When Warren Central lost to Ballard at the King of the Bluegrass in December, Dragons coach Tim Riley cited the Bruins' speed as the difference in the game.
Fitting, then, that in a rematch in Saturday's semifinals of the National City/KHSAA Boys Sweet 16, Central could never quite catch up.
Ballard took a two-point lead with 11 minutes left and, despite allowing the Dragons to pull even three times, never trailed again in a 61-55 victory. The win extended Ballard's win streak to 26 games entering Saturday night's championship game with Scott County.
Through two-and-a-half quarters, the Dragons (30-5) looked bound for a third state championship game in four seasons.
After a Nick Britt basket with 5:51 remaining in the third quarter, Central led 40-35. But the next three minutes set the tone for the remainder of the game.
On Ballard's next possession, the Bruins got three offensive rebounds before Johonne Hamilton was fouled. He hit two free throws to start a 7-0 run for the Bruins over the next 2:44. In that span the Dragons missed just two shots, but committed six turnovers. They finished with 21 giveaways on the afternoon.
Monie Hudson led the Dragon effort with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Jeremy Anderson poured in 19. The game was Anderson's 13th in Sweet 16 play (he'd already become the second player to play in five state tournaments, joining Clay County's Richie Farmer).
In the title game, Ballard fell to No. 1 Scott County 56-50. The Cardinals scored the final ten points of the game to wrap a 34-2 season that saw them finish undefeated against Kentucky competition. Indiana commit Bud Mackey scored 22 points in the win, earning tournament MVP honors.
The all-tournament team:
Bud Mackey, Scott County (MVP)
Matt Walls, Scott County
Cameron Hundley, Scott County
Antiquawn Beckham, Ballard
Johonne Hamilton, Ballard
David Stanley, Ballard
Monie Hudson, Warren Central
Jeremy Anderson, Warren Central
Arrez Henderson, Holmes
Greg Rice, Holmes
Nick Fudge, Adair County
Preston Knowles, George Rogers Clark
Jonathan Ferguson, Elliott County
Trey Smith, South Laurel