By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
The Patriots had to battle, but they are back in the championship game of the Shirley Kearns Invitational for the second time in the past three years.
Anthony Gerald had 20 points, six rebounds and five assists and Brendan Hill and Jon Ballard each had 18 points as Model Laboratory defeated Western Hills, 86-76, Friday in Richmond.
The Patriots will take on Woodford County at 6 p.m. today in the title game.
“We are happy about the win,” Model coach Wes Scarberry said. “Western Hills played extremely hard. I thought we came out a little flat, especially defensively. They handled our press pretty easily early on.”
The Patriots (9-3) got off to a slow start.
Western Hills took an 8-2 lead and was up 18-17 at the end of the first quarter. Model took a two-point lead (43-41) at halftime when Gerald hit a three-pointer at the buzzer.
“Offensively, we were great,” Scarberry said. “But, you should win by a lot more than 10 when you score that many points.”
Model was 20-of-29 from the free throw line and set a new season-high for points, still the Wolverines wouldn’t go away.
The third quarter featured seven ties, the last at 57-57. Gerald once again provided the last-second heroics as he hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to put Model up 60-59.
“We work on that stuff in practice and a lot of times Anthony has the ball in his hands,” Scarberry said. “We didn’t panic in those situations and Anthony was open both times. He knocked them down.”
The Patriots carried that momentum into the final quarter, scoring eight-straight points to take a 68-59 lead.
Western Hills (4-10) got back to within three points (73-70), but Model hit 11-of-14 free throws in the final minutes to seal the win.
“We knew they wouldn’t back down,” Scarberry said. “They were hungry for a win.”
Zack Rice-Gordon had 14 points, A.J. Hammons and Jesse Middleton had six points and four rebounds and Jared Adams four points.
Hill and Ballard both had four rebounds.
Model last played in the finals of the Shirley Kearns Invitational in 2010, falling to Ohio County.