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MUNFORDVILLE — Is John Hardin becoming the new North Hardin on the hardwood? It certainly appears that way.
The Trojans dominated the 5th Region for a number of years. They have 12 region championship trophies to prove it. They were the envy of most schools in the region. Their dominance was never more evident than winning the title five times in a span of six years from 1998-2003.
But it seems like the torch might have been passed Saturday night as the Bulldogs knocked off North Hardin, 64-51 in the Boys’ 5th Region Basketball Tournament final at Hart County High School.
Since 2004, eight teams have advanced to the region final, but no team has done it more than the Bulldogs, who have accomplished the feat five times. During that span, John Hardin has won more titles – three – than any other school. Bardstown and Adair County each won it twice.
How dominant were the Bulldogs, who many labeled the region favorite prior to the year? They were 16-0 against region teams and they won 11 of those by double digits. They were expected to be the best and they were.
“This was real hard this year,” John Hardin junior Keon Williams said. “Everyone doubted us after we lost a couple games. Everyone wanted us to lose. But we came back and we’re on top again.”
John Hardin’s most difficult game in its postseason run was its first — a 62-60 victory over Elizabethtown, which led 50-47 with 4:40 remaining. The Bulldogs didn’t panic, though, and they turned it into a 55-50 lead in less than a minute and a half.
The Bulldogs trailed North Hardin after one quarter in the 17th District final before cruising to an 83-74 win. They found themselves in a two-point hole to Bardstown with 5:42 left before a game-clinching 10-2 run.
When LaRue County made a run in the third quarter of the region semifinals, taking a 38-37 lead, John Hardin quashed any upset hopes the Hawks had with a 20-3 spurt. It was the same in the region final. The Bulldogs held a double-igit lead for more than 22 minutes, never giving the Trojans a chance to get back in the game.
“I thought our experience showed,” John Hardin coach Mark Wells said. “We got off to a good start and we got the lead. I thought we expanded the lead by running our offense and taking good shots. We didn’t force the issue. I think our experience was a big key.”
The Trojans used to dominate the region – for the most part – with great guard play, a presence in the post and a will to win. That’s exactly how the Bulldogs have done it. They have a crafty, veteran point guard in Brandon Price and a physical force in the paint in senior forward Daveon Greene. And this time, they were determined to take their program to next level.
Wells has taken the foundation former coach Artie Braden laid and built the program into one which is going to be a region contender most years. This might be only the start for the Bulldogs with the talent the program has returning.
But the Bulldogs weren’t looking toward the future after their third title in eight years.
“This feels even better than last year,” Greene said. “We had to focus on playing every game and getting better each week to get to this point. We wanted to win this one even more. We’re going to take tonight to enjoy this one and then we’ll get back to work for the state tournament. This is where we wanted to be.”
Greene meant the state tournament when he said this is where we wanted to be, but it could be a statement for the program as well.
In 12 years, the Bulldogs have gone from district doormat to region contender and from an upstart program to a three-time champion.
Sounds similar to how North Hardin built its reputation more than four decades ago.
Chuck Jonesis the sports editor for The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com