BOYS' 5TH REGION: Adair ends North Hardin's unbeaten streak in region finals (03/11)

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By Nathaniel Bryan



By NATHANIEL BRYAN nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com LEBANON Adair County’s Darren Ballou finally put an end to the legendary streak of veteran North Hardin coach Ron Bevars. A senior forward who’s signed with Morehead State, Ballou had 24 points and a team-high 11 rebounds to lead his Indians to an 82-76 double-overtime win over Bevars’ Trojans in Tuesday night’s Boys’ 5th Region Tournament championship game at Marion County’s Roby Dome. Bevars, looking for his first region title since 2003, suffered his first region title game loss in 12 appearances. “I didn’t know what the record was exactly, but I knew they hadn’t lost one until tonight, so it’s an honor,” Ballou said. “They’ve been the favorite all year, but I knew we had it in us to do it tonight. We pulled it out at the end.” Did they ever. The game featured six ties and 12 lead changes. The lead changed hands eight times in the fourth quarter alone with the final coming on senior guard Corey Helm’s fifth 3-pointer from the right corner with 13 seconds left. North Hardin nearly fumbled its chance to tie the score as senior guard Greg Johnson slipped and appeared to have gotten away with a walk, but the ball somehow found its way to sophomore guard Cameron Irvin, whose jumper from the left baseline with 5 seconds left tied the score at 60. Adair County (26-7) had one last chance to end the game in regulation, but senior point guard Nick Fudge narrowly missed a 3-pointer from three-quarters court. Fudge also had a chance to win the game at the end of the first overtime, but his jumper in the waning seconds bounced off the rim and the buzzer sounded with both teams fighting over the loose-ball rebound. But from there, it was all Adair County as the Indians reeled off a 6-0 run behind a jumper from Helm, a basket in the lane by junior reserve guard Tristen Reece and two free throws from Helm. “We had a few mental breakdowns there. I don’t what to say. We did things we shouldn’t have done, but we did things we couldn’t do,” said North Hardin guard LaRod King, who had 18 points, four assists and a game-high 15 rebounds in his final game as a Trojan. “They took what we did in their favor. When we missed shots, they slowed it down. They did what we wanted to do and we can only blame ourselves.” Still, it would be possible to blame the incredible output by Adair County’s senior trio of Ballou, Fudge and Helm. Two coaches from Morehead State, which earned an NCAA Tournament bid by winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, were watching as Ballou put on quite an offensive display, making 10-of-17 shots, converting a pair of alley-oop lay-ins after halftime and burying 2-of-3 3-pointers. “I’m really not worried about Morehead State right now,” Ballou said. “I’m going to work my tail off when I get there, but I’m ready to go to State and help my team go as far as possible.” The Indians’ backcourt duo of Helm and Fudge also made their team go. Helm hit five 3-pointers, passed out five assists and scored a game-high 26 points. He combined with Ballou to score all but one of the Indians’ 27 second-half points. Helm, who was briefly laid out by an unintentional elbow with 4.4 seconds left in the second overtime, was selected as the Flav-O-Rich Player of the Game. “He made a lot of big shots and he stepped up his play,” said Adair County coach Mark Fudge, who guided the Indians to the 2007 region title at Central Hardin. “We started calling his number more and more after halftime and he responded.” Nick Fudge, the coach’s son, finished with 10 points and a game-best 10 assists on his way to Tournament MVP honors. He also buried a pair of free throws with 29 seconds left which gave the Indians a 78-73 lead and proved to be the winning points. “As the coach of a son, I was dreading his last game. But now I’m not,” said Mark Fudge, whose son will end his career next week at Rupp Arena in Lexington with his second state tournament appearance in three years. Adair County, which lost to North Hardin in the regular season, led by 11 points in the second half. But North Hardin (22-10) went on a 23-9 run in about 8 minutes to take a 54-51 lead. Junior forward James Berry hit a game-high seven 3-pointers on his way to a 23-point, eight-rebound night for the Trojans. Irvin finished with 17 points and four rebounds. Senior guard Greg Johnson, who dribbled out the game’s final seconds with tears in his eyes, had 10 points and six rebounds. Bramblett also had a solid effort with six points, six assists and six rebounds in more than 23 minutes off the bench before fouling out to end his career. “It was great while it lasted and these will be some memories I’ll never forget,” Bramblett said. North Hardin graduates four players in Bramblett, Johnson, King and Billy Thompson, who suffered a season-ending injury in the Trojans’ regular-season finale. “When I came in as a freshman, we were at rock bottom,” Bramblett said. “But I think us seniors and our coaches have done a great job of restoring the tradition.” Fortunately for the Trojans, they’ll return a solid foursome next year in Berry, Irvin and junior twins Roosevelt and Rolando Emerson. Roosevelt had two points and two rebounds, while Rolando had one assist. “It was a very emotional game,” King said. “We may have lost our composure for a bit, but we never gave up. We left a statement for our juniors and sophomores. They know how hard they have to work now to get here and they know how bad it feels when you get here and lose.” Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at 505-1758 ADAIR COUNTY 82 NORTH HARDIN 76 Adair County            15 18   9 18    8    14—82 North Hardin            12 14 12 22    8      8—76 TEAM STATISTICS Team                    FG      FT     R     TP Adair County      29-54 14-25    31     82 North Hardin      32-72     4-8    43     76 ADAIR COUNTY Player                  FG      FT      R    TP Reece                  4-4      2-3      3     11 Helm                  8-16      5-6      4     26 Fudge                  3-9      3-6      4     10 Sandusky             4-8      2-4      3     11 Ballou               10-17      2-6     11     24 Team                                       5 NORTH HARDIN Player                  FG      FT      R    TP Irvin                   8-12      0-2      4     17 King                   8-16      2-2     15     18 Bramblett            2-11      2-2      6      6 Rol. Emerson        0-1      0-0      6     10 Johnson             5-12      0-0      6     10 Roos. Emerson      1-3      0-2      2      2 Berry                  8-17      0-0      8     23 Team                                       2 3-POINTERS: Adair County (10-21): Corey Helm 5-12, Darren Ballou 2-3, Kyle Sandusky 1-3, Nick Fudge 1-2, Tristen Reece 1-1. North Hardin (8-19): James Berry 7-14, Jordan Bramblett 0-4, Cameron Irvin 1-1. ASSISTS: Adair County (19): Nick Fudge 10, Corey Helm 5, Kyle Sandusky 4. North Hardin (17): Jordan Bramblett 6, LaRod King 4, Roosevelt Emerson 2, Cameron Irvin 2, Greg Johnson 2, Rolando Emerson 1. BOYS’ 5TH REGION TOURNAMENT ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM Adair County: Darren Ballou, Nick Fudge, Corey Helm, Kyle Sandusky. North Hardin: Jordan Bramblett, James Berry, Greg Johnson, LaRod King. Bardstown: Jordan Hickman, DeMarco Phillips. John Hardin: Chris White, Gary Williams. Taylor County: Chase Cox, Leonard Macon. LaRue County: Bryan Bault. Championship Game Player of the Game: Corey Helm, Adair County Tournament MVP: Nick Fudge, Adair County