Willie Feldhaus is still learning his away around Louisville in his first season as Male High School’s boys basketball coach, but he was well aware of the significance of what his team accomplished Friday.
Bellarmine University signee Alex Cook posted 24 points and seven rebounds and Nelson Kimijwok provided a huge lift off the bench as the host Bulldogs beat Ballard 69-55 in a matchup of Seventh Region rivals.
The Bulldogs had lost 11 straight meetings against the Bruins dating to a 68-57 victory on Feb. 15, 2008.
“I heard my kids talking about how big it was and the Tweets that were out there,” Feldhaus said. “It had been 11 straight times since Male had beaten them, and that speaks very highly of how good Ballard is.
“Games like this are why I took this job, just the competitiveness of it and the teams I used to read about when I was at Russell County and Madison Central. This is what it’s all about.”
No. 12 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, Male (12-2) is off to its best start since the 2007-08 squad opened with a 13-1 record.
Cook gave a lot of credit to Feldhaus.
“The camaraderie this year is just so much different,” he said. “The coaching change has been tremendous. We’ve come together, and we’ve come to win.”
Jamil Wilson scored 24 points to lead Ballard (8-6), which managed just 24 points in the second half. Clivonte Patterson (14 points) and Jake Ramsey (11 points, 14 rebounds) also had solid games, but top 3-point shooter Brian Alvey was held scoreless.
“We’re going to have to find other ways to score,” Bruins coach Chris Renner said.
Wilson had little trouble scoring in the first quarter, pouring in 13 of his points during a 15-2 run that gave the Bruins an 18-10 lead midway through a fast-paced first quarter.
That’s when Feldhaus switched from a man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone for the rest of the night.
“I don’t know if anybody can guard (Wilson) man-to-man,” Feldhaus said.
As the Bruins struggled against the zone, Male reeled off a 13-1 run for a 23-19 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“They know enough about us to know the recipe to try and beat us,” Renner said of Male’s switch to a zone. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.”
Ballard scored the first four points of the third quarter for a 35-31 lead, but it was all Male from there.
Cook scored seven points and Kimijwok added five during an 18-5 run that gave the Bulldogs a 49-40 lead after three quarters.
Kimijwok, a senior, suffered a broken wrist and leg last January and missed the remainder of his junior season but has seen increased playing time as this season has progressed.
“He could start for probably 80 percent of the teams in the state of Kentucky,” Feldhaus said. “But he’s accepted his role, he’s playing a lot right now and he could see a lot more in the future. He’s very active.”
Ballard pulled within seven points twice in the fourth quarter but never got closer.
Cook said the victory was especially sweet for Male’s seniors.
“This was our last chance to beat them, and we were going to beat them this time,” he said. “We’re where we thought we’d be at this point, but we’re still underrated in the region. We’re going to make some noise.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
BALLARD 19 12 9 15 – 55
MALE 23 8 18 20 – 69
Ballard (8-6) – Maina 1, Douglas 4, Patterson 14, Ramsey 11, Wimberly 1, Wilson 24.
Male (12-2) – McCauley 3, Cook 24, Brownley 6, Bowman 6, Kimijwok 13, Coleman 10, Williams 7.
3-point goals – Wilson 3; Cook 2, Kimijwok 3, Coleman.