LOUISVILLE — The payback has been delivered, and Ballard is going back to the Sweet Sixteen.
The second-ranked Bruins used a big third-quarter run to knock off defending champion and No. 1 Louisville Trinity 57-46 in the 7th Region boys' basketball finals Saturday at Valley High School.
With the victory, Ballard (29-4) avenged its only loss to a Kentucky team this season — a 53-52 defeat to the Shamrocks in the Louisville Invitational Tournament six weeks ago.
That game ended with a controversial foul call in the final second, and the Bruins never got the bad taste out of their mouths.
"We were all falling apart and then we came together as a team," said Ballard point guard Quentin Snider. "Everybody regrouped. Our goal was basically just to get them for revenge, and that's what we did."
The Bruins have won 15 consecutive games — all by double digits — since the Jan. 19 loss to Trinity, and they'll be the favorites to leave Rupp Arena this week with the school's fourth state championship.
The Shamrocks (28-6) had won 17 of 18 games going into Saturday's rematch, with the only loss coming to Jeffersonville (Ind.) on Feb. 15.
Ballard Coach Chris Renner saw something while watching film from that game that made him think a 2-3 zone defense would work against Trinity.
Though Renner estimated that he'd used the zone only "about 5 percent" of the time that he's been at Ballard, he implemented it from the start of Saturday's game.
And it paid off big for the Bruins.
The Shamrocks got plenty of open looks but made just one of 13 three-point attempts in the first half. They finished the game 4-for-27 from long range, with two of those makes coming in the final two minutes, when the game was already decided.
"We just felt like ... it could do something to stymie them and slow them down," Renner said. "They're a good shooting team, but they haven't been knocking shots down."
The day got off to a sloppy start as the two teams traded turnovers and missed shots over the first few minutes.
Things finally settled down, and Snider had the final say in the back-and-forth first half.
The University of Louisville commitment scored the last five points of the second quarter, including a pull-up three-pointer from about 26 feet to give Ballard a 24-23 lead and set the halftime score.
Trinity never led again.
The Bruins used a 12-2 run to start the third quarter and build a 36-25 advantage. Senior guard Darryl Hicks hit a three-pointer to get the Shamrocks back within single digits, but Snider answered with a three of his own.
The shifty guard dropped a devastating crossover on Trinity's James Quick, who fell to the ground as Snider launched from behind the arc to send Ballard's lead back to double digits at 39-28.
Snider had a game-high 21 points to go with nine rebounds.
Ballard junior forward Kelan Martin was solid throughout the day and clutch down the stretch. Martin grabbed several big rebounds in the fourth quarter and finished with 18 points and a game-high 15 boards.
Thirteen of Martin's rebounds were on the defensive end, and many of those came off missed three-pointers.
"The biggest key for us to beat them was to make sure that they didn't get offensive rebounds. And he helped us there," Renner said. "There's not a lot of players in the state that can do what he does inside-out. He did his job tonight."
Ballard 57, Lou. Trinity 46
Lou. Trinity (28-6) — Ivory 13, Hicks 18, Rice 2, Quick 9, Owens 4.
Ballard (29-4) — Dow 4, Martin 18, Snider 21, Holland 10, Caggins 2, Perry 2.
Lou. Trinity 9 14 7 16—46
Ballard 10 14 15 18—57
Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com