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There are two schools of thoughts when a team has beaten another twice already. The team that won the previous meetings has an edge because it has the confidence to do it again. For the losing team, it comes in with extra incentive to reverse the trend.
The Boys’ 17th District Basketball Tournament has two semifinal matchups like this tonight. Top-seeded John Hardin swept the regular-season series with fourth-seeded Elizabethtown, while second-seeded North Hardin did the same against third-seeded Central Hardin.
So which position would coaches like to be in?
“I’d much rather go into a game knowing that I’ve beaten a team,” North Hardin coach Ron Bevars said. “It does give the other team motivation. They’re the underdog and they have incentive to win. But I’d like to know that I’ve beaten a team.”
But beating a team could give a team a false sense of security, thinking the outcome is going to be like the previous two and getting overconfident.
“It does give you extra motivation,” Central Hardin coach J.C. Wright said. “You can spin it a whole lot of different ways. I’ve heard it’s hard to beat a team three times. You only have to win that game. We have to take care of our own business and not worry about everything else.”
That’s the biggest thing to coaches, who aren’t trying to play a particular angle but are focused on getting their team ready for the semifinals. John Hardin meets Elizabethtown at 6 tonight followed by North Hardin taking on Central Hardin at 8:30.
“If I’d won both games, I wouldn’t feel any differently going into this game,” Elizabethtown coach James Haire said. “We’re focused on doing what we need to do to win. I’ve never felt comfortable this time of year. When you’re dealing with 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids, you don’t know what goes through their minds.”
John Hardin (23-3) edged the Panthers, 68-65 in an overtime thriller Jan. 29 behind a 28-point performance from senior Brandon Price. Six days later, the Bulldogs topped Elizabethtown, 76-65 at home. Senior forward Daveon Greene scored a game-high 31 points after being limited to six in the previous game.
“We’ve got to stop their leader,” Haire said. “We have to contain Price. We have to keep him from driving on us. We can’t let Greene run rampant like he did in the second game. We have to block out and rebound and then we have to handle their pressure. And we have to shoot well.”
Although the Bulldogs, who are riding a 15-game winning streak, have had success against Elizabethtown (16-13), John Hardin coach Mark Wells said that doesn’t matter in this scenario where it’s lose and go home.
“I think we’re been practicing well,” Wells said. “I think they have been focused in practice and on the court. We’ve executed in games and I think our experience has shown in some games. Our defense has been the key. We have to play good defense against them. They are a really good offensive team capable of scoring inside and out. You can throw records aside this time of year.”
North Hardin (21-7) comes into the tournament on a seven-game winning streak – their longest of the season. But the Trojans have had two close battles with Central Hardin (12-12), which has won two straight.
The Trojans rallied in the final minutes to pull out a 57-54 victory Jan. 2 and then they held off Central Hardin, 51-48 on Jan. 28. One worry for Bevars is the Trojans will be without senior Scotty Sterusky, who is serving the final game of a three-game suspension.
“My biggest concern is not having Scotty,” Bevars said. “It hurts our depth and he’s a really good defender and another scorer for us. We have to be aware of that and player smarter. We can’t get into foul trouble. They play so hard and they shoot the ball well, so we have to play smart defensively.”
Central Hardin played the second game against the Trojans without senior center Tyler McCullough and senior Alex Crowder was in his first game back after missing four games with a sprained ankle. Wright said the Bruins are finally healthy once again, which should help.
“We need to get off to a better start,” Wright said. “That’s been the thing that has hurt us in both games. We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball and blocking out. That’s two ways they hurt you is turning you over and scoring on the offensive boards. We want to keep the game in the lows 50s. That’s been our goal all season. If we do that, we give ourselves a good chance to win.”
Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com.