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With his team leading by just six points on the road against longtime rival Meade County at halftime Thursday, Cody Elmore wanted to pick up the intensity and give his team a boost entering the postseason.
The senior forward put the Central Hardin Bruins on his back in the third quarter, leading them to a win in both teams’ regular-season finales.
Elmore scored 12 of his team-high 20 points in the third as the Bruins pulled away from the Green Wave, 70-51.
“I got open shots and they did a good job of getting me the ball when I was open to knock them down,” said Elmore, who was 5-of-11 from beyond the arc and had seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Elmore hit a 3-pointer to help Central Hardin (12-12) extend its lead to 38-27 with 6:10 left in the third. Veteran Meade County coach Jerry Garris called a timeout, hoping to get his team refocused.
“I felt pretty good at halftime,” he said. “But we did the same thing we’ve done a half-dozen times this year when we come out in the third quarter. We turn it over, they make a shot and it goes from six to 11. Basically, it’s over in two possessions. We’ve done that a bunch to start the third quarter. We’re not going to come back on anybody.
“I know it’s going to happen,” Garris added. “I don’t know why we’re like that. We just lose focus, and it’s been like that all year.”
After the Green Wave (9-19) sliced their deficit to 40-32 on a 3 by senior guard Bryce Garris, the Bruins pulled away again. Senior center Tyler McCullough scored inside and Elmore hit two free throws and buried a 3 off an assist from senior guard Andy Kerr for a 47-32 advantage.
“Cody had a great game for us,” said Central Hardin coach J.C. Wright. “It’s big for him. He’s struggled shooting the last few games, but he’s a shooter. When he’s feeling it, you’ve got to feed him the ball. He played extremely well for us.”
Jerry Garris burned his final timeout with 3:01 left in the period.
Bryce Garris, who scored a game-high 27 points, said it was frustrating to watch the Bruins’ third-quarter run because the Green Wave thought this was a game they could win.
Instead, Meade County enters the 11th District Tournament having lost two of its last three.
“We’ve been in that situation before, where we were down by a small margin and we come out in the second half and turn the ball over and miss a few shots and get our heads down and they go on a run,” Bryce Garris said. “They just took over the game. We thought we had a little bit of the momentum after halftime, but they just took it away.”
Elmore hit his fifth 3 and McCullough made a baseline jumper to make it 52-33 with 1:30 left in the third. The Bruins led 55-41 going to the fourth quarter.
“You want to be playing well at this time of year, especially on the road. That’s what you want to do,” Wright said. “At half, they hit that last-second shot to cut it to six and we knew we had to come out and quit giving them easy looks. With Bryce shooting the way he was, we needed to know where he was. It was good to see the guys step up.”
Meade County made one final comeback attempt in the fourth, trimming its deficit to 60-48 when Bryce Garris made a layup while being fouled with 5:59 left to play. He missed the free throw, and Central Hardin led by 14 or more the rest of the way.
Junior guard Jacob Barnes chipped in with 14 points, two steals and two assists for the Bruins, who were playing without senior guard Alex Crowder. Junior forward Dillon Glenn added nine points off the bench, and McCullough had eight points, four rebounds and two assists.
It was the final home game for Bryce and Jerry Garris, who announced his retirement earlier this year.
“Jerry and I are good friends and I have a lot of respect for him,” Wright said. “He’s done a good job over here with the program. It’s time for him to get out, and I think he’s going to enjoy it. I hope nothing but the best for him. We’ve had some battles, and it’s always been good between us.”
CENTRAL HARDIN 70, MEADE COUNTY 51
Central Hardin 16 17 22 15—70
Meade County 9 18 14 10—51
Central Hardin (12-12)
Cody Elmore 20, Jacob Barnes 14, Dillon Glenn 9, Tyler McCullough 8, Justin Rouse 7, Troy Squires 6, T.J. Gordon 4, Andy Kerr 2. FG: 28-48. FT: 4-6. 3-pointers: 10-24 (Elmore 5-11, Squires 2-4, Barnes 1-3, Rouse 1-2, Kerr 0-2, Glenn 1-1, McCullough 0-1). Rebs: 29 (Elmore 7, Gordon 5). Assists: 19 (Kerr 5, Elmore 4). Steals: 10 (Four with 2).
Meade County (9-19)
Bryce Garris 27, John Michael Millay 13, Luke Wilson 5, Charles Mattingly 2, Connor Williams 2, John Wilson 2. FG: 18-41. FT: 7-15. 3-pointers: 8-24 (Garris 5-13, Millay 3-7, J. Wilson 0-2, John Miller 0-1, Kase Mattingly 0-1). Rebs: 21 (Zeb Wilson 3, L. Wilson 3, Williams 3). Assists: 14 (J. Wilson 4, Garris 3). Steals: 5 (Garris 3, Z. Wilson 1, Mattingly 1).
UP NEXT: Central Hardin plays North Hardin at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in the 17th District Tournament semifinals at John Hardin. Meade County plays Hancock County at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the 11th District Tournament semifinals at Hancock County.
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.