Drive and dish

Neil Baker drives the lane and threads the needle between two Frederick Douglass defenders to Great Crossing teammate Jaylen Barber during the second quarter of the 11th Region boys’ basketball showdown Saturday night. Douglass dominated much of the evening in a 73-52 win, dropping the Warhawks to 7-8 at the season’s halfway mark.

Strength of schedule is great long-term preparation during the Kentucky high school basketball season, but there’s an empty feeling if you don’t rise up and beat one of those marquee foes once in a while.

Great Crossing boys’ hoop experienced another weekend of seeing that bar but not being able to quite grasp it, falling 65-52 Friday in Louisville to reigning KHSAA state champion Trinity before seeing Frederick Douglass slip away early, 73-52, in a home contest Saturday night.

“Honestly that’s about what I expected. The way we’ve been playing, if we don’t bring effort and play for the front of our jersey, we’re not going to beat anybody that’s any good,” GC coach Steve Page said. “Way too much individual basketball played, and it’s unfortunately been that way for too long. We’ve got to get that straightened out if we want to beat any good teams.”

GC (7-8) gave up the first six points in the second game of the challenging couplet and never truly dug itself out of the hole.

K.J. Tucker’s 3-pointer made it an eight-point game early in the third period, but Douglass (10-5) dropped the next points and capped the quarter with a 17-7 run.

“We can compete in the 41st District the way we’re playing now. The kids I think want to compete at a higher level, but they’ve got to pick it up to make it happen,” Page said. “Frederick Douglass is a darn good team. They come at you for 32 minutes. They make it really hard. We knew they would play a lot of kids.”

DaShawn Jackson bolstered the Broncos with 31 points and 10 steals.

Great Crossing 25 turnovers resulted from a double-whammy of Douglass’ quick feet and hands and the Warhawks’ own unforced errors.

“Our three guards had 14 turnovers. We had 13 turnovers in the first half and only 19 shots. I told them at halftime we need to get to 55 shots and fewer than 20 turnovers to have a chance,” Page said. “Their quickness caused us to play faster than we anted to. We weren’t surprised by it. Keep in mind that we played (Friday) night at Trinity, so we had zero time to prepare for it. So we talked about it, but talking about it versus preparing for it are two different things.”

Jaylen Barber led GC with 16 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots. 

The Warhawks’ 6-foot-8 center was 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the first quarter to spike those numbers. He didn’t find enough help as the Broncos built a 22-14 lead that grew to 36-25 at the half.

“They sped us up on the front side by trapping, and then I thought we played with the ball too much,” Page said. “Just try to dribble past them. When we tried to pass out of it, the times we did, we didn’t make them pay for it, and we a lot of times didn’t pass out of it very well.”

Tucker added 14 points for Great Crossing. 

Aidan Reid and Bilal Chhadh scored seven apiece and Jaylan Green and Julius Scearce six each for Douglass, which looks to have the best team in its program’s brief history. The Broncos already have split their 42nd District series with preseason favorite Henry Clay.

Five early lead changes gave GC hope at Trinity (7-8), but the Shamrocks looked like a team that is returning to their usual form in the second and third period.

Trinity led 26-20 at the half before going on a 19-7 year. Zach Stahlman led all scorers with 27 points on 9-for-15 from the field and 7-of-8 from the line for the Shamrocks.

“They were just tougher than we were which is in indictment on us a little bit, because we’re seniors and they’re sophomores and juniors,” Page said. “Coach (Mike Szabo) said to me, ‘We went for it last year and really didn’t play our younger kids up,’ so that’s why they were struggling a little bit.”

Miles Franklin chipped in 10 points for Trinity.

Michael McKenzie paced four Warhawks in double digits with 14. Barber and Neil Baker each tallied 12. Tucker had 10.

GC hosts Western Hills in a battle for first place in the district Tuesday before traveling to Franklin County for another local battle Friday.

“We can set ourselves up in great position come next Friday night if we can take care of business,” Page said. “Our goal is to win all seven games, be the No. 1 seed in the district and win the district title.”

Kal Oakes can be reached via email at sports@news-graphic.com.

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