WINCHESTER — Chris Renner's family wanted him to stay home and celebrate his 44th birthday in Louisville on Wednesday night.
But Renner, Ballard's boys' basketball coach, had other plans. He had recently added a Feb. 9 road game at Clark County to the schedule.
"My wife and kids were disappointed, but I told them it's my birthday and I get to do what I want," Renner said.
"What a great present this turned out to be."
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No. 2 Ballard beat No. 3 Clark County 71-57, ending the Cardinals' 12-game winning streak and tuning up for a showdown with No. 1 Eastern Friday night.
The Bruins serenaded their coach with a robust rendition of Happy Birthday in the locker room afterward.
It took a while for Ballard to unwrap its frenetic, up-tempo style against Clark County.
Led by Vinny Zollo's three early dunks, Clark County jumped ahead 11-0 in the first three minutes.
"We had a long bus ride up here, and it took us a while to get going," Bruins star DeVante Parker said.
Parker didn't take a shot in the first quarter, but freshman guard Quentin Snider sparked Ballard's early comeback. The visitors were within 21-15 going into the second quarter.
The Bruins edged ahead 34-30 at halftime, then unleashed the full fury of their suffocating defense and attacking offense.
After Clark County took a 39-38 lead, Ballard went on a 20-4 run to open a 15-point lead that was too much for the Cards to deal with.
Parker, an artful wide receiver who's signed to play football at Louisville, led the assault with 12 points in the blitz. The 6-foot-3 senior finished with 23 points, 18 in the second half, and 11 rebounds. He was also a terror on defense.
"DeVante was unbelievable," Renner said. "He can impact a game in so many ways once he gets active. He's tough to guard, he blocks shots, he rebounds, he defends.
"We truly are a team, but we also have a great player we can rely on."
Clark County Coach Scott Humphrey agreed.
"There's no question (Parker) is the guy who gets them going," Humphrey said. "I know football is his game, but to have the basketball savvy he has, and the improvement he's made, is impressive."
Snider added 19 points for Ballard, and Danny Yackey hit three three-pointers for nine points.
"This is the third year in a row we've played Ballard, and I've never seen a team like this one," Humphrey said. "They spread you out, and everybody they put on the floor can make a play.
"They're so deep, they come at you in waves."
Once Ballard got the game into a full-court sprint, Clark County couldn't keep up.
"When you're playing a big team and it's a half-court game, it becomes a gang fight, and the big boys win it, so we had to use our quickness and athleticism to make it our kind of game," Renner said.
Clark County was led by 6-8 senior Zollo's 20 points and 17 rebounds. Corey Rogers, a 6-5 senior, had 15 points and seven rebounds. Robbie Stenzel added 13 points.
Humphrey, whose Cards beat Ballard in overtime here last year, wanted to play the Bruins again to get ready for the post-season.
"What we need to learn from this is that when you're going against pressure like they put on you, you've got to find a way to be stubborn and ball-tough enough to get it inside. Tonight I thought we were rattled."
BALLARD (24-2) — Parker 23, Snider 19, Hardin 6, Holland 5, Martin 7, Biggers 2, Yackey 9.
CLARK COUNTY (21-5) — Zollo 20, Rogers 15, R.Stenzel 13, Daniel 6, Purvis 3.
Ballard 15 19 20 17—71
Clark County 21 9 13 14—57