Shelby County Rockets
Region: 8 Record: 24-5 Enrollment: 1,710
Mike Clark is in his eighth year with the Rockets (169-76). He also led them to the Sweet Sixteen in 2006 and '08. Clark played for Shelby County in the 1990 state tournament.
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Donovan Johnson 6-6 sr. 16.6 ppg
Boomer Beckley 5-7 sr. 11.8 ppg
Cache Tomlinson 6-0 sr. 10.6 ppg
Darryl Hicks 6-3 fr. 13.8 ppg
Eric Standafer 6-5 sr. 7.0 ppg
The Rockets' Johnson, Beckley and Tomlinson played on the 2008 team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen semifinals. That experience has served Shelby County well this post-season. "Our senior class responded to the pressures of winning the region again," Clark said. The Rockets employ a passing game offense, and a changing pressure defense. "You can't play a team as talented and athletic as Ballard one way for 32 minutes," Clark said. "We've got to make them as uncomfortable as possible." Hicks, a highly touted freshman, showed he's ready for prime time by scoring 22 in the region finals against South Oldham.
Son also shines
Senior guard Norris Beckley Jr., better known as "Boomer," has basketball in his blood. His dad, Norris Sr., teamed with Charles Hurt to lead Shelby County to the 1978 state title.
Player to watch
Johnson leads Shelby County in points (498), rebounds (184), steals (46), blocked shots (37) and free-throw shooting (115 of 163 for 71 percent). He's second in assists (83). "When your go-to guy is as unselfish as Donovan, it makes all those around him better," Clark said. "He's very versatile. He can step out and shoot, he can play in the paint, he passes extremely well and he's strong on the boards."
This is the Rockets' 17th trip to the state tournament. They won the title in 1966 and '78.
Region: 7 Record: 29-4 Enrollment: 1,800
Chris Renner's overall record is 336-103, including a 324-77 mark in 12 years at Ballard. He led the Bruins to the 1999 title and runner-up finishes in 2003 and '07.
Tyrell Means 5-11 sr. 11.0 ppg
Ian Chiles 6-1 sr. 18.2 ppg
Keisten Jones 6-3 sr. 15.6 ppg
Devante Parker 6-3 jr. 8.6 ppg
Drew Hardin 6-0 sr. 6.1 ppg
Ballard thrives in an up-tempo, pressing, shoot'em-up style, but it had to slow down to survive at times in the ultra-competitive 7th Region. "We've had to win some half-court games, like we did against Trinity and Eastern," Renner said. "But we would prefer to make it a faster pace if we can." The Bruins' pressure defense can be suffocating, and can lead to easy transition baskets. But they also like to launch three-pointers. Ballard has taken 701 threes (compared to Shelby County's 484). Chiles, Jones and Parker won't hesitate to pull the trigger. The Bruins aren't very big, so just about everybody crashes the boards.
Tradition of excellence
Ballard has a rich history that includes Mr. Basketball winners Jeff Lamp and Allan Houston, and three state title teams (1977, '88, '99). Does the Bruins' glorious past rub off on the present players? "When they walk in the lobby and see the state championship trophies, and when they practice every day in the gym and see pictures of the championship teams, it's not hard to understand that's what we strive for here," Renner said.
Player to watch
On a roster full of athletes, Parker stands out. He's better known for his football talent. (A wide receiver, he's already committed to Louisville as a junior.) "Devante may be the best athlete I've ever coached," Renner said. "The young man has incredible God-given athletic ability. He just hasn't played enough basketball to be extremely skilled. But he's getting better every game." Renner doesn't want Parker to take up hoops full time "because he could be playing in the NFL someday."
The Bruins are in the Sweet Sixteen for the 14th time. They won three titles and have been runner-up three times. Their overall state tournament record is 26-10.