Ballard boys face tough road to Seventh Region title

Ballard boys face tough road to Seventh Region title

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Ballard boys face tough road to Seventh Region title

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With the overwhelming depth and parity among boys basketball teams in the Seventh Region this season, someone was destined to receive a tough draw for the regional tournament.

That team appears to be Ballard High School.

Draws for the boys and girls Sixth and Seventh Region tournaments were held at Holy Cross on Saturday, and the Bruins (28-2) — No. 2 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings — will have to survive what looks to be a rocky road to make it to Rupp Arena for the Boys Sweet 16.

Up first for Ballard will be a home game against Central (17-8) at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The winner of that game could face No. 1 Trinity in Thursday’s semifinals. No. 7 Manual and No. 18 St. Xavier headline the bottom half of the bracket, and one of them could be waiting in the regional final set for March 9.

Bruins coach Chris Renner appeared unfazed by the tough draw.

“What happened in the districts and really what happened in the regular season at this point is irrelevant,” he said. “There are eight teams in the regional tournament, and all eight teams have a chance to win it. Everybody is capable.”

Quarterfinals on Monday and Tuesday will be played at the homes of district winners, with the remainder of the tournaments being played at Valley High School.

Here’s a breakdown of the Louisville-area draws:

Boys

Ballard is 2-0 against Central this season, winning 77-61 on Jan. 17 in the semifinals of the Louisville Invitational Tournament and 77-74 on Feb. 10.

Both teams enter after tough district finals, with the Bruins beating Eastern 52-51 on Friday in the 28th District and the Yellowjackets falling to Manual 73-68 on Thursday in the 25th District.

“There’s no better way to go into this game than how we came out of the districts,” Central coach Doug Bibby said. “We had a tough one that was a slugfest. They had a tough one that was a slugfest. I think both of us are going in with some good games under our belts.”

Manual will host Eastern at 7 p.m. Tuesday in another marquee quarterfinal. The Crimsons beat the Eagles 72-55 on Jan. 23.

Pleasure Ridge Park (18-7) will host DeSales (23-7) at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the top Sixth Region quarterfinal. The teams did not meet in the regular season.

“Having to be mentally ready right off the bat has helped us over the years,” PRP coach Dale Mabrey said of the tough quarterfinal matchup. “If we’re not mentally ready for them, we won’t have our uniforms out very much longer.”

The draw for the Eighth Region Tournament at Henry County will be held Sunday.

Girls

Mercy coach Keith Baisch couldn’t deny his No. 12 Jaguars got a favorable draw for the Sixth Region Tournament, as No. 8 Butler, No. 20 Bullitt East and North Bullitt all ended up on opposite sides of the bracket.

“It’s definitely a good draw with three out of the top four teams in the region on the other side of the bracket,” Baisch said. “But this time of the year you can’t overlook anybody.”

Mercy will host Bullitt Central in a quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Monday. If the Jaguars win that one, Baisch is hopeful to have Kathryn Gross (hamstring) and Erin Muthler (concussion) back from injuries in time for Wednesday’s semifinals.

Butler, the defending state champion, will host Bullitt East in a Top 20 matchup at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Butler has knocked Bullitt East out of the regional each of the past five seasons.

No. 14 Male and No. 16 Manual are the top-ranked teams in the Seventh Region and drew on opposite sides of the bracket. Male (21-4) will host Christian Academy (20-8) at 7 p.m. Monday in a matchup of 20-win squads. They did not meet during the regular season.

Eastern coach Josh Leslie said the regional is wide-open, noting that even its first-round opponent, Assumption (9-16), presents problems with 6-foot-6 Purdue signee Nora Kiesler.

“There is no easy route this time,” Leslie said. “It’s all about how matchups shake out. … Assumption has something we don’t, and that’s a 6-6 girl in the middle. That’s a tough matchup.”

Shelby County and Oldham County both drew into the bottom half of the Eighth Region bracket and will play Tuesday at Carroll County. Shelby County will meet Carroll County at 6 p.m., and Oldham County will face Simon Kenton at 8 p.m.

Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.

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Ballard boys face tough road to Seventh Region title
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