High School Basketball

Top-ranked Eastern boys roll to LIT title

LOUISVILLE — No. 1 Eastern played up to its rating by winning the 64th Louisville Invitational Tournament, rolling by No. 6 Ballard 71-63 before a full house of 2,400 fans in Bellarmine University's Knights Hall Saturday night.

Eastern finished off an impressive week's work, during which it routed Fairdale by 32 points, Seneca by 28 and Bullitt East by 36 before battling past 7th Region rival Ballard in the finals for its fourth LIT championship.

"This tournament means a lot to Eastern and always has," Coach Jason Couch said after his team ran its record to 17-1. "They only hang banners in our gym for state titles and LIT titles, so this is a huge deal for us.

"It's almost harder than a state tournament sometimes, the level of competition. But the bottom line is, we want to do good stuff in March, too."

The LIT title game was nothing new for Eastern's veteran team. This was its fourth consecutive appearance in the finals. It won the championship in 2009 and went on to win the 7th Region that year.

"So maybe this will be a good-luck charm for us," Couch said.

Ballard Coach Chris Renner said Eastern "has all the pieces to win a state championship.

"They really are a top-25 team in the country. They've got four Division I players, they've got depth, and they have shooters."

Eastern's victory over Ballard didn't come easily. The Bruins, who routed No. 7 Louisville Trinity in the semifinals earlier Saturday, went on a 9-0 run early in the second half to take a 34-32 lead.

But Eastern answered with a 9-0 run of its own to retake control at 41-34, and Ballard never got closer than five the rest of the night.

Lyonell Gaines, a 6-6 senior who has signed with IUPUI, led the Eagles with 19 points and nine rebounds.

Remy Abell, a 6-4 senior who's headed to Bradley, had 15 points.

Eastern's other two Division I players — 6-7 Kameron Woods (Butler) and 6-4 Arman Marks (James Madison) — had only 11 points between them. But the Eagles got a lift from unsung Percy Blade and Byron Sanford, who combined for 24 points. Blade, a 6-3 junior, also had nine rebounds.

Ballard's DeVante Parker did everything he could to keep his Bruins ticking. The 6-3 senior, who has committed to Louisville to play football, had 22 of his 28 points in the second half. He also had seven rebounds.

While Eastern has a roster full of experience, Ballard is mostly babes in the woods, including freshmen Quentin Snider and Kelan Martin, and sophomore Cam Lewis.

"That was the difference tonight," Renner said. "Eastern has that senior experience, and we don't.

"How much better can they get? I don't know. How much better can we get? A lot better because we're young and inexperienced."

Eastern (17-1) has won 10 in a row since losing to pre-season No. 1 Jeffersontown in the King of the Bluegrass finals.

After bagging the LIT title, the Eagles' next big goal is the region title, of course.

"When we won the LIT (in 2009), it gave us more confidence and more desire to win the region," Gaines said.

They'll need it to survive the strongest and deepest region in the state.

Championship

BALLARD (18-2) Parker 12-25 2-2 28, Snider 1-9 3-5 5, Lewis 2-3 4-6 8, Holland 1-8 1-2 3, Hardin 1-3 2-3 4, Biggers 1-3 0-2 2, Yackey 1-1 2-2 4, Martin 2-7 2-2 6, Parris 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 19-40 16-24 63.

EASTERN (17-1) Abell 6-13 3-8 15, Gaines 5-8 8-10 19, Sanford 4-8 5-5 13, Woods 1-5 2-2 4, Marks 3-7 0-3 7, Blade 4-7 2-3 11, Davis 0-1 2-2 2, Corlew 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 20-43 22-33 71.

Ballard 12 13 17 21—63

Eastern 9 21 22 19—71

Semifinals

Louisville TRINITY (12-6) Dieudonne 15, Foster 6, Saxton 3, Quick 7, Armstrong 8, Thurman 2, Perito 6, Page 1.

BALLARD (18-1) Parker 15, Snider 7, Lewis 7, Martin 6, Yackey 12, Hardin 12, Baker 2, Biggers 2, Holland 6.

Louisville Trinity 10 16 13 9—48

Ballard 19 25 11 14—69

BULLITT EAST (13-4) Washburn 7, Willis 14, Sweat 11, Troutman 9, Mattingly 3, Caufield 4, Young 2, Embry 1, Francke 1.

EASTERN (16-1) Abell 18, Gaines 18, Woods 4, Sanford 10, Marks 12, J. Davis 3, Taylor 2, Clements 4, Corlew 8, Blade 6, M. Davis 2, Garmon 1.

Bullitt East 11 11 15 15—52

Eastern 16 17 27 28—88

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