• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Sports

Jackets open season with win over Dunbar

SENIOR NICK SMITH attempts a layup in the Jackets win over Dunbar on Monday Nov. 27. (Photo by Bill Caine)

SOPHOMORE ANTHONY TABOR jumps between a pair of Dunbar defenders to attempt a layup in the season opener on Monday, Nov. 27 at Woodford County High School. (Photo by Bill Caine)

The Woodford County High School boys' basketball team opened the season on Monday, Nov. 28 with a 75-62 win over Dunbar at the Hive. WCHS Senior Nick Smith and junior Brandon Cromwell combined for 58-points in the game. The Jackets intensity and execution was the difference in the ballgame. The Jackets controlled the game with accurate outside shooting and were successful in the paint. Despite making numerous scoring runs in the game, Dunbar was unable to stop the hot shooting of the Jackets.

The game started out sloppy with five fouls called in the first 90 seconds. Dunbar scored the first three points of the game at the foul line to take the early lead. Senior Nick Smith hit a three-pointer from the corner to tie the game early on. Dunbar responded with a layup and a pair of free throws that prompted the Jackets to call a timeout and regroup.

The Jackets scored quickly on a Smith layup off a terrific pass by junior Brandon Cromwell. The next trip down the court for Dunbar, Jayden Hamilton made a fantastic block that sent the ball into the Dunbar bench. The crowd erupted and Woodford County started to pick up the intensity with a quick score by Smith in the post followed up by a Cromwell three-pointer. The Jackets led 12-7 at the end of the first quarter.

“It was a huge confidence boost for us to be able to get out quick against a team like Dunbar,” said Cromwell. “This was a team who has been very successful in the past so we knew they would push us hard. We believe that hard work will pay off and we know that every loose ball is an opportunity for us. We can win a game if our team can hustle to the loose balls and gain extra possessions. We don't want to waste any chances given to us. We have two more games this week and would love to go into the weekend with a 3-0 record.”

The second quarter began the same way the first ended, Cromwell splashed another three-pointer to give the Jackets an eight-point lead. Dunbar raced back down the court and scored a quick layup. Woodford responded with junior Corey George making a layup while being fouled. George came crashing to the floor and was lifted up by his teammates and a big ovation from the crowd. George converted the free throw and Cromwell nailed his third three-pointer in a row to make the score 12-9 early in the second quarter. After a Bulldogs timeout, the Jackets forced a turnover and Cromwell went back to work scoring on a driving layup while being fouled. After the made free throw, Dunbar responded with an 8-0 run and forced WCHS Coach Ryan Wilson to call a timeout.

The Jackets came out of the timeout aggressively with Cromwell hitting an open jump shot and then George grabbed an offensive rebound and scored. Woodford took a 30-19 lead into the half.

After a Bulldogs layup to start the third quarter, Cromwell scored five straight points and sophomore Anthony Tabor scored going up against three Bulldogs defenders. Dunbar came fighting back making a pair of threes and a layup and the Yellow Jacket lead was cut to five.

“I like how we were able to stay calm out here tonight,” said Smith. “It gets really fast paced and you can easily make mistakes. We talk all the time about just focus on executing and tonight we were able to do that. We get inspired by Corey George at practice. He fights so hard every day and we get inspired by that kind of play and the guys have bought into it. We want to fight for every loose ball. This team wants to win.”

The Jackets came out of the timeout and went on another scoring run. Smith hit a three-pointer from the corner and Cromwell hit a jumper. Freshman Hunter Penn nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key and sophomore Shawn Perkins hit a jump shot from just inside the foul line. Cromwell finished off the scoring barrage with a three-pointer off the glass. The Jackets led by 15 at the end of three quarters.

Nick Smith began the fourth quarter by making an incredible play. Smith was fouled in mid air on a layup attempt. The ball went into the basket as Smith crashed to the floor with three Dunbar defenders. The free throw attempt was good. The Bulldogs were charged with a technical foul for subbing in a player that was not in the scoring book and listed as active for the game. Woodford made both free throws to add to the lead. The Bulldogs made a pair of layups but the Jackets were relentless. Smith made a quick spin move into the paint and scored an easy layup to make the score 65-52. Dunbar called a timeout and went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to seven. The Jackets scored on a pair of layups by Smith and Cromwell to bring the score to 69-59 with less than two minutes to play. Woodford continued to pressure Dunbar and forced a back court violation with less than a minute to play. Bulldogs coach Scott Chalk instructed his team not to foul and the Jackets ran down the clock to win the game. Cromwell led all scorers with 35 points. Smith added 23 points and George had 10 for the Jackets. Earlier, in the JV game, the Jackets won in double overtime 64-57. Penn led the scorers with 18 points. Junior Ryan Duke scored 11 and Alex Morgan scored 10.

“I really liked our execution tonight,” said Wilson. “When things got tight out there, the guys responded well. We got a little comfortable out there a few times but we had guys step up and bring that intensity back to the court and I am very pleased with that. There was plenty of fight by our guys tonight and every time there was a shot that went up there were bodies banging trying to keep the ball alive. I told the guys after the game that this was a big win for us and we made a statement tonight. Nobody was talking about us and we made a splash tonight. The other side of that is that this game really means nothing. It's preparation for March, when you play with that kind of enthusiasm and fight, great things will happen on the basketball court. We gave the MVP award tonight to the JV team who fought hard and set the tone with their energy and effort. We love that brand of basketball.”

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