LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Ballard High School boys basketball team wasted little time Thursday afternoon in putting away Taylor County in its 69-33 victory over the Cardinals in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16 first-round contest at Rupp Arena.
Antoine Darby scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half to lead the Bruins, the No. 6 team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, in the rout. As they have all through the postseason, the Bruins won Thursday’s game with defense. They forced the Cardinals into 27 turnovers, off which they scored 31 points.
The Bruins (29-6) came out putting the clamps on the Cardinals from the opening tip. After scoring the game’s first basket, they forced the Cardinals into two turnovers within the first 40 seconds. Both came as Taylor County tried to inbound the ball, and both led to layups giving the Bruins a 6-0 advantage before the Cardinals even crossed midcourt.
“We did exactly what we needed to do to start the game,” Ballard coach Chris Renner said.
It only got more intense from there. The Bruins enjoyed an 18-0 run over a 4:52 stretch in the first half to take a 34-11 with 4:48 remaining in the second quarter.
Ballard forward Vonnie Patterson said the play from the opening minute set the tone the rest of the day.
“It motivated us,” said the senior, who scored 10 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists in just 18 minutes. “So we just had to keep it up.”
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Taylor County (20-15), which made its third straight trip to the Sweet 16 but also started three sophomores, committed six turnovers in the second quarter before it even got off a shot in the period. Even when the Cardinals got off a shot, it was typically rushed. The Cardinals shot just 28 percent (7 of 25) in the first half, making just 2 of 9 in the second quarter. They also committed 16 of their turnovers in the first 16 minutes.
Cardinals coach Maze Stallworth said his team prepped for the Ballard press by going against six or seven players in practice. However, the veteran Bruins still made the younger Cardinals make decisions they didn’t want to make.
Even the more experienced Cardinals fell victim to the Bruins defense, too.
“I feel like I’m a pretty good high school point guard, and they turned me over,” said senior Ezra Oliver, a three-year starter who was one of three Cardinals who committed seven turnovers. “They were flying around. They were in every passing lane … and they interrupted it well.”
Delonta Wimberly’s layup with 1:09 left in the third quarter gave Ballard a 62-25 lead and started the mercy-role running clock. The lead grew to 66-25 with 6:15 remaining in the game.
Dorian Tisby added 14 points for the Bruins, who also got 10 from Wimberly. Wimberly also grabbed nine rebounds, while Patterson got seven. Jamil Wilson added seven points and seven assists. Darby and Tisby had four steals each.
No Bruin played more than 19 minutes as Renner got all 15 players in the game. Nine scored.
Tre’von Smith led the Cardinals with 11 points.
With the victory, Ballard earned a rematch against Fern Creek in Friday’s 8 p.m. quarterfinal. The two teams have met three times already this season, with the Tigers winning all three over a five-week span. However, the Bruins had injuries to both Wilson and Patterson during that stretch that either kept them out or limited their effectiveness in those games.
It’ll also be another chance for Renner to go up against his protégé, Fern Creek coach James Schooler, and while the Bruins are the healthiest they have been all season, he knows it’ll still be a challenge against the Tigers.
“I’m kind of wishing I didn’t teach coach Schooler some of my tricks,” Renner said.
BALLARD 69, TAYLOR COUNTY 33
TAYLOR COUNTY (20-15) – DeJhon Irvin 2p 6r 4a, Tre’Von Smith 11p 8r 3b, Grant McQueary 2p, Austin Ellis 2p, Ezra Oliver 6p, Dylan Gaines 3p, Nick Knifley 4p, Austin Lain 3p.
BALLARD (29-6) – Marshon Ford 2p, Dorian Tisby 14p 4a 4s, Antoine Darby 15p 4s, Jamil Wilson 7p 7r, Vonnie Patterson 10p 7r 3a 4s, Tyrese Duncan 4p 3a, Kereion Douglas 2p 5r, Tyron Duncan 5p, Deonta Wimberly 10p 9r.