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Adair County coach Mark Fudge admitted he didn’t want to face the John Hardin Bulldogs in the first round of the Boys’ 5th Region Basketball Tournament.
Instead of facing the region’s hottest team, Adair County drew the LaRue County Hawks, the team with the second-longest win streak heading into the region tournament.
“We’re pretty happy,” Fudge said after the draw. “We didn’t want to draw John Hardin. They’re in the same bracket. It’s going to be tough. But that’s what you expect. Every game’s tough in the region tournament.”
The 18th District champion Hawks (20-7) face the 20th District runner-up Indians (18-12) at 6 tonight in the region quarterfinals at Hart County High School.
The Hawks have won six straight, including five by 16 or more points, and 10 of their last 11. Since a 53-38 loss Dec. 22 to Louisville Doss, the Hawks are 16-2 with win streaks of six, four and six.
“They are playing pretty well the last three weeks,” Fudge said. “They have raised their level of play to the point where they are a (region) contender now.”
Meanwhile, the Indians have been heading in the opposite direction. After beating Magoffin County, 76-47, they have lost six of their last 10.
Despite the losing skid, LaRue County coach Paul Childress said the Indians are a dangerous opponent because of their defense. Adair County is limiting 51.4 points per game.
“Mark does a fantastic job,” Childress said. “You always know what you’re going to get with them. They are always going to guard you. They make it difficult for you to run your offense. You know it’s going to be a grind with them.”
LaRue County is making its seventh consecutive region appearance, while the Indians are in it for the first time since winning it in 2009.
“We’re a real young team,” Fudge said. “I hope we have a good tournament experience. We want to be competitive now, but we want to build for the future.”
Adair County is led by eighth-grader Chance Melton, who averages 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Another eighth-grader – Kel Stotts – is the team’s second-leading scorer at 11.6 points per game.
The Hawks counter with a dynamic scorer in senior point guard Kelton Ford, who averages 22.9 points per game. Adair County struggled to contain him when the teams met earlier as Ford poured in 25.
“We have to find a way to slow down Ford,” Fudge said. “Ford’s athletic and fast. It’s a hard matchup for us. Maybe what we’ve done preparing for the (Taylor County’s Quentin) Goodin kid will help us against Ford.”
One thing the Hawks have to be aware of is where Adair County’s shooters are. The Indians shoot 33.5 percent from the 3-point line. Sophomore Zack Hutchison leads the team in 3-point percentage at 40.9 followed by junior Ty Bennett at 36.5, Stotts at 33.6 and junior Matt Fudge at 33.3.
The Hawks did a good job in the teams’ first meeting Jan. 8 in Columbia, holding the Indians to 24 percent on 3-pointers as they won, 48-41.
“We beat them back in January, but that doesn’t mean anything now,” Childress said. “We have to be ready to play against a good team Monday night.”
Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.