By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Model Patriots fought a gallant battle Friday but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the tremendous size and speed advantage that Bardstown had and the Tigers came away with an 80-63 win in the quarterfinals of the Touchstone Energy All “A” Classic.
Bardstown used runs of 29-3 in the second quarter and 18-4 to end the third quarter to blow the game open and take a 68-42 lead after three quarters.
But as they have shown all year, the Patriots refused to quit.
A.J. Hammons hit a three pointer to start the fourth quarter that began a nine-point run for the Patriots, which ended with a three by Zack Rice-Gordon that cut the Tigers lead to 68-51 with 5:49 to go.
With the Tigers suddenly struggling with the Model press and turning the ball over, a driving layup and a free throw by Jon Ballard pulled the Patriots to within 13 points at 70-27 at the 4:11 mark.
Model had three chances to cut the lead down even more after Tigers turnovers the next couple of minutes but came up empty each time and Bardstown pulled away at the end.
“We played a very talented and experienced team today in Bardstown. They obviously had the best player on the floor in Devante Grundy ... he’s just a spectacular talent for them and we didn’t have anybody to match up with him,” Model coach Wes Scarberry said. “We game-planned to play zone and my hat’s off to them. They made shots against our zone and their size really hurt us inside rebounding wise.”
Bardstown’s pressure defense was the difference in the game, Scarberry said, especially in the second quarter.
“That second quarter run was just their pressure more than anything. We got in foul trouble ... when Anthony Gerald came out with two fouls we just couldn’t beat their pressure. Anytime we got the ball in the middle, their speed got to us and they got several back-tips out of that,” Scarberry said. “The press was the reason we struggled. That’s a credit to them. It’s not that we did anything wrong, we were in the right spots, they were just very speedy and their athleticism gave us a lot of trouble. We had way too many turnovers which gave them the extended lead and they are just too good for us to make an extended run and come back on them.”
As much trouble as Model had trying to contain Grundy, Bardstown had just as much trouble trying to handle Ballard.
The Patriot senior had a great game, scoring a team-high 27 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter as Model was mounting its comeback attempt. He also pulled down six rebounds and had two assists.
Rice-Gordon was the only other Patriot in double figures, scoring 17 points and pulling down five rebounds while dishing out two assists.
Hammons finished with eight points, while Gerald, who was playing with an injured foot sustained in the Patriots’ win on Thursday, had six points before fouling out early in the fourth quarter and Brendan Hill added five points, four rebounds and two assists.
Scarberry said he was proud of the way his team kept playing after getting down, especially Ballard.
“I’m proud of all of our kids, especially that fourth quarter. To be down, they gave it everything they had in that fourth quarter. There is no quit in our team and I’m really proud of that,” Scarberry said. “Jon’s a warrior. He’s our go-to-guy pretty much all the time. He can post up and he can play the point and relieve some of that pressure. We just didn’t give him enough help today. He’s a special talent ... he’s done some tremendous things for us here at Model and he’s still got several games left to do more great things.”
Things looked promising for the Patriots early on.
Model came out playing well, with all five starters scoring at least one basket and the Patriots led all but 19 seconds of the first quarter when L.J. Cowherd hit a jumper from the corner to put the Tigers up 19-17.
In the second quarter, the Tigers superior height and athleticism came into play in a big way.
Behind Grundy, the 6-foot-six senior guard who finished with 31 points and 12 rebounds, the Tigers’ pressure defense put the clamps on the Patriots offense.
Model was held to only one Ballard basket and one Anthony Gerald free throw for the first seven minutes of the quarter while the Tigers offense poured in 29 points to give Bardstown a commanding 42-27 lead at the half.
The Patriots showed some life early in the third quarter.
Rice-Gordon had a basket to open the quarter, and after a basket by Grundy, he nailed a three pointer and Ballard and Gerald had back-to-back baskets to cut the lead to 50-38.
But once again the Tigers had the answer and scored 18 of the last 22 points of the quarter to gain their biggest lead of the game.
Scarberry said his players were disappointed after the loss but he was proud of the way they represented themselves and the school in the tournament.
“I was happy in the fact that they were disappointed that they lost because they really wanted to go to the final four tomorrow. But, I reminded them that they’ve done a lot of things this past week. They beat LCA ... this was Model’s first trip to the All “A” tournament and then to win a game ... I thought for the most part they put on a pretty good display against a very talented Bardstown team that I think has a chance to win this thing,” Scarberry said. “We’ve made our school extremely proud. The fan support this week has just been phenomenal. I couldn’t be happier about what we’ve done over the past week. We’re disappointed to lose obviously. But when you look back at it, it’s a special moment for our school.”
Ballard said he felt like the Patriots had a good gameplan going into the game, but the Tigers were just too long and athletic. But he said the team feels like it earned some respect with its play during the tournament.
“We had a good scouting report, but they were really lanky and got in the passing lanes and caused a lot of turnovers and they shot the heck out of the ball,” Ballard said. “We wanted to come up here and play hard and show we belonged here. I think we showed people that we are never going to quit in the second half no matter if we’re down by 40 or up 40. We’re going to play with our heart.”
Having never been to the tournament, Ballard said he didn’t really know what to expect, but the experience was more than he imagined.
“It has been everything I thought it would be and more. The fans were great. It’s crazy how amped up they made it in here. Playing in this environment was great. It definitely made all the hard work we put in the off season worth it.”
Model doesn’t have much time to regroup. The Patriots play in the Bluegrass Conference Shootout in Berea today.