Ballard started the season rated the No. 1 boys' basketball team in the state because of its abundance of talent, experience and depth.
With one week left in the regular season, the Bruins are still No. 1, boasting a pair of Mr. Basketball finalists in Quentin Snider and Kelan Martin, and looking like a strong favorite to win the school's fourth state title.
Ballard (23-5) has only one in-state loss — to Pleasure Ridge Park in the finals of the Louisville Invitational Tournament.
How does Chris Renner size up his Bruins as they count down to tournament time? Let's let him answer his own questions:
"Are we deserving to be No. 1 right now?
"Are we good enough to win a state championship?
"Can we be beaten?
Ballard, like every other team in the state, has had to deal with problems associated with the wicked winter weather. "In my 20-some years, I've never had a season like this," Renner said. "You're used to getting into a flow and routine, but most of us are struggling with that because of missing time in the gym."
Ballard has also dealt with nice distractions that come with players reaching career milestones.
Snider, a Louisville signee, recently surpassed Allan Houston as Ballard's all-time top scorer. Snider has 2,321 points. Martin, a Butler signee, recently reached 2,000 points to become the school's third-leading scorer.
"It's a real blessing to have those two guys who can flat-out score," Renner said. In the Bruins' 99-91 win over Central this week, Snider had 35 points and Martin had 34.
"They hit something like 20 of 37 shots, and 20 of 25 free throws," Renner said. "That's being efficient."
Snider and Martin are scheduled to be in Lexington on Sunday for a gathering of the Mr. and Miss Basketball finalists at Transylvania. The sponsoring Kentucky Lions Eye Foundation is putting on the event to promote the award, and the Kentucky-Indiana All-Star games, which will be played at Transy's Beck Center this June.
■ Dixie Heights senior Brandon Hatton became the 9th Region's all-time leading scorer in boys' basketball last week. Hatton has 2,911 points, shattering Scott Draud's record of 2,865. Draud, who played for Highlands (Class of 1987), piled up his points in four years and before the three-point shot came to high school hoops. Hatton has played for Dixie Heights since the seventh grade. Coming off back surgery late last summer, Hatton is averaging 22.5 points and has helped the Colonels go 12-0 since New Year's Day. "Brandon is such a warrior when it's game time," Coach Ken Chevalier said. "Not only does he score, he makes everyone on the floor around him better as well." They were 8-6 before that. Hatton, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, has signed with Vermont.
■ Fleming County's Troy Steward channeled the mojo of his second cousin, Chris Lofton, in Sunday's loss to Knott Central in the Joe B. Hall Prep Classic at Montgomery County. Steward, a 6-4 senior, hit nine of 15 three-pointers and scored 47 points, eclipsing his previous high of 41 two weeks ago against Boyd County. Steward said when he was young he went to watch Lofton play at Mason County. Lofton, who went on to star at Tennessee and is now playing professionally in Turkey, has worked with Steward. "He taught me how to create my shot a lot better," said Steward, who is being recruited by Morehead State and Georgetown. Panthers Coach Mark Starns said he thinks colleges "better get on the boat now" in recruiting Steward. "They're going to be sorry they didn't get on board a long time ago."
■ Augusta senior Brent Bach has become the school's all-time scoring leader. He broke Brian Kirk's record of 2,222 points. Bach has 2,379. Bach, the leading scorer in the state (30.3 points per game), has college offers from Pikeville, Bellarmine, Kentucky Wesleyan and Charleston (W.Va.). Augusta Coach Jason Hinson said Eastern Kentucky, Northern Kentucky, South Carolina Upstate and William & Mary are showing interest.
■ Tanner Johnson made six of eight three-pointers and had 28 points to lead Lexington Catholic by Paul Laurence Dunbar on Feb. 6. Earlier that day, he attended the funeral of his grandfather, Danny Johnson, who died of a heart attack at age 67. Tanner said his grandfather was a big fan and attended all of his games, including a trip to Clay County two days before he died. Tanner said playing with grief "was tough. I was just trying to make shots for him. It was like he was watching me the whole game." Tanner's dad, Danny, who played for the Knights' 1985 Sweet Sixteen team, said his father had a notable sports accomplishment of his own: He scored the first touchdown in the history of Fleming County football in the early 1960s.
■ Senior night was special for Montgomery County basketball player Anjela Alicea. The 5-2 senior started for the first time in her career against Menifee County, and she scored a career-high 18 points, including 5-for-7 three-point shooting, to lead Montgomery County to a 74-48 victory.
■ Adair County senior point guard Matt Fudge is one of the best shooters in the state. He's hit 56 of 125 three-pointers (45 percent) and 82 of 91 free throws (90 percent). He's averaging 15 points and went over 1,000 for his career in a win over Campbellsville last week. Coach Mark Fudge, Matt's dad, said his son's most impressive statistic is a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
■ Two years ago Trinity became the first school to win a state football title and Sweet Sixteen basketball championship in the same school year. Scott County has the best shot at the dandy double this year. The Cardinals won the Class 6A football title last fall and are rated No. 2 in the state in basketball.
■ Morgan County's Jordan Perry, a 6-2 sophomore, has been on a scoring tear against district opponents in his last three games. He had 32 points against East Carter, 33 against Elliott County and 42 against West Carter. Perry is averaging 24.3 points.
■ Rezin Howell, who played for Mount Sterling in the Sweet Sixteen in 1942 and '43, was at the Joe B. Hall Prep Classic watching his grandson Sam Hodgson play for Montgomery County in their win over previously unbeaten Wayne County.
■ Newport Central Catholic senior Nicole Kiernan, a Miss Basketball finalist, went over 1,000 rebounds for her career against Covington Holy Cross last week. She also moved into third place on the school's all-time scoring list. She has 1,684 points. Nicole Chiodi is tops with 2,124 and Jayme Thiem is next with 1,984.
■ Bath County 6-2 sophomore Sarah Price, who is drawing attention from Southeastern Conference schools, had 30 points, 20 rebounds and seven blocks against Rowan County, and followed that up with 32 points, 17 rebounds and six blocks against Lewis County. Price is averaging 21 points, 12 rebounds and 4.5 blocks.
■ Johnson Central 6-7 senior Shane Hall, a Marshall signee, had his 200th career dunk in a victory over Pike Central on Tuesday night.
■ Neeley Thomas Buhr, a basketball standout at Paul Laurence Dunbar (1998-2001) who became an NAIA All-American at Georgetown College, will be inducted into the Georgetown Hall of Fame on May 17. She is still the college's career leader in points (2,015), three-pointers (242) and free throws (553).
■ Brandon Flora of St. Xavier and Shelby Barnett of Taylor County won the singles titles in the Ebonite/KHSAA bowling championships at Collins Eastland on Thursday. Flora beat Cameron Walker of Boyle County 289 to 181 in the boys' final. Barnett, who rolled a 300 game in Thursday's qualifying, beat Courtney Wooldridge of Garrard County 225 to 222 in the girls' final. The team competition is Friday.
■ Three area coaches were inducted into the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame last month. L.W. Barnes of Anderson County, Steve Roof of Madison Central and Scott Willard of Scott County, along with Johnny Vance of Barren County, were honored. Also inducted were umpire Phillip Burkeen of Bowling Green, and Ashland newspaperman Mark Maynard. The KHSBCA also awarded $1,000 scholarships to Bullitt East's Matt Bowles (Southern Indiana), NewCath's Josh Cain (IU-Southeast), Marshall County's Chandler Faust (Samford), Glasgow's Camerin Garmin (WKU), Madison Central's Trey Gross (Georgetown) and Simon Kenton's Vic Newberry (Thomas More).
■ Former Tates Creek soccer player Elaine Simpson, a freshman at Hanover College, has been chosen to be part of a Division III soccer team that will represent the United States in international competition in Brazil the week of May 7-June 5. Also on the USA team is Lucinda Combs, a Boyle County graduate now at Rose-Hulman.