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Boys Basketball: Ludlow Holds Off Bellevue

Coming off two-consecutive losses, some head coaches may deviate from a game plan in hopes of finding a new working formula for his team. But, Ludlow’s Randy Wofford isn’t one of them.
 
Continuity paid off as Ludlow overcame a sluggish start to beat its river town rival Bellevue, 56-47 Friday night at Ludlow. “We’ve been going with man-to-man (defense), Wofford said. “We’ve been doing that since the summer, trying to teach guarding the gaps,” he added, saying their philosophy has been to stick with man, disregarding zone at this point in the season.
 
Each team started slowly as the Panthers and Tigers traded missed opportunities early on until Ludlow junior guard Marcus Roark sparked the home team with a steal and slam that provided momentum for the Panthers heading into the second quarter. Junior center Matthew Gibson joined in the effort, adding a couple baskets to put Ludlow on top 15-10. Tigers’ sophomore Jason Craig countered with a three to tie it at 15. Junior Matthew Fryman hit a three-pointer to make it a one-point game in the visitors’ favor, 21-20. Ludlow countered once again and the score was knotted at 23 at the break.
 
Out of the locker room, Ludlow came out blazing. Roark’s three put the Panthers ahead by seven, 35-28, part of a swing of eight unanswered points by the home team, but they were unable to distance themselves from Bellevue, as the quarter concluded with the Tigers only down 40-35. Due in large part to senior Austin Woodyard’s team-high 22, Bellevue was able to hang around.
 
Ludlow junior guard Kalib Mitchell propelled his team in the final quarter and helped put the game out of-reach for the Panthers. Wofford wasn’t surprised Mitchell was up for the task. “They were playing triangle and two on us tonight and Kalib, he’s one of our better players. He just gets the ball and makes a lot of things happen,” he said. “We got him loose on a couple times with the ball and it kind of worked out for us. He can finish around the basket, drive to the basket. We just try to get it to him as much as we could, even though they had a little chaser on him.” Mitchell played a key role on two-consecutive possessions, hitting two free throws to stretch the Panthers’ lead to six with just over four minutes left, while adding a team-high 11 rebounds. The ensuing possession, Mitchell was again fouled, this time making the initial shot to put the Panthers’ up 10, 51-41. 
 
With one minute to go, junior center Matthew Gibson shut the door on any chances for a Tigers’ comeback bid, fouled sinking a short basket, plus a free throw to widen the margin at 11, 56-45. Gibson – the Panthers’ leading scorer on the evening with 17 points – received high praise from his coach.
 
“He’s just a force in there, he’s a big fella,” Wofford said. “He goes a few minutes at a time but when he’s in there, he’s tough, he’s a load. It takes two or three people on him and he still gets the ball up, makes points and gets and-one’s. He’s just a good player in the middle.” 
 
With the win, Ludlow reaches the .500 mark at 9-9. Bellevue drops to 6-9.
 
Story & photos by Jason Fennell
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