By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
Model Labor-atory is going to the Touchstone Energy All “A” State Tournament for the first time in school history.
The Patriots staged a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback to beat Lexington Christian Academy 62-55 in the 11th Region All “A” final at Sayre Saturday.
Model trailed from the 6:40 mark of the second quarter and was down 51-39 after Jon Lannertone hit a layup for LCA.
But after a timeout, the Patriots went to their patented full-court, man-to-man defense which helped fuel the comeback.
A three-pointer by Zack Rice-Gordon and a basket by Anthony Gerald cut the lead to 51-44 with just more than six minutes to go.
After a basket by Taylor Blair pushed the lead back to nine, Gerald nailed a three and Jon Ballard hit a jumper in the lane to cut it to six with 4:47 to go.
Lannertone got another basket in the lane, but Gerald then put the Patriots on his back and refused to let them lose.
Gerald hit a long three pointer from the right wing, then converted four free throws that gave the Patriots a 56-55 lead with 1:11 to go in the game.
LCA’s Jon Lannertone missed the front end of a one-and-one on the ensuing possession, but the Eagles got the rebound.
Matt Rose missed a three pointer from the corner and Brendan Hill grabbed the rebound and raced to the other end for a layup to give Model a 58-55 lead with :47 seconds left.
On the Eagles’ next possession, Gerald was fouled on a rebound and once again calmly hit two free throws to put Model on top 60-55 with 26 seconds left.
Gerald and Rice-Gordon then hit one-of-two free throws each to cap the stunning come-from-behind victory.
“We made some adjustments there in the fourth, but it was really the kids’ effort there in the fourth more than anything else. There were no Xs and Os to that,” said a very happy Model coach Wes Scarberry. “We went to our full-court, man-to-man to try to speed the game a little bit and it worked. They panicked a little and we got some turnovers, they missed some shots and we converted. But it was 100 percent desire. Those guys wanted this since we lost last year in overtime to LCA.”
Gerald led the Patriots in scoring with 18 points and was the leading rebounder with seven. Ballard finished with 15 points and five rebounds, while Hill added 14 points and three rebounds.
Rice-Gordon finished with eight points and five rebounds off the bench and A.J. Hammons had seven points, six rebounds and four assists.
Model started off a little sluggish and LCA jumped out to a 9-6 lead, but a Ballard three pointer at the buzzer gave Model its first lead of the game at 11-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Two free throws by Rice-Gordon put Model up 13-12, but LCA then went on a 16-3 run to take a 28-16 lead midway through the second quarter.
Another buzzer-beating three pointer, this time by Hammons, pulled the Patriots to within eight at 32-24 at the half.
A three by Hill and another bucket by Ballard got Model to within five at 63-31, but the Eagles once again stretched the lead back out to 10 at 49-39 at the end of the third quarter.
Model’s pressure proved too much for the Eagles in the fourth quarter and LCA eventually wilted.
Hammons said he saw the panic in the eyes of LCA players as the Patriots got on their run and he knew the game was over.
“They were shooting and hitting everything in the first half, but when we started going with the pressure they found it harder to shoot. With about 45 seconds to go and we got it down to about two points I saw it in their faces and knew we had it,” Hammons said. “I’ve played in this tournament for four years and this is the second year in the championship. But it was really worth the wait. It’s what I’ve always wanted and it feels great, especially after they beat us last year.”
Model had a great crowd at the game, outnumbering the LCA contingent about four-to-one. Two of the happiest people in the crowd were Scarberry’s parents, who came from Ohio for the game.
Scarberry said having them there as well as some of his former players made the win even more special.
“Next to the day I got married and my two kids were born, this is by far the happiest moment I’ve ever had as a coach for sure,” Scarberry said. “I couldn’t be prouder to be the coach at Model and be the coach of these young men. Having my parents here and some of my former players at East Jessamine, is just means a lot to me to me that everybody was a part of it.”
Model will play University Heights at 10 a.m. Thursday in the opening round of the All “A” State Tournament in the Frankfort Convention Center.