• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Yellow Jackets lose to Flyers in district title game

MATTHEW HEIGLE, team manager of the Woodford County High School boys’ basketball team, proudly stands with his teammates and holds up the second-place trophy that the Yellow Jackets earned following their 65-57 loss to Franklin County in the championship game of the 41st District Tournament at the Frankfort Civic Center on Friday, Feb. 26. (Photo by Steve Blake/multiexposures.com)

After splitting games during the regular season, the Woodford County High School boys’ basketball team faced off once again with Franklin County, this time in the championship game of the 41st District Tournament on Friday, Feb. 26, in the Frankfort Civic Center. In the end, it came down to just eight points between the two teams, as the Flyers defeated the Yellow Jackets 65-57 in a hard fought game to win the district title. “I thought transition defense was what really killed us,” said Woodford head coach Scott Hundley. “It seemed like we’d get a steal and have an opportunity to push it down the floor, and then all of a sudden, some sort of mishap along the way, and they’d steal it and turn it back into their transition. There (were) five or six or seven possessions like that, (which) just really killed us as far as the momentum of the game.” Following the game, three Woodford players, junior Malik Richards, sophomore Chandler Stewart and freshman Brandon Cromwell, were named to the 41st All-District Tournament team. “You know, if the coach was any smarter, he would have been playing Brandon Cromwell and Malik Richards all along,” said Hundley. “They really worked hard. They’ve proven over the last week or two of the season that they deserved that spot. It wasn’t any different today. They both came ready and they both played well. “Chandler kind of just does what Chandler does,” Hundley continued. “He’s been our steady scorer all year. He had 13 tonight, and it wasn’t any different. I wish that we just had a little bit more to go with him tonight.” With their second-place finish, Woodford advanced to the 11th Region tournament, which will be played Wednesday through Monday, March 2 to 7, at Eastern Kentucky University. There they open play against Henry Clay tonight, Thursday, March 3, at 8:15 p.m. In the district championship game, Cromwell got Woodford’s first score on a layup, but Franklin County quickly ran up an 8-2 lead. Stewart then hit a layup and made a three-point play to close the Flyers’ lead to one point, 8-7. Next, Richards scored a three-pointer to give the Yellow Jackets a 10-8 lead, but two free throws by the Flyers tied it, 10-10. Then, with under a minute to go in the quarter, Stewart completed his second three-point play of the stanza, and the Yellow Jackets led 13-10 at the end of the first. The second quarter was as close as the first, with neither team gaining much momentum over the other. A drive down the lane by Cromwell gave Woodford a 15-12 lead, then a short time later, a drive to the basket by Richards gave the Jackets a 17-15 lead. Following some more baskets by both teams, Cromwell hit a three-pointer and Smith hit two free throws to give Woodford a 27-25 lead as time was running down in the half. But Franklin County came back and hit two free throws to tie the game 27-27 as the teams went into the locker room for the break. In the third quarter, Woodford held the lead for half of the quarter, but Franklin County slowly caught up. With the Yellow Jackets ahead 35-33, the Flyers scored on a putback to tie the game 35-35, then took the lead on a two-pointer, 37-35, and never relinquished it. At the end of the third quarter, Franklin County led 46-40, and while Woodford continued to play hard, some turnovers and some key missed shots hurt them throughout the fourth quarter, which gave the win, and the district title, to the Flyers, 65-57. Leading the team in scoring was Cromwell, who had 16 points. Also scoring in double figures were Richards with 14 points and Stewart with 13 points. In addition, seniors Wesley Smith and Tucker Sly had eight points and seven points, respectively, while junior Keagan Stromberg had six points, senior Bryce Hewitt had three points and junior Griffin Mobley had two points. As to what Woodford will do to prepare or its opening game in the 11th Region tournament against Henry Clay, Hundley said, “We just roll our sleeves up and go back to work. I told the guys in the locker room (after the district championship game), ‘It’s not how you get knocked down, it’s how you get back up.’ If you look at last year, we did kind of the same thing. We got beat in the district finals, and came out and took the eventual region champs, Lexington Catholic, to the wire.”

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