Quentin Snider led a balanced attack with 20 points and defense did the rest Friday night as Ballard ousted Knott County Central from the KHSAA Boys' State Tournament, 68-53.
Ballard (31-4) will face Montgomery County in Saturday night's semifinals. The Bruins have won three state titles, in 1977, '88 and '99.
Knott County Central (30-6), starting four sophomores and a senior, was making its second straight appearance in the tournament.
"They're not only going to be a great basketball team in the future, with their youth, but they're a good basketball team this year," Ballard Coach Chris Renner said of Knott Central. "They were really good. Had some players that we really had to focus on and make some adjustments to.
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"I thought we did a really, really good job tonight defensively. I really do. I think we did a great job of denying, of pressuring, of really flying around. We've gotten better over the last month defensively."
Snider, a 6-foot-1 junior who has committed to Louisville, was backed by freshman Malik Dow and senior Lavone Holland with 14 points each. Kelan Martin, a 6-6 junior, had 10 points and tied Dow for the team lead in rebounds, eight.
Camron Justice, a 6-2 sophomore, paced the Patriots with 24 points. Chance Cornett scored 13 and tied Evan Hall for the team lead in rebounds, seven.
Renner cited Dontez Byrd, who did not score, for sparking the defensive effort against Justice.
"Defensively, he is unreal what he's doing for us," Renner said. "... I thought he did a great job for us tonight, really harassing Justice."
"They pressed from buzzer to buzzer," Justice said. "They ran at me with two defenders the whole time I had the ball. I've just got to take my hat off to them. They're a good ball club and we didn't play our best."
Ballard came out focused, taking the lead eight seconds in when Holland dropped in a three-pointer.
"I just wanted to come out aggressive," Holland said. "Because the coaching staff, they're always telling me to come out aggressive. So that's what I did, and the shots were just falling."
The Bruins stretched the lead to 13 before the quarter was over and were up 24-14 at the break.
Knott knocked two points off the deficit by halftime, 34-26.
"Offensively, in the second quarter especially, our offense and IQ and execution was not very good, to say the least," Renner said. "That's what sometimes happens in a slowdown game a little bit, or so to speak when a team is zoning us like that."
Holland finished the half with 13 points, mixing two runouts, an alley-oop jam and a free throw with five perimeter points.
Justice had 11 first-half points.
Ballard scored the first six points of the second half and led by as many as 20 points in the third quarter.
"They're a good ball club," Patriots Coach B.B. King said of Ballard. "They're real strong, they're physical and of course their quickness adds some problems. But these kids, I'm proud of them."
In the fourth quarter, the teams played to a 14-14 draw.
"You don't have to play a perfect game. You don't have to play perfect for 32 minutes," Renner said. "You just have to do what you have to do to get to the next round, and we're happy to be in the final four."