Kelan Martin scored 16 of Ballard's last 18 points Saturday night, propelling the Bruins to a 59-55 victory over Montgomery in the semifinals of the 96th KHSAA Boys' State Tournament.
Martin finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds before a Rupp Arena semifinals-record crowd of 20,172.
Ballard (32-4) will play for the championship Sunday afternoon at 2 against Madison Central, a 60-56 winner over Hopkinsville,
Martin, a 6-foot-6 junior, was backed by Malik Dow with 14 points.
Martin was the only one of Ballard's big three to get unleashed, though, as Quentin Snider was held to eight points and Lavonne Holland to five.
"He's a tremendous player," Coach Chris Renner said of Martin. "I think people saw tonight why he's a beast."
Montgomery County, the 10th Region champion, finished 33-5.
"I'm tremendously proud of our young men," Coach Happy Osborne said. "I don't think anyone who wasn't with us day-by-day knows how far our team came."
Tyler Jones and Omar Prewitt each finished with 15 points and seven rebounds for the Indians. Bryan Wallace scored 13 points and Julian Piersawl came off the bench to score 10.
Ballard will be seeking its fourth state title. The Bruins won in 1977, '88 and '99. They have been runners-up three times since 2003, most recently in 2010.
"You get to this point, a win is great," Renner said. "Playing in that championship game is extremely special. It's what every kid plays for, to be playing on the last day in the last game of basketball season."
Ballard came out hot.
Make that Dow, a 6-3 freshman, came out hot.
He scored the Bruins' first 12 points on five field goals — all in transition or on put-backs — and two free throws.
That spotted Ballard a 12-4 lead.
Montgomery kept it close, though, pulling to within 20-19 by the end of the quarter.
Montgomery was within 32-28 at intermission, getting a big scare with 1:37 left.
Prewitt went high in an attempt to block Snider's drive to the basket. Prewitt not only fouled, but fell hard to the floor.
He was down for several long moments but, after being checked by team personnel, was able to walk off the floor. He returned before the quarter ended.
Prewitt, held to six free throws in the first half, drilled back-to-back threes to start the second half, the second tying the score at 34.
The Indians stretched the lead to 40-36 on a Prewitt hoop with 5:15 left.
Heading to the fourth quarter, Montgomery was nursing a 46-45 lead.
Martin scored Ballard's last four points of the third quarter, and he would get all but two of the Bruins' points the rest of the way.
"Coach told me to get down low," Martin said. "Get in the post. They're going to get me the ball, and I'll take over."
Tied at 49 and 51, Montgomery took a 52-51 lead when Wallace made one of two free throws with 2:48 left.
Ballard surged ahead on Dow's put-back — his only points since scoring his team's first 12 — and another by Martin for a 55-52 edge.
After a pair of missed free throws by the Indians' Jones, Martin scored again for a 57-52 lead with 1:13 left.
Martin tallied once more, in transition, for a 59-52 lead.
Montgomery's scoring drought finally ended when Wallace knocked down a three-pointer with 33 seconds left.
That would be all the scoring, though, with Montgomery missing its last three shots from the field.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229 Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com