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The first three quarters were an example of the type of basketball team the John Hardin Bulldogs hope to be this season.
The Bulldogs whipped passes around defenders, passed ahead to open teammates running the floor and made touch passes with ease near the basket to lead to easy baskets in their 78-42 victory over the Fort Knox Eagles in a 17th District game at the Dawg Pound.
“I think this shows how great we can be,” said junior forward Keon Williams, who had 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists. “We don’t care who has the most points as long as we get the win. We’re all unselfish. We just want to win.”
John Hardin had 16 assists on 31 baskets. In their season-opening loss to Henderson County, the Bulldogs dished out 11 assists. Many of the passes led to easy baskets, which explains how they shot 53.4 percent (31-of-58) from the field.
“I think being unselfish is what defines this team,” said junior guard Patrick Anderson, who scored 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting. “This team looks for each other. I think everybody knows their points will come if we can share the ball like that.”
John Hardin coach Mark Wells said his team was almost too unselfish at times. Of the Bulldogs’ 13 turnovers, nearly half of them came on players trying to make an extra pass for a better shot.
At the same time, it’s what fueled the lopsided victory as four players reached double figures and 11 of the 12 Bulldogs scored. Besides Anderson and Williams, senior point guard Brandon Price scored 13 points and senior forward Daveon Greene added 11.
“That’s going to be the key for this,” Wells said. “We’re going to need to get balance like that. We had a lot of unselfish play. I’ve never had to say something to players about being too unselfish. When we got ourselves in trouble, it was usually because we were trying to pass the ball too much. But I’d rather have it that way than the opposite.”
Wells was disappointed with the team’s rebounding and defense against Henderson County, but the Bulldogs made strides in both Tuesday. Fort Knox made only 15-of-36 shots (41.7 percent). John Hardin held a 37-20 rebounding advantage and gave up only six offensive boards.
“That’s a good sign that were growing a team,” Anderson said. “We worked hard in practice on rebounding and I think it showed. We were still a step slow on defense, but still we showed a lot of improvement.”
John Hardin (1-1, 1-0 district) used its full-court pressure defense to wreck havoc on the Eagles (0-4, 0-2). The Bulldogs forced 28 turnovers, including 21 in the first two quarters to build a 27-point halftime lead.
“We spent the following practice after the loss working on rebounding and defense,” Williams said. “That was really our focus. I think our press was pretty good. We got some steals and we got some behind the back taps for steals. That’s a good sign of growth.”
Leading 4-1, the Bulldogs reeled off eight straight points behind Williams and Anderson. Williams scored on a putback and then made 1-of-2 free throws. Anderson converted a three-point play and Williams capped the run with a dunk off a steal for a 12-1 lead with 4:13 left in the first quarter.
Greene scored the first six points of the second quarter before Anderson and Price had back-to-back layups off of Fort Knox turnovers to stretch the lead to 30-10 with 5:56 remaining before halftime.
John Hardin closed the half with a 9-0 spurt sparked by its defense. Price made a runner in a lane, Williams had another dunk, Price drove in for a layup and Anderson converted a three-point play for a 48-21 halftime lead.
“I thought we made some improvements,” Wells said. “We got out of practice routine and worked strictly on defense and rebounding. We told them before the game, ‘Let’s take what we did in practice and apply it in the game.’ We still have room for improvement.”
Leading 52-24, the Bulldogs ended the third quarter on a 16-0 run to build a 68-24 lead and start the running clock, a new KHSAA rule which begins once a team is ahead by at least 35 points.
The lone bright spot for Fort Knox was junior Michael Powell, who scored a game-high 26 points.
UP NEXT: John Hardin plays at Bardstown on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Fort Knox hosts Whitefield Academy on Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com.