• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

WCHS boys’ basketball defeats Western Hills

KEAGAN STROMBERG goes airborne on this layup attempt during the Woodford County High School boys’ district basketball game at Franklin County on Friday, Jan. 15. Stromberg finished with 15 points, but the Flyers got the win, 54-41. (Photo by Rick Capone)

It was an important district game against Western Hills on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at home in The Hive for the Woodford County High School boys’ basketball team. Coming off a loss at Franklin County on Friday, Jan. 15, the Yellow Jackets had to get a win over the Wolverines to hold on to first place in the 41st District. And they did it. Taking an early lead, then maintaining composure as things got close in the third quarter, Woodford went on to score an impressive 57-49 victory. “Western Hills does a good job of using their personnel wisely,” said Woodford head coach Scott Hundley. “I thought we tried to do some things to counter their shooters, and they took advantage of the middle with (Matthew) Peal; he did a good job of getting to the rim. “We knew that they had a few guys that could score, and then the other guys we were going to try and make them shoot the ball a little bit. But, you know, credit to Western Hills; a few of those guys stepped up and made shots for them.” Having said that, not only did Woodford hit its own shots when it counted most, but the Jackets also played solid defense, which stopped the Wolverines at key points in the game. “We tried to press a little bit to slow them up,” said Hundley. “(We) tried to keep the pressure out on their guards and make their guards make plays. I thought we did a good job of keeping them out of rhythm. And that’s the key for us … to make sure that they’re not shooting jumpers that are in rhythm and making it easy for their shooters.” In the game, Woodford took an early 4-0 lead thanks to some good shooting by junior Keagan Stromberg, and while Western Hills fought hard to come back, at the end of the first quarter, behind two baskets by senior Wesley Smith and a two-pointer by junior Griffin Mobley, the Yellow Jackets led 10-9. In the second quarter, the game still stayed close, but Woodford maintained its lead through the stanza, and with baskets by senior Tucker Sly, Stromberg and sophomore Chandler Stewart, the Yellow Jackets took a 21-18 lead into the locker room at the half. Things got a little tighter in the third quarter as Western Hills began to fight back hard and at the midway point the Wolverines held a 30-29 lead. Woodford maintained its composure though, and on two free throws by Stromberg and a two-pointer by Stewart, regained the lead, 33-30. A short time later, following two free throws by Western Hills, Woodford scored five straight points and held a 38-32 lead at the end of the third. The fourth quarter was all Woodford County, as the Yellow Jackets scored six quick points on free throws by junior Alex Cason, and two-pointers by Stromberg and Smith, and opened up a 12-point lead, 44-32. That short scoring streak forced Western Hills to call a timeout to try and regroup, and while the Wolverines scored some quick points after the time out, Woodford countered and soon held a 50-39 lead with about a 1:20 to go in the game. After that it became a sloppy foul-fest, as Western Hills tried to foul its way back into contention. But that plan failed, as Stromberg, Sly, Stewart and Smith all hit their free throws down the stretch, and Woodford, which finished 15 for 19 from the foul line, got the win, 57-49. In the game, Stewart led the team with 16 points and four rebounds, while Smith had a double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds. Also, Stromberg had 12 points and four rebounds, and Sly, who hit four free throws in a row at the end of the game, had 12 points. “I thought Keagan did a great job of working that middle, and also playing good defense,” said Hundley. “And, Wesley did a good job down low controlling the rebounds, and at the end of the game, coming up with some rebounds that we really needed. “Credit to Wesley, when it got to be a four-point game, they fouled him on purpose trying to make a turnover out of free throws. Credit to him, he came up and knocked them down.” As for Sly, Hundley said, “You know, Tucker is one of those (players) where he has all the confidence in the world, and as long as he’s taking care of the ball, he’s a really good ball player. I knew at the end of the game that he needed the ball in his hands to shoot a couple free throws, and he did a good job of knocking those down.” With the win, Woodford is now guaranteed a tie for first place in the district. But depending on how things go the rest of the way – Woodford faces Frankfort on Friday, Jan. 30 – there could even be a three-way tie for first at the end of the regular season. “(The) Frankfort game on the road is always going to be a tough one,” said Hundley. “But, it is really an important game to make sure that we secure the No. 1 seed.” In Woodford’s 54-41 loss at Franklin County on Friday, Jan. 15, the Yellow Jackets took a 12-11 lead by the end of the first quarter and then led 26-22 at the half. In the third quarter, Franklin County caught up to Woodford with under a minute to go and led 42-36 heading into the fourth. In the fourth quarter, which was interrupted when a Woodford fan started using an air horn, which is against the rules, the Yellow Jackets stayed close most of the way, and even got to within four points, 45-41, but then the Flyers scored nine unanswered points to get the win 54-41. “Credit to Franklin County,” said Hundley afterwards. “They did a good job of executing and playing with discipline at the end of the game. You know, they made some shots and we missed some shots, and a lot of credit goes to their defense for doing a good job on us. “I would like to have seen us perform a little better under pressure. And, you know, I thought when the time came to step up and make a shot – even the ones around the rim, we missed a lot of layups. You can’t do that at the end of the game. We fumbled a lot of balls; 15 points in the half just won’t do it.” Stromberg led Woodford with 15 points and six rebounds, while Sly had 12 points and four rebounds, Smith had six points and three rebounds, and Stewart had six points. “I thought Keagan did a great job tonight,” said Hundley. “He really pushed the tempo and every time he caught it in the middle, he really swept and attacked the basket, which is what we were looking for from him. I couldn’t really ask a whole lot more out of him.

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