FRANKFORT — Model made the most of its long-awaited moment in the spotlight in the boys' Touchstone Energy All "A" Classic.
Jon Ballard's 20 points and seven rebounds led the Patriots to a 68-56 victory over eight-time champion University Heights Academy in the Frankfort Convention Center on Thursday morning.
It was the first time UHA lost in the first round in 18 All "A" appearances.
Model didn't look like a first-timer in the tournament. It overcame early jitters to play with poise, confidence and sharp shooting (53 percent).
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Coach Wes Scarberry wasn't surprised. His seniors were seventh-graders when he took over as Model coach, and they've been pointing toward this season ever since.
"One of the things we always talked about was their senior year and getting to this moment," he said.
An overtime defeat to Lexington Christian Academy in last year's All "A" region finals only stoked their fire.
"That loss really killed us," Ballard said. "It fueled us in the off-season."
"We worked relentlessly after that game. All the work we did in the weight room, in open gym, in conditioning and in practices was for this moment."
Model's strength is its balance, and it was on display against UHA.
The 6-foot-4 Ballard was the catalyst, but he had plenty of help from fellow seniors A.J. Hammons (12 points, six rebounds) and Anthony Gerald (11 points, five rebounds).
Seniors Jesse Middleton and Brendon Hill combined for 19 points, including 5-for-7 three-point shooting.
UHA's quickness gave Model problems, especially early. Model didn't get the lead until Hammons' driving layup made it 18-17 midway through the second quarter.
The Patriots would never trail again.
Ballard scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half, including the first six of the fourth quarter as Model opened a 12-point lead.
UHA, led by Austin Byrum (17 points) and Lamontas Johnson (11 points), rallied to within 56-52 with three minutes left in the game.
But Model went on a 12-2 run to clinch arguably the biggest victory in school history.
"It's a great feeling just being here, doing something the school's never done," Middleton said. "It's a great honor for us, our coach and everybody in Richmond."
Scarberry said his scouting report to his players didn't go into detail about UHA's storied history in the All "A".
"But I did tell them after the game how big this was," he said.