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MUNFORDVILLE — LaRue County senior Kelton Ford won the scoring battle over John Hardin senior Brandon Price on Friday night, but Price and the Bulldogs earned something more valuable – a date in the Boys’ 5th Region Basketball Tournament final.
In a battle of region’s two premier point guards, Ford scored a game-high 37 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Price’s night wasn’t bad as he had 32 points, eight assists and three rebounds to help the Bulldogs earn a second consecutive trip to the region championship.
After LaRue County took its only lead at 38-37 with 5:19 left in the third quarter, the Bulldogs took control with a 20-3 run en route to a 74-59 victory in the opening semifinal at Hart County High School.
“I don’t care if he outscored me 37-2,” Price said. “He’s a heckuva player and it was just two great competitors wanting to win. But I think I got him with the win.”
It marked the second consecutive year John Hardin has ended LaRue County’s season in the region semifinals. Last year, the Bulldogs needed overtime to knock out the Hawks. This time, they wore the Hawks down and then pounced when the opportunity to put the game away presented itself.
“I thought we were able to wear them down,” John Hardin coach Mark Wells said. “I thought our pressure finally started to take affect and we were able to turn over a few times. I thought they were tired and missed a few inside shots they made early in the game. I thought that was the key.”
The seventh-ranked Bulldogs (27-3) advanced to the region final for the fifth time in the last nine years. They won the championships in 2006 and ’12.
John Hardin, which won its 19th straight, led 31-25 at halftime, but the Hawks mounted a rally behind two 3-pointers from junior Kody Key-Close and seven points from Ford to grab their 38-37 lead.
The Bulldogs answered when senior forward Daveon Greene made a short jumper and junior forward Keon Williams, who had 12 points and eight rebounds, scored five straight points.
After a layup by Ford, Williams made two free throws and Greene converted an old-fashioned three-point play to push the lead to 49-41 after three quarters.
“I think we were up by five at halftime and we talked about expanding the lead,” said Greene, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds. “They got the lead, but after that, we did a good job of not only keeping the lead but expanding the lead.”
Junior guard Patrick Anderson made a layup off a turnover and then Price scored six consecutive points as the Bulldogs built a 57-41 lead with 5:23 left.
Ford hit a 3-pointer to close the gap to 13, but that’s as close as the Hawks got as John Hardin sealed the win by making 13-of-21 free throws in the final 5 minutes.
“Our kids played their hearts out,” LaRue County coach Paul Childress said. “We fell behind 13-2 early, but it’s a testament to their fortitude coming back like that. We went toe-to-toe with them for a while, but with 2 or 3 minutes left in the third quarter, the gas light started to come on. We made a few mistakes and they capitalized on it.
“They finished strong,” he added. “I take my hat off to John Hardin. Mark does a great job. When they got down, they didn’t panic either. That’s the sign of a good team.”
After only turning the ball over six times in the first half, the Hawks had 10 in the final 16 minutes.
“That’s a credit to our defense,” Price said. “Our defense might have looked poor at times, but we were working real hard. You’re not going to wear teams down in the first half, but it starts to work in the second half.”
John Hardin jumped out to an 11-0 behind three 3-pointers from Price and a layup from Greene. The Hawks finally got going behind Ford, who scored 14 of the team’s first 16 points to help trim the lead to 19-16 after one quarter.
LaRue County (21-8) tied the score at 22 on a jumper by senior Dustin Coulter, but senior Adryan Jackson made a layup, Price nailed a 3-pointer and Williams hit a runner to push the lead to 29-23 with 2:23 left before halftime.
Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
JOHN HARDIN 74
John Hardin 19 1218 25—74
LaRue County 16 916 18—59
Team FG FT R TP
John Hardin 23-54 23-32 39 74
LaRueCounty 21-51 10-16 31 59
Player FG FT R TP
Price 8-14 12-14 3 32
Anderson 3-7 1-2 3 7
Williams 3-13 6-9 8 12
Burns 0-1 0-0 3 0
Greene 7-9 3-5 11 17
Smith 1-5 1-2 4 4
Miller 0-4 0-0 2 0
Jackson 1-1 0-0 2 2
Player FG FT R TP
Ford 14-23 5-7 10 37
Coulter 2-6 1-2 1 5
Harman 1-4 1-2 5 4
Key-Close 3-9 1-2 3 9
Howell 1-7 0-1 7 2
Wiseman 0-1 0-0 2 0
Sheffer 0-1 2-2 2 2
3-POINTERS: JOHN HARDIN (5-18): Brandon Price 4-7, Elijah Smith 1-4, Patrick Anderson 0-1, Matt Miller 0-1, Keon Williams 0-5. LARUE COUNTY (7-23): Kelton Ford 4-9, Kody Key-Close 2-6, Thomas Harman 1-4, Tyler Howell 0-1, Micah Wiseman 0-1, Dustin Coulter 0-2. ASSISTS: JOHN HARDIN (12): Brandon Price 8, Patrick Anderson 2, Keon Williams 1, Matt Miller 1. LARUE COUNTY (4): Thomas Harman 2, Dustin Coulter 1, Tyler Howell 1.