• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Sports Editor

Jackets lose thriller to St. Xavier, 52-48

The Woodford County High School boys' basketball team nearly pulled off an upset Friday, Dec. 21 when they fell to St. Xavier, 52-48. The Jackets dominated the first half with an aggressive game plan that saw senior Brandon Cromwell score 16 points. The Tigers swiftly cut Woodford's lead in the second half and eventually took the lead in the fourth quarter. The Jackets jumped out to an 11-0 lead highlighted by a pair of baskets by Cromwell and a long three-pointer by senior Ben Nash. The Tigers finally scored midway through the first quarter, but a three-pointer by Cromwell and a bucket in the paint by senior Corey George gave the Jackets a 16-2 lead with three minutes remaining in the first quarter. Cromwell drained another shot from beyond the arc, but the Tigers ended the quarter on a 10-2 run to bring the score to 21-12. The Jackets scored seven straight points to begin the second quarter and took a 16 point lead before the Tigers called a timeout. Cromwell and George each made a pair of baskets, but the Tigers fought back and cut the deficit to 14 at halftime. The Tigers began the third quarter on a 7-1 run and cut Woodford's lead to eight points. Cromwell completed a three-point play after scoring while being fouled on a layup. The Tigers then went on an 8-0 run and trailed by only three points heading into the fourth quarter. The game turned physical in the fourth quarter as emotions ran high. The Tigers drew within a point and took the lead on their next trip down the court on a three-pointer by senior Samuel Boarman. George tied the game at 44-44 with a terrific driving layup, but the Tigers again regained lead 46-44 with less than four minutes to play. George made one of two free throws to cut Woodford's deficit to one point. The Tigers made a pair of free throws and led by three points. The Jackets missed crucial free throws in the fourth quarter and failed to cut into their deficit. WCHS junior point guard Anthony Tabor scored on a layup to bring Woodford within two points, but that would be the closest the Jackets would come as they had to foul the Tigers, which made their free throws in the final minute to seal the win. "I think in the second half we lost trust in one another, and mentally we just got away from doing what we can do best," said WCHS Coach Ryan Wilson. "We stopped pushing and sharing the ball. It is a learning opportunity and hopefully, we learn from it and get better." Ashland Blazer The Jackets dominated the offensive glass in a 74-50 win over the Ashland Blazer Tomcats Thursday, Dec. 20. Woodford was relentless getting to the offensive rebounds in the first half and executed on second-chance opportunities to run away with the victory. "In my opinion, rebounding is something that our guys want to do, and they want to create chances for teammates," said WCHS Coach Ryan Wilson. "Our guys like to hustle and chase down the ball, that's who this team is. We have out rebounded every one of our opponents, and when you look at our size, you can tell how tough this group of kids is." The game was tied at 6-6 midway through the first quarter when Penn grabbed a rebound over a pair of Tomcat defenders and scored on a terrific spin move. George grabbed an offensive rebound on the next trip and scored on a nifty fade away jumper. Woodford had a 10-6 lead, and the Tomcats called a timeout. WCHS junior Ashton Myles-Devore scored on a layup, but the Tomcats responded with a 4-0 run. George hit a jumper as time expired in the first quarter giving the Jackets a 20-10 lead. Myles-Devore drained a three-pointer to open the second quarter and extended Woodford's lead to 13 points. The two teams traded baskets for much of the quarter, but Woodford finished with a 6-2 run on a pair of baskets from Penn and a layup by Nash. Woodford took a 40-26 lead into halftime. "We went back to playing like we are supposed to and played tough Woodford County basketball," said Nash. "We were fresh and ready to go tonight, and it made a big difference tonight." The Jackets' defense continued to pressure the Tomcat ball handlers and turned them over twice in the opening minute of the third quarter. Nash had the hot hand in the quarter hitting a long three-pointer and nailing three jump shots inside the arc. Woodford let up the pressure late in the quarter though, and the Tomcats cut the lead to 16 points after three quarters. The Jackets held the Tomcats to just 10 points in the fourth quarter and extended their lead thanks to three-pointers by Myles-Devore and senior Alex Morgan. The Jackets stalled their offense in the final two minutes and ran out the clock. Myles-Devore led the Jackets with 18 points. "It felt really good to find my rhythm tonight," said Myles-Devore. " I've been working hard on my shot, and I told myself to attack tonight, and I did. I hope I can continue it because the competition only gets tougher."

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