• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Sports

Jackets win District 41 championship

WCHS JUNIOR BEN NASH helps cut down the net after the Jackets’ District championship win on Friday, Feb. 23 at Western Hills High School.  (Photo by Bill Caine)

THE WCHS BOYS’ BASKETBALL TEAM won the District 41 tournament on Friday, Feb. 23 at Western Hills High School. The Jackets beat Franklin County on Wednesday, Feb. 21 to advance to the finals. The Jackets beat Frankfort in the finals avenging two losses to the Panthers during the season. (Photo by Bill Caine)

The Woodford County High School boys' basketball team won the District 41 championship, 54-40, on Friday Feb. 23 at Western Hills High School. The Jackets defense picked the Panthers apart in the second half and slowly pulled away in the game. WCHS junior Corey George led the Jackets in scoring with 15 points and was named tournament MVP. WCHS senior Nick Smith added 11 points and junior Anthony Tabor chipped in 10 points and 10 assists.

“I'm really proud of this group of guys,” said WCHS Coach Ryan Wilson. “I think people probably counted us out earlier this year but these guys believed in what they can do. Nobody cared about the statistics or anything like that. They played for each other and that is a great feeling as a coach. We will let them enjoy this for the next 24 hours and then we will focus on the regional tournament.”

“This was so satisfying,” said WCHS junior Brandon Cromwell. “So much hard work went into making this happen and we aren't done yet. There is so much that we can accomplish if we play defense like that. I'm looking forward to seeing how far we can ride this momentum.”

George scored the first six points for the Jackets, and the Panthers opened the game with a pair of baskets in the paint and a long three-pointer by senior Cody Carter. WCHS senior Jayden Hamilton grabbed an offensive rebound and scored in the post to give the Jackets an 8-7 lead with three minutes to play in the quarter. After a Panther miss, the Jackets pushed the ball down the court and George scored while being fouled and was sent crashing to the floor. George hit the free throw and grew the Jacket lead to four. The Panthers went on a quick 4-0 run before Cromwell hit a three from the corner. FHS junior DaJuan Davis hit a basket just inside the three-point line at the buzzer. The Jackets led 14-13 after one quarter.

George began the second quarter with a jump shot around the free throw line to push the Jacket lead to three points. Smith and Tabor each added a pair of free throws and junior Ryan Duke scored on a mid range jump shot. The Jackets 8-0 run forced the Panthers to take a timeout. Frankfort came out of the timeout and went to their junior center John Tillman for a basket in the paint. Tillman scored on a spin move and was fouled and converted the three-point play. FHS junior Juanya Frank hit a three pointer from the top of the key to cut the Jacket lead to five points. Tabor added a late basket and the Jackets led 26-19 at halftime. The Jacket defense held the Panthers to just six second quarter points.

The Jackets hit three three-pointers in the third quarter and dominated for the entire eight minutes. The Jackets were relentless on the offensive glass. Woodford kept six possessions alive in the quarter with offensive rebounds that led to six points. The Panthers were held to just seven points and the Jackets took a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter.

The Panthers scored first on a layup by Frank to open the fourth quarter but Woodford answered with a long three-pointer by Smith. Tillman scored in the paint to start a 5-0 run for Frankfort. Smith scored a high flying basket while being fouled and converted the three-point play. Frank hit a three from well beyond the arc and cut the Jacket led to 10 points with three minutes to play. The Jackets traded baskets with Frankfort over the next 90 seconds . Tabor hit a pair of free throws to push the lead back to 14 points. Woodford then emptied its bench and ran out the clock. The Jackets celebrated with the student section at mid-court. Cromwell, Duke, Smith and George were named to the All-District team.

“I hope this feeling never ends,” said George. “Our defense was the difference maker tonight. We were never content on how hard we played. We just kept pushing harder and it gave us extra chances to score the basketball.”

District semifinal vs Franklin County

The Jackets defeated the Franklin County Flyers, 43-34, in the District 41 semifinal on Wednesday, Feb. 21. The Jackets held the Flyers to 16 second half points with stifling defense and by aggressively rebounding the ball.

“Ryan Duke was huge for us tonight,” said George. “He made a couple of big shots when we needed him and that's the kind of player he is for us.”

The first quarter was sloppy with both teams turning the ball over a half dozen time. George scored four points for the Jackets and junior Ben Nash added a free throw. FCHS sophomore Jared Courtney scored five points including a long three-pointer from a few feet behind the arc. The Flyers held the ball for the final 90 seconds before missing a shot at the horn.

The Jackets started the second quarter on a 5-0 run on a pair of baskets by Smith including one from beyond the arc. The Flyers answered with a 6-0 run to reclaim the lead from Woodford. Tabor and George scored layups and Duke nailed a three in the corner to give the Jackets a 17-16 lead with a minute to play in the half. Cromwell made one of two from the line and the Flyers added a late basket to even the score at halftime.

“Tonight was fun because we knew if we stayed loose and executed the game plan that we would be smiling at the end,” said Nash. “They played a very physical game with us and we knew that we were going to be hit hard every time at the basket. We talked about it and knew it was coming. We weren't going to be intimidated.”

The Jackets opened the second half with a 5-0 run on a Smith layup and a three-pointer by Cromwell. The Flyers made a pair of free throws and Nash nailed a three-pointer. The Jacket defense stepped up their pressure and began to take control of the game. The Jackets held the Flyers to seven points in the quarter and took a five point lead into the fourth quarter.

The first three and a half minutes of the fourth quarter were scoreless until Nash made a pair of free throws. The Flyers went on a 5-0 run that forced the Jackets to call a timeout. Duke scored consecutive baskets and Cromwell added a layup that was the result of a terrific block by George on the defensive end to start the fast break. George blocked the next Flyer attempt as well and the Jackets defense held off the Flyer comeback bid. Cromwell led the jackets with 10 points on three of four shooting from long range.

“We knew we had to come out here and attack them first,” said Tabor. “We knew if we played our game we would have a chance to win this one and I am glad we were right about that.”

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