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MUNFORDVILLE — LaRue County senior point guard Kelton Ford watched his team blow one big lead Friday night. He didn’t let it happen again.
Ford had five points and four assists in a 17-2 run to open the second half as the top-seeded Hawks pulled away from the second-seeded Caverna Colonels, 65-49 in the Boys’ 18th District Basketball Tournament championship game at Hart County.
“We wanted to prove that we wanted it more in the second half and that’s exactly what we did,” said Ford, who finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with seven rebounds and a game-high six assists.
During the run, the Colonels (17-13) went 7:41 between field goals.
“We came back out playing like we did to start the game,” said LaRue County coach Paul Childress. “We were pressing and tried to speed them up like they didn’t want to do.”
Junior forward Kody Key-Close, who scored six of his team’s first nine points, finished with 15 points and five rebounds for the Hawks (20-7), who enter this week’s 5th Region Tournament at Hart County riding a six-game winning streak. Senior shooting guard Dustin Coulter approached a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds.
The title was the Hawks’ district-record fifth straight and 19th overall. LaRue County has won the teams’ last four meetings in the district final.
“We wanted to show we’re still the dominant team in this district for now and for a few years to come,” said Ford, whose team has won 19 of its last 20 games against district foes.
One of the region’s top underclassmen, freshman guard Mason Faulkner led Caverna with a team-high 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. He was 8-of-8 from the foul line, but just 4-of-22 from the field after starting 1-of-2.
“You can still never count him out,” Ford said of Faulkner. “I’ve seen him put up 30 easy points before. He’s so crafty and he can easily change speeds.”
Senior forward Josh Davis added 10 points and five rebounds off the bench for the Colonels, who were playing for their first title in nine years. Sophomore guard Trevor Stephens had nine points and three rebounds.
The Hawks opened up a 24-13 lead with 4:50 remaining in the first half after a pair of free throws from Ford, but the Hawks made just one more field goal before halftime.
“We got kind of settled and started taking shots we don’t normally take,” Ford said. “Then we started turning the ball over. We just got sloppy.”
Fueled by seven points from Faulkner, the Colonels erased that deficit in just 89 seconds.
“We were taking on water and we couldn’t find a plug,” Childress said.
Caverna even rallied to take a 28-27 advantage, leading for 46 seconds before Ford hit a free throw with 5 seconds left to ensure his team wouldn’t trail at the break.
“We didn’t fold our get down on ourselves,” Childress said. “We told the kids in the locker room that we if we would just continue to play our type of ball, we would be fine.”
After the 17-2 run earlier in the second half, LaRue County added a 10-0 run over the first 2:10 of the fourth quarter to extend its lead to 55-34 – the first of its three 21-point leads.
“They made a run at us and gave us their best shot,” said Childress, whose team plays 20th District Tournament runner-up Adair County at 6 p.m. Monday in the 5th Region Tournament quarterfinals at Hart County. “But once we got up big again, you could tell the guys weren’t going to let it slip away again.”
LARUE COUNTY 65, CAVERNA 49
Caverna 10 18 6 15—49
LaRue County 19 9 17 20—65
Mason Faulkner 17, Josh Davis 10, Trevor Stephens 9, George Boyd 4, Anthony Phillips 3, Mark Dice 2, Devon Paul 2. FG: 18-65. FT: 11-15. 3-pointers: 2-22 (Faulkner 1-11, Devon Paul 0-6, Phillips 1-1, Dice 0-1, Tyrone Franklin 0-1, Deangelo Paul 0-1, Stephens 0-1). Rebs: 34 (Faulkner 12, Dice 6). Assists: 2. Steals: 9.
LaRue County (20-7)
Kelton Ford 22, Kody Key-Close 15, Dustin Coulter 9, Thomas Harman 5, Tyler Howell 5, Caleb Sheffer 4, Micah Wiseman 3, Michael Neal 2. FG: 20-44. FT: 20-32. 3-pointers: 5-12 (Ford 2-5, Key-Close 0-3, Wiseman 1-2, Coulter 1-1, Harman 1-1). Rebs: 38 (Coulter 8, Ford 7). Assists: 11 (Ford 6). Steals: 5 (Ford 2).
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or email@example.com.