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MUNFORDVILLE — Like two prized heavyweights matching one another punch-for-punch, the John Hardin Bulldogs finally landed a haymaker the Bardstown Tigers feared.
Trailing by two with less than 5 minutes left, John Hardin used a 10-2 fourth-quarter spurt to seize control and the Bulldogs held on for a 68-64 victory over Bardstown on Monday night in the Boys’ 5th Region Basketball Tournament quarterfinals at Hart County.
“It’s all part of the postseason,” said John Hardin junior Keon Williams, who scored 11 points. “All the games are tough. It was a total team effort. It was two teams going at it and we were able to drag out a win. That’s the most important thing.”
The seventh-ranked Bulldogs (26-3) lived to see another day, moving on to meet the LaRue County (21-7) at 6 p.m. Friday in the region semifinals. LaRue County downed Adair County, 58-45 in the first game Monday. John Hardin beat the Hawks, 84-78 in overtime in last year’s region semifinals at Central Hardin.
Despite trailing in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs never hit the panic button. Instead they saved their season with a game-clinching run.
“It’s a veteran, experienced bunch,” said John Hardin senior Brandon Price, who had 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds. “We’ve been down this entire postseason. We were down to E’town in the district semifinals, we were down to North Hardin in the first quarter and we were down tonight. But we’ve never folded. We’re not going to quit.”
Senior Marcus Cosby, who had 26 points and eight rebounds, gave the Tigers (23-10) the lead on two occasions in the fourth quarter, the last at 54-52 after a putback with 5:42 remaining.
With Price on the bench with four fouls, John Hardin struggled to generate any offense until he returned with less than 5 minutes left. With Price back on the floor, the Bulldogs took off.
Junior guard Patrick Anderson and Williams made back-to-back layups to give John Hardin a 56-54 lead with 3:42 left. After a Bardstown turnover, Williams drained a 15-footer on an in-bounds pass from Price.
Bardstown sophomore guard L.J. Cowherd made a runner in the lane to stop John Hardin’s run temporarily. Anderson and Williams once again had consecutive layups to push the lead to 62-56 with 2:31 remaining.
“That was big,” Bardstown coach James Brewer said. “I only had one timeout remaining, so I couldn’t use it on something like that because I knew I would need it later. We played 30 minutes of great basketball, but we had 2 minutes where we did some ill-advised things and they capitalized on it. They got the momentum and we never got it back.”
Neither Williams nor Anderson were having a good night offensively until the fourth quarter. The two had combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting before Williams scored eight points and Anderson four in the final 8 minutes.
“What people won’t be able to see in the boxscore is how hard they were working on the defensive end,” John Hardin coach Mark Wells said. “They were so focused on that end of the court in order to help us win that it took away from their offense. That just shows how unselfish they are.”
Bardstown closed within two after a three-point play by Cowherd, who had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists, with 21.5 seconds left, but sophomore guard Elijah Smith hit two free throws and Price made 2-of-4 to ice the victory.
“I would say it was more about our experience,” John Hardin senior forward Daveon Greene said. “Coach told us people were hoping we would lose. We weren’t going to let that happen. This means a lot to the seniors. We were not going to lose the game. I think our experience showed.”
Greene was a huge factor, scoring 27 points and pulling down 14 rebounds. He also dished out four assists.
“We thought we had a mismatch inside,” Wells said. “We did a good job of executing and getting him the ball. I thought he slowed down and saw what the defense was giving him instead of getting the ball and exploding into a move. I thought that helped him more than anything.”
In an instant classic much like the two previous years when these teams had met, this was the type of game many expected from two region heavyweights. The game had three ties. John Hardin’s largest lead was seven and Bardstown’s was five – both of which came in the first quarter.
“Was that the region championship game?” Brewer asked. “I’m tired of playing them. It was two great basketball programs giving all they got. I know we left everything on the court.”
Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com.
JOHN HARDIN 68
Bardstown 18 1611 19—64
John Hardin 25 1110 22—68
Team FG FT R TP
Bardstown 25-63 9-15 42 64
John Hardin 22-59 21-29 34 68
Player FG FT R TP
Cowherd 8-16 2-4 6 19
Cosby 10-13 2-2 8 26
Grundy 3-18 5-8 18 11
Yocum 0-2 0-0 0 0
Gordon 0-0 0-0 1 0
Young 2-6 0-1 2 4
Johnson 0-1 0-0 0 0
Hickman 0-1 0-0 0 0
Smith 2-6 0-0 6 4
Player FG FT R TP
Price 4-12 5-9 5 13
Anderson 4-9 0-0 2 9
Williams 4-9 2-4 4 11
Burns 0-0 0-0 5 0
Greene 8-15 11-13 14 27
Smith 0-4 2-2 1 2
Miller 2-4 1-1 0 6
Jackson 0-1 0-0 0 0
3-POINTERS: BARDSTOWN (5-16): Marcus Cosby 4-6, L.J. Cowherd 1-4, Devonte Grundy 0-4, Dee Yocum 0-1, Keanu Young 0-1. JOHN HARDIN (3-15): Matt Miller 1-2, Keon Williams 1-3, Patrick Anderson 1-4, Brandon Price 0-2, Elijah Smith 0-4. ASSISTS: BARDSTOWN (8): L.J. Cowherd 4, Marcus Cosby 1, Devonte Grundy 1, Keanu Young 1, Tavon Johnson 1. JOHN HARDIN (14): Brandon Price 7, Daveon Greene 4, Patrick Anderson 2, Elijah Smith 1.