• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Staff

WCHS boys' basketball wins WCI opener

WCHS JUNIOR RYAN DUKE scores a layup in the  Jackets win over Atherton on Tuesday, Dec. 19. (Photo by Bill Caine)

The Woodford County High School boys' basketball team won 63-52 over Atherton in the opening round of the Woodford County Invitational on Tuesday Dec. 19. Woodford jumped out to quick 10-0 lead, but the Rebels stayed in the game creating turnovers and scoring on easy layups. Woodford's ability to withstand the Rebel defensive pressure in the final minutes was the difference in the game.

“I didn't have to say much after the game,” said WCHS Coach Ryan Wilson. “The body language of my guys told me that they are not happy with how they played. The good news with these holiday tournaments is there is no time to dwell on it, we get right back after it the next day and face a new team. These guys know that if we take care of the ball, we can be a dangerous team. I'm looking forward to seeing how they respond.”

Woodford County won the tip-off and senior Nick Smith went to the basket and scored a layup. The Jackets turned the Rebels over and Smith scored another layup to open the game 4-0. After a Rebel miss, WCHS junior Ryan Duke missed a three-pointer but Smith grabbed the offensive rebound and scored his sixth straight point. WCHS junior Brandon Cromwell scored on a jump shot and junior Anthony Tabor scored in the paint to give the Jackets a 10-0 lead to start the game. The Rebels called a timeout and responded with a 4-0 run to cut the Jacket lead to six points. Smith continued his aggressive play and scored four straight points in the post to bring the lead back to double digits. The Jackets trapped the Rebel ball handlers and forced multiple turnovers in the first quarter. Cromwell hit a pair of three's and the smothering Jacket defense held the Rebels to just nine points in the first quarter. The Jackets led 23-9 after the first quarter.

The Rebels played the second quarter with a sense of urgency and were able to beat Woodford's pressure and get into their offense. Cromwell two more three-pointers but the Jackets struggled with keeping possession in the second frame. The Rebels scored easy layups off Woodford's miscues with the basketball and crept back into the game. The Jackets led 34-26 at halftime.

The Jackets scored first in the third quarter when Tabor was fouled while scoring a layup. Tabor made the free throw and the Jackets lead was 11 points. Duke drew an offensive foul on the Rebels to give possession back to the Jackets. Smith scored in the paint after grabbing an offensive rebound to put the Jackets ahead by 13 points. The Rebels were having trouble breaking the Jackets trapping defense and junior Corey George came away with a steal and passed to Smith for a wide open layup. The Jackets held the Rebels to eight points in the third quarter and led 47-34 at the end of the third quarter.

The Rebels started the fourth quarter on a 4-0 run before Smith scored a pair of baskets for the Jackets in the post. The Rebels defense began to force Woodford into mistakes that led to easy Atherton baskets. The Jackets turned the ball over on five out of six possessions and the Rebels took advantage, cutting the lead down to five points with three minutes left in the game. After a Jacket timeout, Duke scored on a layup assisted by George. The Jackets stopped the Rebels on their next possession and Smith was fouled on a layup attempt. After Smith made both free throws, the teams exchanged layups that made the score 59-50 with 90 seconds remaining in the game. The Jackets ran a stall offense to run out the clock. Cromwell added a pair of free throws with four seconds left to make the final score 63-52.

“It's a great feeling to be able to host an event like this,” said Duke. “We get to raise money for the team and we get to showcase – in front of our home crowd – that we can play with anybody. The game was weird because we jumped on them early but let them back in when we got away from what we do best. We were able to pull this one out and we'll be ready for the next one.”

Smith led the Jackets with 29 points and Cromwell scored 17 including four three-pointers. Ty Lauderdale led the Rebels with 15 points.

“We started off playing our game and were rolling early,” said Smith. “We got a little selfish and weren't playing as a team so coach told us to slow down and get back into our offense. Once we took our time, we were able to bring our lead back up and win the game.”

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