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Trailing by one on the road with 6:44 to go in the second quarter Tuesday night, John Hardin changed its press and the Bulldogs re-examined their defensive effort.
Then, they made it one long night for 17th District rival Fort Knox.
Spurred by a 19-0 run in the second quarter and an 18-0 spurt in the third, the Bulldogs rolled to a 102-50 win. John Hardin forced 24 turnovers as it changed its press – going from a zone trap, to a 1-3-1 and a handful of other looks.
“(We played) better defense. I think early on we were giving them open shots, no hands up. They’re a good team; they’re going to knock them down,” said senior guard Brandon Price, who scored 22 points. “We changed our defense, played with a little more effort. That’s our game – getting stops and scoring.”
Their defense even helped them make some school history as the Bulldogs, who recorded 12 steals, eclipsed the 100-point plateau for the first time since the program began in 2001.
Thanks to some help from North Hardin, John Hardin (15-3, 6-0 district) also clinched the top seed for February’s district tournament. The Trojans rallied past Elizabethtown for a 50-47 win.
Winners of seven straight, the Bulldogs haven’t lost since falling 52-51 to Cincinnati Princeton, Ohio, on Dec. 29 in Lexington Catholic’s Republic Bank Holiday Classic.
Even with senior center Daveon Greene (shoulder injury) sitting out, it didn’t matter as they extended their winning streak against area teams to 13 games.
John Hardin scored the first 13 points with senior guard Patrick Anderson, sophomore guard Elijah Smith and Price each hitting 3-pointers and junior forward Keon Williams sinking four straight free throws. Williams finished with 15 points, while John Hardin finished 9-of-14 from the arc.
The Eagles stormed back. They broke the Bulldogs’ press with their patience. Senior guard Rashaan Allen, junior wing Michael Powell and junior guard Michael Armstead waited and passed past the trap.
Allen scored seven of his team-high 11 points in the first quarter to help the Eagles rally and junior guard Kyle Gibson hit 1-of-2 free throws to tie the score at 18 with 44.5 seconds left in the period.
Fort Knox took a 21-20 lead on Armstead’s 3 with 6:44 left in the second quarter, prompting Bulldogs coach Mark Wells to dump the original press and try a new one.
Did it ever work.
John Hardin scored 19 straight points, and at one point forced Fort Knox (5-12, 0-6) into six straight turnovers near halfcourt.
“They handled our press well early in the game. That’s a credit to (Fort Knox) coach (Kip) Rambo. He had his team prepared for the press. We had to get out of our normal press and go to some backup things that we do,” Wells said. “But I thought that we wore their legs down eventually, which is a goal – something we try to do every night.”
John Hardin took a 48-29 lead at halftime and it ballooned to 70-34 in the third quarter thanks to its second spurt. Smith, who had a team-high three steals, scored six of his nine points in the third.
“I think more of it had to do with effort. At first, we let them get on a little bit of a run but I think it was more effort that changed,” said Anderson, who scored a game-high 27 points by hitting 11-of-15 shots. “We came out more intense.”
Allen acknowledged the Eagles rushed too much.
“We executed what we were supposed to do and then we started getting back to our old habits and started to throw the ball away,” said Allen, who also pulled down seven rebounds. “We just start rushing. We can’t rush. If we don’t rush we’re fine. We’ve just got to be patient.”
Armstead led the Eagles with 13 points, while junior wing Xavier Luckey added 10.
UP NEXT: John Hardin hosts Louisville Western at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Fort Knox plays at Louisville Valley at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
John Groth can be reached at (270) 505-1754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.