Like it or not, Chris Renner, the Ballard High School boys’ basketball team once again has a target on its back.
The Bruins coach hoped his program might fly under the radar this season after losing a bevy of talent from last season’s team. Instead, Ballard has prospered.
Led by the stellar guard play of Jalen Perry, Anthony Eaves and Jamil Wilson and a deep bench, Ballard capped an impressive run through the Republic Bank Louisville Invitational Tournament with an 80-62 victory over Doss in Saturday’s championship game at Valley.
Ballard (17-2) – No. 2 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – won its second tournament title this season and remained undefeated against Kentucky competition.
After losing 2,000-point scorers Quentin Snider and Kelan Martin to graduation and two other transfers, this is not what Renner expected this season.
“We’re better than I thought we would be,” he said. “I didn’t want it to happen this early because I was looking forward to the underdog role and maybe being third or fourth in the region and maybe sneak up on people. Well, we snuck up too early.”
Perry earned the L.J. “Butch” Charmoli MVP award after posting 21 points, six rebounds and three steals. Eaves had 16 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and Wilson posted seven points and six rebounds. The Bruins used 12 players, and 10 of them scored.
Ballard hit 10 of 24 3-point tries and finished at 42 percent (34 of 81) from 3-point range over its four LIT games. Renner has called this one of the best shooting teams he’s coached.
“We have a lot of shooters,” Renner said.
Doss (15-3) was playing in the LIT final for just the second time in school history, having lost to Ballard 70-53 in the 2007 final. Nick Anderson scored 12 points and Ramon Collins added 11 points and seven rebounds to lead the Dragons.
Coach Tony Williams said his program needs to take the next step after also losing in the semifinals of the King of the Bluegrass Holiday Classic earlier this season.
“We’ve lost in the semifinals, and now we’ve lost in the finals,” he said. “Our next hump is to show that we can get to a final and win that game.”
Perry got Ballard off to a hot start Saturday, scoring his team’s first 10 points and later throwing down a dunk to give the Bruins a 28-15 lead early in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, Doss struggled with foul trouble as starters Dajon McCarley, Delvonte McCloud and Terrell Gray all went to the bench with two fouls early in the second quarter.
Eaves said the Bruins focused their defense on Doss guard Dujuanta Weaver, who finished with nine points on 3-of-12 shooting and also committed four turnovers.
“When he struggled, that took most of their offense out of the game,” Eaves said. “They started shooting wild and contested shots, which we wanted them to shoot. That gave us a lot of fast-break opportunities.”
Ballard led 41-26 at halftime but did receive some resistance in the second half as Doss closed the third quarter with a 13-4 run to pull within 58-44. Collins’ dunk pulled the Dragons within 62-50 with 5:35 remaining, but that’s as close as they would get.
The Bruins picked up their fifth LIT crown, ranking fourth all-time behind Male (13), Central (six) and Pleasure Ridge Park (six).
Since 2007, Ballard was 0-4 in LIT finals and Renner joked that runner-up finishes had become a running joke in his family. He said his fifth-grade son Mason recently finished second in a spelling bee.
“It seems like our whole family, all we are is runner-up,” said Renner, who also has a 1-4 record in state championship games. “To win an event of this magnitude is great.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.
* L.J. “Butch” Charmoli MVP: Jalen Perry (Ballard).
* All-tournament team: Corey Douglas, Jalen Perry, Anthony Eaves (Ballard); Tyler Jefferson, Dujuanta Weaver (Doss); Brandon Wells, Brandon Johnson (Central); Tyler Sharpe (Bullitt East); Chase Shellman (DeSales); Cameron Reed (Eastern); Raymond Spalding (Trinity); Dwayne Sutton (Manual); Tre Richardson (Fairdale).
Doss (15-3) – Weaver 9, Hargrove 2, Hall 8, Anderson 12, Franklin 2, Gray 8, McCloud 4, Collins 11, Jefferson 6.
Ballard (17-2) – O. Douglas 2, C. Douglas 8, Eaves 16, Alvey 1, Perry 21, Wilson 7, Darby 5, Schiavone 3, Ramsey 9, Smith 8.
3-point goals – Hall 2, Anderson 3; Eaves 2, Perry 3, Wilson, Darby, Schiavone, Smith 2.