• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

WCHS boys’ basketball team finishes 4th at WCI

Chandler Stewart, pictured, and his teammate, Keagan Stromberg, were both named to the All-Tournament team at the Woodford County Invitational, which was held Monday through Wednesday, Dec. 21 to 23 in The Hive. The two players helped lead the Woodford County High School boys’ basketball team to a fourth-place finish in the tournament. (Photos by Rick Capone).

The Woodford County High School boys’ basketball team hosted eight teams in its annual Woodford County Invitational. Monday throughWednesday, Dec. 21 to 23, and finished in fourth place with a 1-3 record. The Yellow Jackets opened play on Monday and defeated Tates Creek in a strong performance, 51-31. Woodford followed that up on Tuesday with a 60-46 loss to Eastern, which went on to finish in second place. Then on Wednesday, the Yellow Jackets played a very close game against Lexington Christian Academy in the third-place contest, but came up just short and lost 54-51 to finish fourth in the tournament. Winning the tournament was Scott County, who defeated Eastern, 72-60, while Bryan Station finished fifth with a 61-56 win over West Jessamine. Also in the tournament were Tates Creek and Scott High School; both finished 0-2. Overall, according to Woodford head coach Scott Hundley, it was a very good tournament. “The tournament’s been a really nice one this year,” said Hundley. “I thought the parity, as far as all eight teams, was good. We had some good battles all day (Tuesday) and all day today (Wednesday), and the final (was a) good opportunity to see two good teams go at it. So, it’s another success.” In Woodford’s game against LCA, the two teams played close throughout the first quarter, with the Yellow Jackets leading by two points, 13-11 with 17.8 seconds left. But, then LCA was fouled, made both free throws to tie the game, 13-13, at the end of the stanza. In second quarter, LCA opened up an 11-point lead, 24-13 early in the quarter. But, Woodford fought back and behind two free throws by sophomore Chandler Stewart, a three-pointer by senior DeVontre “Tre” Winkfield, a three-point play (a basket plus a foul shot) by senior Tucker Sly, and a running jumper by Stewart, LCA’s lead was cut to one point, 24-23. Then on Woodford’s next possession. Sly hit senior Keagan Stromberg on a nice “alley-oop” pass under the basket, which Stromberg put down for two points and gave the Yellow Jackets a 25-24 lead. A few seconds later, Stromberg stole the ball at mid-court and went uncontested for a layup, which was followed on Woodford’s next possession by Stromberg passing to Sly under the basket for another two points, which gave the Yellow Jackets a 29-24 lead. Woodford then scored once more before the end of the half, as Sly dribbled down most of the last 30 seconds on the clock, then finally passed to Winkfield, who nailed a three-pointer to give Woodford a 32-24 lead. All told, Woodford scored 19 unanswered points going into halftime. LCA worked hard to catch up at the start of the third quarter, as the two teams battled back and forth until the Eagles hit a three-pointer to make it 37-35 in the Yellow Jackets favor. LCA tied the game 37-37 on their next possession, and things stayed close for the next few possessions, which included two more ties and two more lead changes. At the buzzer to end the third quarter, the teams were tied, 41-41. Free throws by Woodford’s Stewart, Stromberg and junior Alex Karbach, and a three-pointer by LCA made it 46-44 at the start of the fourth quarter. On Woodford’s next possession, Stromberg made a play that would have made the Harlem Globetrotters proud, as he reached around the back of an LCA defender for an offensive rebound, got it, spun around, and hit a short hook-shot for a basket to give the Yellow Jackets a 48-44 lead. A few plays later, with Woodford ahead 49-48, LCA hit two free throws to take a 50-49 lead. Stromberg then hit two free throws to give the Yellow Jackets a 51-50 lead, but LCA came back and on two possessions hit three free throws to retake the lead, 54-51, with 12.6 left in the game. Following a Woodford timeout, the Yellow Jackets had two clear opportunities for three-point baskets, but missed both, which gave LCA the win, 54-51. “I thought we battled (in the game). That’s one thing that this team always does is we’re very scrappy, we’ll battle, we won’t back down,” said Hundley. “I thought we did a good job of getting their big boy (Tre King) in foul trouble. The unfortunate thing is the other guy (Kyle Rode) got going. He did a good job of just getting in good spots and scoring from those spots, and we just didn’t have an answer for him.” Following the game, Stewart, who finished with 11 points, and Stromberg, who had 13 points and seven rebounds, were named to the WCI All-Tournament team. “Chandler has been very solid ever since we moved him to the point-guard spot,” said Hundley. “He’s the type of guy that will run the play, but also he’s willing to attack at the same time. I’m really proud of him and what he’s done. “Keegan is also (a player) that is starting to emerge as a guy that we rely on for different things, whether it’s driving to the basket or just making a big athletic rebound play. And, he’s gotten better. He’s still got some room to improve; they both do. But, we’re getting better I think.” In addition, Sly had 10 points, Winkfield had eight and Karbach had five. Senior Wesley Smith led the team with nine rebounds. In Woodford’s 60-46 loss to Eastern in the semifinals on Tuesday, Stewart led the team with 16 points, while Stromberg had eight points. Senior Malik Richards led the team with four rebounds, Stromberg pulled down three and Smith had two. In Woodford’s opening game of the tournament on Monday, which the Yellow Jackets won 51-41 over Tates Creek, Woodford was led by Stromberg, who had 16 points and five rebounds, and Stewart, who had 14 points and three rebounds. Also, Smith had nine points and six rebounds, and Sly had eight points and four rebounds in the game.

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