Led by senior star Chance Moore, Fern Creek fended off Ballard 55-52 in the quarterfinals of the 100thWhitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena on Friday night to reach the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
Moore scored Fern Creek’s first eight points as the Tigers built an 8-4 lead. He drew his second foul late in the first quarter and spent the bulk of the second period on the bench.
With its star sidelined, Fern Creek got a boost from Clint Wickliffe, who scored seven points off the bench in the first half.
Tigers’ Coach James Schooler, who was an assistant coach on Ballard’s 2013 state runner-up, said Wickliffe’s energy was crucial.
“Clint is a warrior,” Schooler said. “Clint is the one that comes to me and tells me to calm down sometimes.”
Ballard rallied with a 9-2 run down the stretch in the first half, keyed by seven second-quarter points from Clivonte Patterson, and the teams headed into halftime tied at 27-27.
Fern Creek jumped on the Bruins after the intermission, reeling off a 15-0 run punctuated by a vicious alley-oop dunk by Moore off a lob from Tony Rogers. The Bruins’ drought finally ended on a Tyrese Duncan jumper with 3:04 left in the third quarter, and Ballard went on a 10-0 run fueled by eight points from Dorion Tisby to close within 42-37.
In the fourth quarter an 8-0 Ballard run got the Bruins within two points around the five-minute mark. Ballard twice had shots to tie or take the lead in the closing seconds but Tisby and Marshon Ford both came up short on three-pointers and Fern Creek finished off a 4-0 season sweep of their cross-town Louisville rivals.
“This was good for us, we got challenged mentally and physically and it was good to see us regroup,” said Schooler.
Ballard forced 30 Fern Creek turnovers to generate 19 points, keeping the Bruins in the game despite shooting just 36 percent.
Moore finished with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting for Fern Creek. Anthony Wales added 15 points, knocking down eight of 10 free throws and swiping four steals.
Ballard was paced by Patterson’s game-high 19 points and 12 points from Tisby. The two combined to hit 14 of 25 shots from the field while the rest of the Bruins went 6-for-37. Ballard missed all nine of its three-point tries.
“We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket for whatever reason,” said Ballard Coach Chris Renner. “If you’re telling me we force Fern Creek into 30 turnovers I’d tell you we win the game by 15 or 20 points.”
Despite the disappointing result, Renner was impressed with the heart the Bruins showed by refusing to fold despite multiple double-digit deficits.
“I can’t even tell you how proud I am of my guys. I challenged them in a timeout a couple times about not getting punked out,” Renner said. “We weren’t gonna go down like it was looking like we were gonna go down, and for us to fight back and make it a game … I could not be any more proud.”