That negative buzz about the Ballard High School boys basketball team back in December? Yeah, Jamil Wilson heard it.
“They were saying we might not make .500,” he said. “The worst Ballard team ever.”
Turns out those reports of the Bruins death were greatly exaggerated.
Ballard showed Saturday night it has no plans of simply handling over its spot atop the Seventh Region, getting a game-high 27 points from Wilson to defeat Trinity 58-54 in the championship game of the Republic Bank Louisville Invitational Tournament at Valley.
GALLERY | Ballard vs. Trinity, LIT title game
The Bruins lost by 22 points to Doss on Dec. 8 and were 3-4 after falling to North Hardin on Dec. 18. But with Wilson playing like one of the state’s top point guards, junior Clivonte Patterson emerging as a consistent scorer and several others falling into their roles, Ballard (13-6) once again looks like a regional-title contender.
“I didn’t think it would happen this quickly, us getting better,” coach Chris Renner said. “We’ve improved tremendously, and that’s a credit to the guys buying in and learning what they needed to do and accepting some roles.”
Wilson received the L.J. “Butch” Charmoli Award as the LIT MVP after hitting 10 of 17 shots, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Jake Ramsey had 11 points and five rebounds, and Patterson chipped in eight points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
The LIT title was the sixth all-time for Ballard, tying Central and Pleasure Ridge Park for the second-most in the tournament’s 69-year history. Male leads with 13 championships.
“We’re going to enjoy this one,” Renner said, “but we’re going to try to build for the end.”
Gabe Schmitt had 14 points and Lukas Burkman 12 to lead Trinity (16-4), No. 5 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings. The Shamrocks finished as a tournament runner-up for the third time this season, having lost to Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy in the King of the Bluegrass final and to Paul Dunbar in the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic championship game.
“In the end, it’s a play here or a play there,” Trinity coach Mike Szabo said. “Right now we’re just not quite tough enough to finish. … If anything, hopefully it’s going to make these guys hungrier and tougher.”
The Shamrocks bolted to a 20-10 lead early in the second quarter before the Bruins closed with a 16-5 run for a 26-25 halftime edge.
The third quarter belonged to Wilson, who hit a trio of 3-pointers and scored 13 points to help the Bruins take a 45-44 advantage to the fourth.
“I just made my mind up that my team needed that at that moment,” Wilson said. “It gave us a big boost of confidence.”
The Shamrocks missed their first eight shots of the fourth quarter, allowing Ballard to gain control. Brian Alvey hit a pair of 3-pointers, the first from the left wing for a 50-44 lead at the 4:32 mark and the second from the right corner for a 53-46 bulge with 1:43 left.
But Trinity made a final push, pulling within 57-54 on three free throws by Schmitt with 27.1 seconds remaining. The Shamrocks later had two chances to tie, but Schmitt missed a 3-point attempt with 20 seconds left and Burkman was whistled for a double-dribble with 8.3 seconds remaining.
Wilson’s free throw with 4.2 seconds left sealed the game – and possibly some of the naysayers’ mouths.
“That definitely fueled us,” Wilson said. “I’m not used to losing, and Ballard isn’t a losing program.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ballard (13-6) – Douglas 2, Patterson 8, Alvey 7, Wilson 27, Darby 3, Ramsey 11.
Trinity (16-4) – J. King 9, Burton 2, Johnson 4, Schmitt 14, Harris 7, B. King 6, Burkman 12.
3-point goals – Alvey 2, Wilson 4, Darby; J. King, Schmitt 2, B. King 2, Burkman 4.
All-tournament team – Jake Ramsey, Brian Alvey (Ballard); L.J. Harris, Gabe Schmitt (Trinity); Alex Cook, Cornelius Watts (Male); Connor McKim (St. Xavier); Caleb Williams (Eastern); Kel’Shawn Knight-Goff (Doss); Tony Washington (Fern Creek); Brandon Klefot (Bullitt East); Colin Ferguson (Kentucky Country Day).