High School Basketball

Defense does it for Grayson

From Todd Johnston's perspective, Grayson County's 45-33 victory over Adair County was beautiful, if not pretty.

Grayson led wire-to-wire in Wednesday's opening round of the National City Boys' Sweet Sixteen and advanced to Friday's quarterfinals against West Jessamine.

Johnston, the Grayson County coach, knows that some of the 14,949 fans in Rupp Arena didn't share his artistic appreciation for what transpired.

"I'm really pleased with our defense. I thought that was the difference in the game," he said. "It's not a pretty thing to watch. I'm sure a lot of fans didn't enjoy it. But that's how we play. We try to control the tempo.

"We'll break when we want, get out in the open court as much as possible. But our defense has been our calling (card) all year. And Adair County runs their stuff so well, we were really concerned about their execution. ... I thought our defense took them out of everything."

The Cougars also outrebounded Adair 37-25, including 13-6 on the offensive end. The 3rd Region champs outscored Adair 13-3 on second-chance points.

Travis Johnston, the coach's nephew, led Grayson (26-6) with 11 points and three assists. Wes Smith had 10 points. Lance Buckler had seven points, all in the first quarter, and seven rebounds. Bennett Skaggs added six points and seven boards.

Darren Ballou, a 6-foot-7 Morehead State recruit averaging 19.1 points, led Adair (26-8) with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

"We were prepared to give him 20 (points). We didn't think we could hold him to 20, to be honest with you," Todd Johnston said. "He's that good and that talented. Our main focus was (Nick) Fudge and No. 5 (Corey Helm), not letting them be the second and third options and scoring."

Fudge, averaging 10.8 points, scored four. Helm, averaging 10.6, had seven.

As for Ballou, "somebody forgot to tell Aaron Deviney that he was supposed to let Ballou get his points," Todd Johnston said. "He did a great job."

Grayson held Adair to 13-for-39 shooting (33.3 percent), including 2-for-15 from three-point range. The Cougars weren't much better at 14-for-39 (35.9 percent) and 3-for-14.

A Smith free throw and a Travis Johnston three-pointer spotted Grayson County a 4-0 lead. They were never caught.

"One of the things we feared ... we did not want to get behind and have to play catch-up ball because of their style and their intelligence and patience," said Adair Coach Mark Fudge. "Then we got behind early, and it just didn't seem like we could get into the flow of things."

Buckler, averaging 6.8 points, had seven to spot the Cougars a 15-5 first-quarter lead. It was 23-12 at halftime.

Back-to-back baskets by Ballou, the second a three-pointer, cut Grayson's lead to 35-29 with more than five minutes left.

"We have amazing leadership on this team with Wes," Travis Johnston said. "Me and Wes and Skaggs have been playing for four years, and we're the guards. So we take control of the tempo and make sure everybody's in the right spot. Just slow down the game. If they start getting a run, we've just got to slow it down and make sure we get what we want on our end the next offensive possession."

Grayson responded with a 7-0 run, holding the Indians scoreless for nearly four minutes, to lead 42-29. Eight of Grayson's last 10 points came on free throws.

"They did a nice job," Mark Fudge said of Grayson. "But then again, a lot goes back to our execution. We didn't execute very well today."