Ballard High School’s hopes of a second straight Forcht Bank King of the Bluegrass championship were dashed on the event’s first day, and coach Chris Renner wasn’t all that surprised.
The Bruins overcame poor shooting and a season high in turnovers to force overtime but couldn’t get any momentum in the extra period and lost 69-61 to St. John’s (Washington, D.C.) in Friday’s opener of the 34th annual event at Fairdale.
“I’m not saying we couldn’t have won this tournament,” Renner said, “but we are a work in progress.”
Anthony Cowan posted 22 points and four steals to lead the Cadets (4-2), who are ranked No. 6 in the D.C. area by The Washington Post.
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Cowan, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, has scholarship offers from Florida State, Georgetown, Maryland and Xavier, among others, and said he’s planning to take an unofficial visit to the University of Louisville on Tuesday.
“He can drive, he can hit the pull-up and he can hit the 3,” St. John’s coach Sean McAloon said. “He didn’t hit the 3 tonight, but he’s a very dangerous player.”
Jalen Perry had 23 points and 12 rebounds and Anthony Eaves also had 23 points for Ballard (5-2), which is No. 2 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s preseason poll of coaches.
The Bruins shot 28.6 percent (18 of 63) from the field and 60.7 percent (17 of 28) from the free-throw line and committed 15 turnovers.
“I really don’t know how we didn’t get beat by 20,” Renner said. “Everything you need to do to keep from a losing a game, we didn’t do it.”
Cowan’s basket capped a 13-2 St. John’s run for a 22-12 lead early in the second quarter, and Ballard spent the remainder of regulation battling back.
Up 55-49 with 2:37 left. St. John’s went scoreless for the rest of the fourth quarter. Eaves sank a 3-pointer at the 2:21 mark, made two free throws with 1:47 left and hit 1 of 2 free throws with 1:11 remaining to tie the score at 55.
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The Cadets held for a final shot, but Kris Saulny missed an 8-foot baseline jumper at the buzzer, leading to overtime.
“The kids came to the bench and were a little unhappy, but you just have to tell them to focus and tell them they get four free minutes,” McAloon said. “That’s really the only way you can handle it.”
Perry’s basket gave Ballard a 57-55 lead just 18 seconds into overtime, but St. John’s scored the next eight points. Kylia Sykes’ steal and dunk made it 61-57, and his two free throws gave the Cadets a 63-57 lead with 1:49 left.
Jake Ramsey’s basket made it 64-61 with 37.7 seconds remaining, but the Bruins couldn’t pull closer.
Renner praised his team for forcing overtime despite its poor shooting. Still, he said the Bruins will continue to battle growing pains after the graduations of 2,000-point scorers Quentin Snider and Kelan Martin and the absence of sophomore guard Jamil Wilson (foot injury).
“We just couldn’t seal the deal, and I think a lot of that is lack of experience as a unit and lack of having Jamil out there,” Renner said. “That just puts everybody in a tough spot and out of their comfort zone a little bit.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.
St. John’s (4-2) – Sykes 14, Cowan 22, Wood 8, Saulny 12, Dowtin 7, Budrys 4, Hylton 2.
Ballard (5-2) – C. Douglas 4, Eaves 23, Perry 23, Schiavone 7, Ramsey 2, Smith 2.
3-point goals – Dowtin, Eaves 4, Perry 3, Schiavone.