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The North Hardin Trojans are in the Boys’ 5th Region Basketball Tournament for the second consecutive year, but for most of them, this will be a new experience.
Senior Scotty Sterusky is the only one to start in last year’s 63-57 loss to Bardstown in the quarterfinals, while seniors Nick Lewis and Tyler Landry both came off the bench. Meanwhile, the other three Trojans – senior guard Ruben Gosa, junior forward Khalil Rasheed and sophomore guard Tyronn King – who have logged the most minutes this season weren’t even with the team last year.
Despite the lack of postseason experience, the Trojans aren’t overly concerned heading into their quarterfinal matchup with the Taylor County Cardinals at 8 tonight at Hart County High School. The game will follow the Bethlehem-Caverna quarterfinal at 6.
“I think they know what the stakes are,” said North Hardin coach Ron Bevars, who has led the Trojans to 12 region titles. “They’re all seniors for the most part. I would be concerned if they weren’t mature, but I think they’ll be ready to play. I think they are disappointed with their last game and they want to right the ship a little bit.”
The Trojans (22-8) lost to John Hardin, 83-74 in the 17th District final Friday night, so they are motivated to get back on track against the Cardinals.
“It’s a very important game because it’s win or go home now,” Gosa said. “We have to get off to a good start and play with intensity. We have to play the entire game like that. I think tournament experience is a little overrated. We’re playing as a team. We’re treating this like just another game even though we know how important it is. We’re not trying to put too much pressure on this one game.”
Despite the loss to John Hardin, the Trojans are one of the region tournament’s hottest teams. They had won eight straight prior to the loss and they’ve won 10 of their last 12 and 13 of their last 16.
What seemed to start its change of play was when North Hardin, which owns a region-leading 12 championships, knocked off the Cardinals, 70-55 on Jan. 12 at Taylor County.
Although they beat Taylor County in the first meeting, the Trojans aren’t taking the Cardinals lightly. They understand how dangerous Taylor County (16-14) can be.
Junior Caleb Wigginton averages 19.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a game. Wigginton is shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from the 3-point line. Freshman point guard Quentin Goodin averaged 15.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
“They get their shooters open shots,” Sterusky said. “They have one (Wigginton) that shoots really well. We have to play defense like we did the last time and not let them get open shots.”
The challenge for the Trojans will be staying out of foul trouble. Bevars said the Trojans don’t have much depth on their bench and it completely changes the look of the team when they’ve gotten in foul trouble this year.
“That’s going to play a big role,” Landry said. “We don’t have much of a bench. The last game Nick and I fouled out and we lost. The games we’ve won this year, we’ve played good defense and stayed out of foul trouble. That’s what we need to do.”
North Hardin has a balanced attack with six players scoring eight or more points. Gosa leads the team at 18.5 a game followed by Landry’s 11.6 and King’s 10.8.
But the Trojans are more concerned with other end of the floor. Opponents are shooting just 37.9 percent against them. They are forcing teams into 16.8 turnovers a game and Landry has blocked 97 shots this season.
“They drive and kick the ball to their shooters,” Gosa said. “Their point guard (Goodin) will go the hole and he’s either going to shoot it or kick to a shooter. He’s good at driving and kicking. They have some good shooters. We have to play hard on the defensive end. That’s where games are won or lost this time of year.”
Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com.