By CHRIS STONER
FLOYDS KNOBS —
Floyd Central’s quest for its first Shootout title since 2009 fell short at the hands of Kentucky powerhouse Ballard Friday night, 68-55.
The Bruins placed four players in double-figures and their smothering defense forced 28 Highlander turnovers en route to the tournament championship.
“They’re so dagone athetlic they can just take certain things away from you and they did that to us tonight,” Floyd head coach Kirk Hamsley said. “They’re so quick they can make you rush things and we didn’t handle that well tonight. They’ve got a really nice team.”
Ballard (13-2) flexed its muscles early by forcing nine first period giveaways and Javonna Layfield poured in 10, including a pair of triples, as the Bruins led 26-15 at the first stop. Tori Kingsley kept Floyd (8-4) in it by scoring nine of her 13 in the first frame.
“It was 17-11 (in the first quarter) and we got to the rim and looked over our shoulder and didn’t finish,” Hamsley said. “Then they go down and score. Little things like that hurt us.”
The Highlanders struggled to find the basket in the second period as a Niki Bruno bucket at the 2:56 mark was the hosts first of the stanza. Ballard forced 10 Floyd turnovers in the second quarter and led by 15 at intermission.
“We wanted to win the first four minutes of the third quarter to get it back down to eight or nine but we turned the ball over right off the bat and that didn’t help us,” Hamsley said. “I thought they just did a nice job of exploiting us with the big kid [Terra Banks] inside. She played well and really hard. When they need a bucket they can go right to their big kids and get one. We’re not going to see anyone quite that big and strong again this year.”
The Highlanders came out of the locker room and shot just 1-of-8 in the third, compared to Ballard’s 9-of-11. Seven Bruins found the scoring column in the decisive period and the visitors led 61-33 entering the final eight minutes.
“It’s hard to practice against the kind of pressure they can put on you,” Hamsley said. “They exploited some things we need to do better like blocking out and handling pressure.”
Floyd did not go down without a fight and put forth an impressive fourth quarter effort, but it was simply too little, too late. The Highlanders turned up the pressure in the fourth by holding Ballard to 3 of 14 shooting and forcing eight turnovers.
“We won the second half by two and our free throws were good tonight,” said Hamsley, whose team hit 24 of 28 from the stripe. “Things were a little different in the second half but he had his main clientelle in there for the most part and we did some better things in the second half.”
Floyd was paced by Brooke Hinton’s game high 19. Madison Kaiser, who tallied 35 points in the two Thursday games, was held to just five.
“She struggled tonight,” Hamsley said of Kaiser. Their athletic ability made her play too fast. She just needed to slow down out there. She’s just a sophomore and she does so many good things for us — she just had a tough night. I thought she played hard but she just tried to do too much.”
Floyd is back in action Jan. 3 at Meade County (Ky).