In the end, top-rated Ballard just had too much depth.
The Bruins wore down Johnson Central in the fourth quarter and pulled away to an 82-69 victory Thursday in the first round of the Whita ker Bank/KHSAA Boys' Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena.
Not that Ballard Coach Chris Renner was able to rest his starters as much as he would have liked.
No. 14 Johnson Central (23-10) was within two points, 62-60, with six minutes to play.
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Ballard (32-2) scored the next nine points and 14 of 16 to break the game open.
"You've got to give Johnson Central just a tremendous amount of credit," Renner said. "We knew they were a good basketball team. We knew that they had some tough seniors. They were prepared for this game. We knew they weren't going to back down.
"Our big keys, we felt, were to just be able to apply enough pressure, get the tempo of the game going to where hopefully our depth would play a little bigger role. They hung on with us a little longer than I would have wanted it to happen, but that's a credit to them."
The Bruins, now 27-0 against in-state competition, will take a 27-game winning streak into Friday's quarterfinals in Rupp Arena.
Jalen Perry, a 6-foot-1 senior, led the winners with 23 points. Corey Douglas, a 6-7 senior, had 14 points and 15 rebounds, including eight of the Bruins' 21 offensive boards.
Anthony Eaves also scored 14 points, while Jamil Wilson had 13 points and four assists.
Jake Ramsey led the Ballard subs with five points and seven rebounds.
Kyle Gullett, a 6-6 senior, topped Johnson Central with 23 points and seven rebounds. Braxton Blair had 17 points and seven assists, while his cousin Mason Blair had 12 points.
The Golden Eagles were making their fourth straight appearance in the tournament.
"Just a really hard-fought game," Coach Tommy Mc Kenzie said. "This game we felt like was an opportunity for our guys to make a pretty good statement here. It's not often that your team gets an opportunity to play that David and Goliath role. It's not often that you get an opportunity to write this type of an ending to a story that these (four seniors) have written here. They've had an awesome road here over the last four years, and you hate to see it end. But we'd rather it end here at Rupp Arena than anywhere else."
Ballard's 40-34 halftime lead was its biggest to that point.
The Bruins scored the first three points of the second half to widen the margin to nine, but Johnson Central rallied to within 55-52 through three quarters.
Ballard's fourth-quarter 14-2 knockout punch was fueled by nine Perry points, including a pair of dunks.
"We're really a good second-half team," Perry said. "We've had a lot of games where we struggled the first half. But we knew we were going to wear them down eventually."
"It was a big factor," Mc Kenzie said of Ballard's depth. "They are very athletic and very quick, and it seemed like whenever they went to their bench they didn't lose a whole lot. ... I just thought as the game went on, some of that depth hurt us. And that's unusual for us. We're usually that team that has more depth than the teams that we're playing."