- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Elizabethtown sophomore Zach Patterson admits he didn’t shoot the ball well during the Panthers’ practice at John Hardin’s Dawg Pound on Sunday afternoon.
No one could tell the way he shot it Monday night.
Patterson came off the bench to nail five 3-pointers and score a game-high 21 points to spark fourth-seeded Elizabethtown to a 78-43 rout of the fifth-seeded Fort Knox Eagles in the quarterfinal of the Boys’ 17th District Basketball Tournament at John Hardin.
“I came in here yesterday and everything was coming up short,” said Patterson, who made 5-of-8 3-pointers. “I just made sure to get the ball over the front of the rim. Once I saw the ball go through the first time, it helped on the next ones. It got me going and it got us going.”
Elizabethtown (16-13) hadn’t played in the district quarterfinals since 2009. That year as the fourth seed, the Panthers knocked off Fort Knox, 82-61.
The Panthers advance to the semifinals where they’ll meet top-seeded John Hardin (23-3) at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Bulldogs won both regular-season meetings – a 68-65 overtime thriller Jan. 29 and a 76-65 victory Feb. 4.
Patterson’s offense helped the Panthers shake off a sluggish start. Fort Knox led on two occasions in the first quarter and trailed only by four until Patterson made back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead to 18-10 after the first quarter.
The Eagles cut the lead to 18-14 as Elizabethtown went more than 4 minutes without scoring. The Panthers missed their first six shots of the second quarter and turned the ball over twice during that span.
“We didn’t execute well,” Elizabethtown coach James Haire said. “It was everything. We didn’t execute and we didn’t have any energy. Maybe we were nervous. I don’t know what to call it. It was total brain numbness. I’m just glad to get out of it with a win.”
A dunk by sophomore center Zane Najdawi at the 3:47 mark finally gave the Panthers some lift. Sophomore Tristan Johnson made a layup off a backdoor cut and a good pass from junior Ryan Harris and then Najdawi hit two free throws to push the lead to 24-17 with 2:50 left before halftime.
The Panthers quickly stretched the lead to double digits with a 10-0 run. Patterson did most of the damage, scoring eight points in a 70-second span. He drained two 3-pointers and had a putback, and Najdawi, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds, also made a layup.
“Zach got us going by hitting some big shots,” said Elizabethtown junior Nic McDonald, who added 18 points. “He’s a good shooter and he’s capable of making shots like that. He just needs to keep his confidence up.”
After Fort Knox pulled within 12, Elizabethtown used a 14-2 spurt to pull away. Senior Chas Jones, who scored 13 points, made two free throws and McDonald hit a 15-footer. Patterson sank 1-of-2 free throws and McDonald tipped in miss.
Fort Knox junior Michael Armstead drilled a jumper just outside the foul line, but McDonald connected on a 3-pointer and junior Dominique Harding scored four straight points to build a 52-28 lead with 22.3 seconds left in the third quarter.
“Our defense got us going,” McDonald said. “Coach had to get on us a couple of times and he shouldn’t have to do that. We had to play with more energy and pick it up. We should be playing hard from the start.”
Things didn’t get much better for the Eagles, who trailed by 35 at one point in the fourth quarter. The Eagles shot just 30.8 percent from the field and Elizabethtown held a 52-32 rebounding advantage.
Fort Knox’s postseason drought continued. The Eagles (11-16) haven’t won a district tournament game since beating Meade County, 62-57 in 2001. Senior Rashaan Allen led the team with 13 points and nine rebounds, while Armstead chipped in with 10.
But the night belonged to Patterson, who also had 10 rebounds. Patterson began the season as a starter, but has been coming off the bench for about the last month. He said it’s been a transition, but a role he enjoys.
“It definitely takes the pressure off,” Patterson said. “I get to come in if someone’s having a bad game and try to give us a lift. There’s still pressure, but not as much. I’ve found I can be just as much of a factor (off the bench) as if I’d been starting.”
Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.