• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Sports Editor

Jackets win season opener at Dunbar, 52-44

The Woodford County High School boys' basketball team opened its season with a terrific performance on the road, beating Dunbar 52-44.

Woodford was outsized on the court but played with tremendous grit. The Jackets smothered the Bulldogs for the entire game and created turnovers that led to transition points.

The tenacious defense by Woodford was contagious as role players came into the game, continued the pressure and were relentless on the home team's ball handlers. "The difference tonight was that we have some guys who have been leaders on this team for quite awhile and have been through wars before," said WCHS Coach Ryan Wilson. "Our guys were willing to do whatever it took to win this game, and it was fun to watch them compete." Both teams started the game slowly, and it took nearly three minutes before a basket was scored. Seniors Corey George and Brandon Cromwell each scored three points but the Bulldogs led 7-6 after one quarter. Woodford forced three straight Dunbar turnovers to begin the second quarter but were unable to score. Dunbar led 9-6 when senior Justin Alexander grabbed an offensive rebound and scored over the towering Dunbar big men. On the next play, Cromwell ripped the ball away from Dunbar’s point guard at half court and scored a layup. Alexander scored on a jump shot from the foul line on the next trip down the court to give the Jackets a 16-13 lead. With time ticking away in the half, Woodford moved the ball around the perimeter looking for an open shooter. George fired at the buzzer and drained the three to give the Jackets a 19-15 lead at the half. "We had a good flow to our game tonight, and every time you knock down a shot, it gives you more confidence," said Alexander. "It starts at practice, and we continue to hustle like that in game situations. We will be tough for anyone if we play like that every night." WCHS junior Anthony Tabor made a steal on the opening play of the second half and went coast-to-coast for the layup. George and sophomore Hunter Penn each knocked down a pair of jump shots early in the third quarter to increase Woodford's lead to eight points and force a timeout by Dunbar. After the timeout, the Bulldogs hit a pair of three-pointers to cut the lead to two points. WCHS junior Ashton Myles-Devore blocked a Dunbar shot that fired up the Woodford bench. In the final seconds of the third quarter, Penn blocked a Dunbar layup attempt to end the quarter with the Jackets leading 30-27. Tabor began the fourth quarter with another steal and layup to give the Jackets a five-point advantage. WCHS senior Ben Nash hit a three-pointer from the corner to give the Jackets an eight-point lead with six minutes to play prompting a timeout by Dunbar. The Bulldogs came fighting back and cut the Jacket lead to three with two minutes to play. With time running out the Bulldogs were forced to foul. Cromwell and Penn were a combined 6-6 at the free throw line in the final minute to seal the win. Cromwell led the Jackets in scoring with 16 points, and George added 14 points and 11 rebounds. "Anytime you can win on the road against the 21st ranked team in the state, it's a big deal for us," said Nash. "I think we just wanted it more, and it feels really good to leave this gym with a win."

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