By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Berea Community and Model Laboratory both had double-digits advantages during the first half of their first-round games Thursday at the Shirley Kearns Invitational.
The Patriots were able to hold on to their lead. The Pirates were not.
Model held off a second-half charge and claimed an 81-69 victory over Leslie County in Richmond. Berea Community jumped out to a 14-0 lead over Western Hills, but suffered a 55-50 loss.
The Patriots advance in the winner’s bracket and will take on Western Hills at 2 p.m. today at Model. The Pirates fall into the consolation bracket and will face Leslie County at noon today.
Model 81, Leslie County 69
As he watched a seemingly comfortable lead slowly slip away, Model coach Wes Scarberry didn’t panic.
And he didn’t call a timeout.
“I want them to learn how to play through those situations,” Scarberry said. “Who knows? Down the road they may have to do that.”
The Patriots had a 15-point lead in the opening minutes of the third quarter, but Leslie County fought back to get within five points.
Model survived that run and went on to pick up an 81-69 win.
Jon Ballard had 19 points and seven rebounds off the bench, A.J. Hammons had 17 points, Jesse Middleton had 15 points and Zack Rice-Gordon added 10 points.
After the Eagles cut the lead to 55-50 just before the end of the third quarter, Brendan Hill came up with a big bucket for Model. At the end of the period, the Leslie County bench was assessed a technical foul. Hill hit both free throws to give Model a 59-50 lead heading into the fourth.
The Patriots opened the final quarter on a 9-4 run and got their lead back to double-digits on a basket by Hammons mid-way through the period.
“I was pretty pleased overall,” Scarberry said. “You never really know how a team is going to respond in the first game after the Christmas break. I think everyone played as a team more than they have in the past. It was overall a good team win.”
Middleton gave the Patriots a spark early. The senior had eight points and drew two charges in the first quarter as Model took a 16-13 lead.
At halftime, Middleton had 13 points.
“Jesse came out ready to play,” Scarberry said. “He averages about two charges a game. He knocked down some open shots. At any point, we feel like any of our guys can lead us in scoring.”
After Rice-Gordon went to the bench with two fouls, Ballard came into the game and made an immediate impact. The senior scored nine points in the second quarter as Model took a 41-28 lead into halftime.
Jared Adams added eight points for the Patriots, while Anthony Gerald and Hill had six points each. Rice-Gordon also had seven rebounds.
Western Hills 55, Berea 50
The Pirates got out to a good start Thursday against Western Hills at the Shirley Kearns Invitational.
Berea Community scored the first 14 points of the game and held the Wolverines scoreless through the first period.
But, that lead wouldn’t last.
Western Hills got back within six points at halftime (26-20) and pulled away late for 55-50 win in Richmond. Andy Allen lead the Pirates with 15 points, while Trey Terrill had 12 points and Eli Woodie added 10 points.
The Wolverines opened the second half of an 11-4 run and took their first lead of the game at 31-30. Dustin Kates gave Berea a two-point lead at the end of the third quarter (36-34), and pushed that advantage to five points on a three-point play by Terrill.
The Wolverines surged in front in the fourth, sealing the win at the free throw line.
Berea shot 49 percent from the field and was one-of-12 of three-point range. The Pirates were 13-of-23 from the free throw line.
Allen had 13 rebounds, Daniel Hubbard had seven rebounds and six points, Terrill had five rebounds and three assists and Woodie had four rebounds. Kates had four points and Nolan Sweet had three points.