By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Model Laboratory Patriots had four players in double-figures in their 81-56 blowout of Nicholas County Wednesday, but the star of the night was senior A.J. Hammons.
Hammons entered the game needing two points to become only the fifth Model boys player, and the first in three years, to reach the 1,000-point mark.
He wasted little time in getting the milestone basket inside the first minute of the game when he drove down the lane for a one-handed floater on Model’s third possession.
“I was thinking about it. I just wanted to get it on the opening tip to get it over with to tell you the truth, so I can just get ready for the rest of the season,” Hammons said.
Model coach Wes Scarberry was happy to see the player he called “a dream to coach,” join the 1,000-point club.
“I couldn’t be happier for A.J. It is well deserved and I’m proud of him. He’s probably the smallest one out there, but he’s got the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever coached,” Scarberry said. “He comes to work every day and works his butt off, whether its a practice or a game. He does everything well and that is why he has started for four years. A lot of our young players need to watch him and see how he plays.”
Once the milestone moment was over, Model wasted no time in taking the suspense out of the game, running out to a 20-8 first-quarter lead.
Jon Ballard collected nine of his 11 points in the quarter and he and Zack Rice-Gordon dominated the inside as the Model press forced Nicholas County into several turnovers.
In the second quarter, it was Rice-Gordon doing most of the damage as Model increased its lead to 42-27 at the half. Rice-Gordon, who finished with a game-high 21 points, opened the quarter with a three-pointer and added seven more before the half.
Model built its lead to as much as 33 points in the second half before Nicholas County scored the final eight points of the game to close the gap to the final 81-56.
Scarberry said he was concerned about a letdown after his team’s big win over Woodford County last week, but he was pleased with its play.
“I was actually a little worried that we would have a letdown. We’ve been playing well the last five or six games and coming off that win, we wanted to play well,” Scarberry said. “We came out with a lot of energy, especially defensively. I thought we played well, but I had to get their attention a couple of times. We were focused on not being sloppy and trying to get better regardless of the score of the game.”
Hammons finished the game with 16 points, while Anthony Gerald also hit double figures with 13 points. Jesse Middleton chipped in with five points, Caleb Kincaid had six and Jared Adams and Ephriam Etieno had two points each.
Scarberry said he was pleased with the way his team shared the ball.
“We have five guys averaging in double figures right now and we could be led in scoring by six guys that we have,” Scarberry said. “I think this group has finally realized how good they can be when they play together. As long as we keep playing that way I think we can surprise some people down the road.
Model returns to action Friday with a district showdown with Berea Community in Berea at 7:30 p.m.