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The LaRue County Hawks nearly experienced déjà vu Friday night at home against 18th District rival Hart County.
After getting out to a huge lead and holding on for a four-point road victory in December against the Raiders, the Hawks had it happen again. This time, they watched a pair of 17-point leads whittle down to four before emerging with a 46-38 win.
“Can’t you just put ‘Hawks win’ and go on?” sighed veteran LaRue County coach Paul Childress. “Do you really have to write anything about this one?”
What this one turned into was another late collapse for the somehow-surging Hawks (10-5, 3-1 district), who have won six straight and 9-of-10. However, in most of those games, they’ve watched big leads disappear.
“It’s nothing the other teams are doing,” said LaRue County senior point guard Kelton “Putt Putt” Ford, who had game highs in points (15) and steals (three) and matched junior forward Tyler Howell in game bests in rebounds (eight) and assists (three). “It’s all us. We’re coming out flat in the second half and settling for jump shots instead of taking it to the rim like we were in the first half.”
LaRue County never trailed and took a pair of 17-point leads in the final 2 minutes of the first half. The Raiders opened the second half with a 17-4 run to pull within 31-27 with 2:35 left in the third quarter on a left-side drive by senior guard Tailor Lile.
“We’ve been able to come out and get off to a good start in our last five, six, seven games,” Childress said. “But it also seems like any time we get up double figures, we lose focus so quickly. We don’t have a good handle on how to be consistent and keep playing well. We had way too many lulls.”
Another reason the Raiders rallied was because they slowed down Ford, who scored only three points after halftime. At the start of the second quarter, the Raiders switched to a box-and-chaser defense (2-2 zone with a man chasing Ford).
“That was pretty much it,” Ford said. “I didn’t capitalize on any of the open shots I did have, but their box-and-chaser did slow me down.”
Sophomore Caleb Sheffer made a jumper to push LaRue County’s lead to 40-28, but the Hawks made just one field goal – a 3-pointer by sophomore Micah Wiseman – in the final 7:31. Senior guard Dustin Coulter made 3-of-4 free throws in the final minute to keep the Raiders at bay. Sheffer and Wiseman finished with 10 points each off the bench.
“Right now, we need to find a flow to our offense,” Childress said. “You can have six or seven minutes when you don’t make a field goal.”
Junior guard Justin Riffle scored a team-high nine points for the Raiders (8-8, 2-4), who are 1-4 on the road and will be the fourth seed in next month’s district tournament in Munfordville. Sophomore Caleb Bunnell added eight points and a game-high 13 rebounds for Hart County.
If the Hawks win their remaining district games (Jan. 25 at Caverna and Feb. 1 at Green County), LaRue County would be the No. 1 seed and face the Raiders for a third and final time in the district tournament semifinals.
LARUECOUNTY 46, HART COUNTY 38
Hart County 7 3 17 11—38
LaRue County 10 17 9 10—46
HartCounty (8-8, 2-4)
Justin Riffle 9, Caleb Bunnell 8, Ross Thompson 7, Stewart Nichols 6, Tailor Lile 5, Trey Johnson 3. FG: 13-37. FT: 11-16. 3-pointers: 1-9 (Riffle 1-4, Johnson 0-2, Lile 0-2, Green 0-1). Rebs: 26 (Bunnell 13). Assists: 3 (Three with 1). Steals: 6 (Lile 2).
Kelton Ford 15, Caleb Sheffer 10, Micah Wiseman 10, Tyler Howell 4, Dustin Coulter 3, Kody Key-Close 2, Dalton Metcalf 2. FG: 16-44. FT: 11-20. 3-pointers: 3-16 (Wiseman 2-6, Ford 1-5, Coulter 0-2, Thomas Harman 0-2, Howell 0-1). Rebs: 26 (Ford 8, Howell 8). Assists: 8 (Ford 3, Howell 3). Steals: 10 (Ford 3).
UP NEXT: LaRue County plays at Barren County at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the second game of a girl/boy doubleheader.
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org.