By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
The third time was, indeed, the charm for the Patriots.
A.J. Hammons had 22 points and Jon Ballard added 19 points as Model Laboratory (10-3) defeated Woodford County (9-5), 65-63, Saturday in the championship game of the Shirley Kearns Invitational in Richmond.
The Patriots had been in the finals of their own tournament twice in the past three seasons (2009 and 2010), but had come up short both times.
“It feels amazing,” said Hammons, a senior guard. “We’ve come so close all these years. We still have bigger goals. We still have bigger things we want to do.”
The Patriots got it done this time
Woodford County had a 47-46 advantage after three quarters before Model was able to re-take the lead in the fourth.
The Patriots hit seven-of-eight free throws in the final minutes to seal the win.
“We scrimmaged Woodford County earlier in the year and played pretty well, even though we didn’t have Jon Ballard,” Model coach Wes Scarberry said. “With (Jon) back, our kids were really confident. We are really just trying to earn some respect in the region. This senior class has done a great job. To me, this is a signature win for our program.”
Model had just six turnovers and was 15-of-18 from the line.
The Patriots were 10-of-12 at the line in the fourth quarter.
“We work on free throws in practice constantly,” said Hammons, who has 998 points in his career. “You’ve just got to step up and make them.”
The Patriots took the lead for good on a Ballard basket with two minutes left (58-57). Ballard hit two free throws moments later, then Anthony Gerald hit four straight shots from the line.
Woodford had two chances at a game-winning shot, but both wouldn’t fall.
Gerald had 12 points and three assists, Brendan Hill had seven points, three rebounds and three assists, Jesse Middleton had three points and Zack Rice-Gordon had two points. Ballard also had five rebounds.
Model is set to return to action Wednesday at home against Nicholas County.