle).

Despite the result, Ballard coach Frank Wright was proud.

“I thought we played extremely well under the circumstances of who’s available,” he said. “Anderson is a nice team, but we think we can play with everybody. Doesn’t mean we’re going to beat them, but there’s not anybody we’re shying away from.”

The game featured 10 lead changes, with Layfield’s baseline jumper tying the score at 38 with 4:15 remaining.

Jessica Rice’s free throw gave Anderson County the lead for good, 39-38, with 3:48 left before Cann sank a 3-pointer from the right corner for a 42-38 edge with 3:21 remaining.

Kays said Cann lost 8 pounds during the past week and was “75 to 80 percent” Friday night.

“When it’s on the line, there’s nobody else I’d rather have,” Kays said. “I’d rather have her 70 percent than a lot of players at 100 percent. She’s a battler.”

McKee’s steal and layup with 2:47 left made it 45-38, and Ballard never got closer than five points the rest of the way.

Anderson County broke out a 2-2-1 press in the fourth quarter and forced six turnovers in the period. Ballard finished with 18, compared with five for Anderson County.

“We got a little bit unraveled,” Wright said. “I wouldn’t say it was because it was great pressure. We just didn’t respond. We were a little stressed and made some mistakes.”

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