Three weeks ago, after a so-so 2-2 showing at Lexington Catholic’s Republic Bank Classic, Pleasure Ridge Park boys’ basketball coach Dale Mabrey was questioning the direction of his squad.
After Saturday night, Mabrey and the rest of Louisville will be looking forward to seeing just how far the Panthers (15-4) can go.
Lamontray Harris capped a dominating week with 29 points and 12 rebounds and point guard Antonio McDaniels returned to form as PRP knocked off Ballard 81-73 in overtime in the championship game of the 67th annual Republic Bank Louisville Invitational Tournament at Valley High School.
The Panthers — No. 8 in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings — improved to 7-0 since the calendar flipped to 2014.
“They’ve traveled so far the last three weeks, trying to come together as a team,” Mabrey said. “For our kids to compete the way they did for four quarters and an overtime, I can’t say enough. We just would not give up.”
It’s the first LIT crown for PRP since winning back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000. The Panthers now have six overall, tying Central for second all-time. Male has the most with 13.
Harris earned L.J. “Butch” Charmoli MVP honors after averaging 26 points and 13 rebounds in four LIT games. McDaniels, who had struggled earlier this week, added 17 points and seven assists and committed just two turnovers while playing all 36 minutes. D’Angelo Hunter scored 18 points.
As well as Harris played during the week, McDaniels said his biggest contribution was a pregame talk the two had.
“I’d really been down on myself,” McDaniels said. “He told me that, basically, I’m one of the best point guards in the state. I wasn’t believing that at the time … but I decided I was going to try to take over the game when I could. I feel like I got a lot of my confidence back.”
No. 1 Ballard got another big night from Butler signee Kelan Martin, who had 29 points and 12 rebounds. University of Louisville signee Quentin Snider added 16 points and five assists but hit just 6 of 22 shots, including 0 of 12 on 3-point attempts.
The Bruins were playing their second overtime game of the day, having defeated Trinity 63-61 in Saturday morning’s semifinals, and their fatigue showed. They shot just 36.8 percent from the field, including a 3-for-28 clip on 3-pointers.
Coach Chris Renner gave PRP the credit and said fatigue wasn’t the only deciding factor for his squad.
“More than physical, I think it was mental,” he said. “Mentally we did not do things we’re supposed to do.”
The Bruins took a 2-0 lead but never led again during regulation as PRP jumped in front 16-5 and led 47-34 on Deshan Rushin’s basket with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
Snider scored the final five points of the third quarter to get Ballard within 51-48, and the Bruins finally pulled even at 62 on Brandon Berry’s free throw with 1:16 left. With the score tied at 63, McDaniels lost the ball out of bounds with 3.9 seconds left. Martin’s 3-point try at the buzzer was off, leading to overtime.
Berry’s two free throws gave Ballard a 71-70 lead with 1:40 left in overtime, but PRP dominated from there. McDaniels’ two free throws gave the Panthers the lead for good, 72-71, with 1:24 left, and Ballard missed six of its final seven shots.
“We have to do a better job of not settling and taking better shots,” Renner said.
Harris had two dunks in the final minute to put an exclamation mark on the victory. He said the difference between now and three weeks ago has been coming together as a team.
“We’re sharing the ball more, helping each other out when we need it and telling each other that we’re good,” Harris said. “We’re just playing hard.”
With five weeks left in the regular season, Mabrey said the LIT crown will give his team “a swagger” as it approaches postseason play.
And, McDaniels said, it shows the Panthers are capable of beating the best the state has to offer.
“Everybody in the gym — other than PRP students that I’m really, really cool with — didn’t really think we could beat Ballard,” he said. “To beat the No. 1 team in the state feels real, real good.”
– Dow 2, Martin 29, Snider 16, Robinson 2, Berry 11, Perry 13.Ballard (17-5)
– McDaniels 17, Hunter 18, Rushin 5, Gaines 10, Harris 29, Glass 2.Pleasure Ridge Park (15-4)
– Martin 2, Perry; McDaniels, Hunter 2, Rushin, Harris.3-point goals
– Lamontray Harris, PRP. L.J. “Butch” Charmoli MVP Award
– Antonio McDaniels, D’Angelo Hunter (PRP); Quentin Snider, Kelan Martin (Ballard); Demetrius Stanton (Fern Creek); Raymond Spalding (Trinity); Rhett Troutman (Bullitt East); Montrell Little (Doss); Devon Johnson (Iroquois); Devon Cooper (Waggener); Cory Thomas (Fairdale); Robert Shaw (St. Xavier). All-tournament team