By Les Dixon
RUPP ARENA – Tournament favorite Ballard got a scare in the first half, but managed to pull away and pick up a 75-54 win over 15th Region champion Johnson Central.
The Golden Eagles led 30-29 with 3:08 remaining in the first half, but the Bruins’ defensive pressure played a key role in them going on a 12-1 run to finish the first half and they never looked back.
Heavily recruited Shane Hall tried his best to keep Johnson Central in the game by scoring 19 of his game-high 28 points in the first half, but solid play by Ballard’s Kelan Martin (22 points and eight rebounds), Quinten Snider (16 points and eight rebounds) and Lavonne Holland (12 points) allowed the Bruins to cruise to victory.
“I’m pleased with the victory tonight,” Ballard coach Chris Renner said. “We’ve been Jekyll and Hyde. We go through stretches where we’re really good. We go through stretches where we’re not really good.”
Ballard forced five early turnovers and raced out to an 8-0 lead during the game’s first three minutes before Johnson Central’s Hall stopped the run with a basket at the 5:40 mark.
The Bruins’ lead extended to 11-2 with 5:26 left after a three-pointer, but that’s when the Golden Eagles woke up. A three-pointer by Dalton Adkins with 5:00 left sparked a 17-2 run that saw Johnson Central take a 19-17 advantage after a basket by Hall. Ballard’s Holland managed to tie the game at 19 apiece right before the end of the quarter.
The Golden Eagles connected on eight-of-12 shot attempt and was powered by Hall’s nine points, but Johnson Central also turned the ball over seven times.
Hall opened the second quarter with five straight points, including an old-fashioned three-point play to give his team a 24-20 edge with 6:46 remaining in the first half. The Bruins answered, as a three-pointer by Rijad Kovacevic combined with two old-fashioned three-point plays by Kelan Martin gave Ballard a 32-30 edge at the 2:52 mark of the second quarter. Martin finished the first half with 14 points.
The Bruins closed out the half with a 12-1 run to take a commanding 41-31 lead at halftime. The Golden Eagles were their own worst enemy during the first half, committing 15 turnovers, including eight in the second quarter. Hall managed to score 19 points during the game’ first 16 minutes while Johnson Central hit on 11-of-17 shot attempts. Ballard connected on 16-of-34 shot attempts in the first half.
The Golden Eagles cut their deficit to eight point (41-33) to open the third quarter, but five more turnovers continued their downfall, as the Bruins hit eight of their last 10 shots of the period while padding their lead at the end of the period to 20 points (62-42).
Johnson Central never threatened in the final eight points, as Ballard moved on to today’s quarterfinals.
96TH Annual Boys Sweet Sixteen
at Rupp Arena
Ballard 75, Johnson Central 54
Ballard 19 22 21 13 75
Johnson Central 19 12 11 12 54
Ballard (75) – Dow 4, Martin 22, Snider 16, Byrd 2, Holland 12, Haick 6, Berry 4, Kovacevic 3, Schiavone 2, Caggins 2, Douglas 2.
Johnson Cenral (54) – Hall 28, Adkins 3, Blair 10, Burchett 2, Gullett 11.