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What once looked like another Girls’ 17th District Basketball Tournament semifinal blowout turned into a nail-biter.
Once owning leads of 11 points in the second quarter, 13 points in the third and nine points in the fourth over the third-seeded John Hardin Lady Bulldogs on Thursday night, the second-seeded and tournament host North Hardin Lady Trojans had to get a pair of stops in the final 10 seconds to hold on, 40-37.
“It got kind of shaky there,” said North Hardin junior guard Domeneque Taft, who had five points and two assists. “And I could have been the reason we lost by being nervous and making some turnovers, but I’m glad we pulled it out and got the win.
“They played right with us,” Taft added. “But we’re competitive and we like to win.”
Second-year North Hardin coach Chris Corder might not have liked in the fashion his team earned the victory, but he’s not going to fault his Lady Trojans for finding a way to earn their seventh consecutive 5th Region Tournament berth.
“I told the girls that it doesn’t matter if you win by three points or 40, you still get to move on,” said Corder, whose team will host the top-seeded Elizabethtown Lady Panthers in Saturday night’s final at 7 after Elizabethtown crushed fourth-seeded Central Hardin in Thursday’s early semifinal.
For a while, it looked like North Hardin would have not trouble moving on. The Lady Trojans took a 23-12 lead into halftime thanks to Taft’s buzzer-beating 3 off an assist from sophomore reserve guard Zakayshia Pass. Senior forward Chanel Roberts, who had game highs in points (16) and rebounds (12), twice gave North Hardin a pair of 13-point leads in the third quarter at 28-15 and 32-19.
“She did really well. I’m proud of Chanel,” said North Hardin junior forward Morgan Barrick. “When it’s time to step up, she steps up.”
Roberts stepped up again with a scoop layup to give North Hardin a 35-26 lead with 5:17 left in the game.
“I thought she just played OK,” Corder sad. “I thought she rushed some things, as we all did, and we were fortunate enough to make enough plays to win.”
One of those plays came from freshman shooting guard Tamiah Stanford, who made a pair of free throws to give North Hardin its largest lead in the final five minutes at 37-28.
Slowly, John Hardin began to climb back in it. Sophomore reserve center Tamera Taylor hit a pair of free throws with 1:07 left to pull John Hardin within 37-35 – its first one-possession deficit since the second quarter. Junior wing Zacchea Small got the Lady Bulldogs within one at 38-37 with 52 seconds left when she made two free throws after being fouled on a drive in the lane.
The Lady Bulldogs had a chance to take the lead, but Small missed a drive with eight seconds left and the rebound went out of bounds to North Hardin. Roberts was fouled shortly after the inbound and made both free throws to put her team up 40-37 with five seconds left.
John Hardin, which set a school record for single-season wins, had one last chance to tie by getting the ball to junior guard Nawdya Fletcher, who had already hit a pair of second-half 3-pointers. She attempted an NBA-range 3 in the waning seconds into the double team of Roberts and reserve junior guard Kiera Jones. The shot fell short after Fletcher appeared to have drawn contact, but no whistle was blown.
“A lot of these girls didn’t understand what tournament basketball is like. I think they approached it like just another game, but it’s do or die,” Corder said. “We did everything we could to give them the game by missing free throws and turning it over late.”
North Hardin trailed for only 3:08 in the first half. All of the trailing time started in the final two seconds of the first quarter, when John Hardin freshman guard Tyra Jackson hit a bank-in 3 pointer off an assist from junior wing Zacchea Small, who passed the ball from her knees after coming up with a loose ball. A free throw from Roberts tied it at 12 with 5:36 left in the first half and a tough drive in traffic by junior Kiera Jones just 42 seconds later gave North Hardin (24-6) the lead for good.
North Hardin held John Hardin scoreless in the second quarter.
“We kind of locked-in defensively there in the second quarter and took away what they wanted to do,” said Corder, whose team failed to score more than 48 points in all of its losses. “At the same time, it was like we were playing in mud offensively at times.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or email@example.com.
JOHN HARDIN 37
John Hardin 12 012 13—37
North Hardin 11 12 9 8—40
Team FG FT R TP
John Hardin 10-35 13-18 28 37
North Hardin 13-37 11-22 31 40
Player FG FT R TP
Jackson 3-9 1-2 2 8
Fletcher 3-7 0-0 2 8
Haley 1-8 2-2 0 4
Small 0-5 5-8 7 5
Montgomery 3-4 3-4 11 10
Freeman 0-2 0-0 1 0
Taylor 0-0 2-2 2 2
White 0-0 0-0 1 0
Sanders 0-0 0-0 2 0
Player FG FT R TP
Taft 2-5 0-0 3 5
Stanford 1-5 6-12 2 8
Roberts 5-13 5-8 12 16
Edmunds 1-2 0-2 4 2
Barrick 1-3 0-0 3 2
Pass 1-2 0-0 2 3
Jones 2-7 0-0 2 4
3-POINTERS: JOHN HARDIN (4-10): Nawdya Fletcher 2-5, Tyra Jackson 1-2, Tajah Haley 0-2, Michelle Montgomery 1-1. NORTH HARDIN (3-9): Domeneque Taft 1-3, Kiera Jones 0-3, Chanel Roberts 1-2, Zakayshia Pass 1-1. ASSISTS: JOHN HARDIN (6): Zacchea Small 3, Jayla Freeman 2, Tyra Jackson 1. NORTH HARDIN (8): Chanel Roberts 2, Tamiah Stanford 2, Domeneque Taft 2, Morgan Barrick 1, Zakayshia Pass 1.