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In his fourth season as coach at Caverna, Blake Button had never beaten 18th District rival LaRue County on the road.
Thanks to senior guard Tyrone Franklin, the coach can check that off his list.
Franklin hit 5-of-6 free throws in the final 35.6 seconds, lifting the Colonels to a 53-48 win over the Hawks for their first victory in Hodgenville since 2006.
“He played pretty well,” Button said of Franklin, who had 14 points, four rebounds and two steals. “That’s senior leadership, stepping up there at the end of the game. We expect that from him.”
The Colonels (6-1, 3-0 district) are off to their best start since winning seven straight to open the 2005-06 season under current LaRue County coach Paul Childress.
They closed this one out in frenetic fashion, pulling away by hitting 9-of-10 free throws in the final 2:07.
“That’s about the only way we know how to do it,” Button said. “We always find a way to make it exciting. We knew it was going to be a tough game coming in here. It’s a good win for us, and it’s good for us to have that type of game.”
It wasn’t the type of game the Hawks (1-4, 1-1) expected.
They struggled shooting the ball, going 19-of-57 from the field, 4-of-16 from behind the arc and 6-of-16 from the foul line.
“We’ve got to come in and push through practice,” said LaRue County junior forward Tyler Howell, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds. “We’re practicing like we’re playing right now. The last hour of practice is like the fourth quarter. We’re just really sluggish in the fourth quarter. We just need to pick it up. It all starts in practice. We’ve got to push it.”
Childress said the Hawks have also got to do a better job at rebounding, especially on the defensive end. They allowed 14 second-chance points against the Colonels.
“We just have to play,” Childress said. “We’ve got some guys banged up right now and we’re absolutely getting killed on the boards. We’re giving teams way too many second-chance points and not boxing out on free throws. It’s a matter of toughness right now. We’re just not playing tough, which is something we need to do.
“We just have to get everybody playing and not thinking too much,” he added. “Once we get guys playing well and knowing our offense, we’ll be alright. We’re a work in progress right now.”
Caverna jumped out to a 9-2 lead, prompting Childress to call for a timeout with 3:27 left in the first quarter.
The Hawks responded with a 9-2 run. After Caverna stretched the lead to 17-13 on freshman guard Mason Faulkner’s 3-pointer, LaRue County rallied again.
Sophomore guard Micah Wiseman hit a 3 and senior guard Kelton Ford hit 1-of-2 free throws to tie it at 17 at halftime.
Ford, who scored 14 points on 5-of-22 shooting, was playing with a pulled groin sustained in a loss to North Hardin.
“He gutted it out tonight. But as a team, we need to step up,” Howell said. “We’ve been relying on him too much. He can’t do it all. We have to learn how to play a full game together.”
Ford gave LaRue County a 22-17 lead on a 3-pointer with 6:45 left in the third and put the Hawks up 33-30 at the end of the period on a steal and layup.
LaRue County pushed the lead to 39-32 with 5:26 remaining as Ford hit two free throws. But Franklin had a three-point play, sophomore guard Trevor Stephens made a steal and layup and junior guard Mark Dice drained a 3 for a 40-39 lead with 3:21 left to play.
Ford’s jumper in the lane made it 41-40, before Stephens scored the next four points. After Caverna increased its lead to 48-43 with 47.4 seconds left, Wiseman hit another 3 off an assist from Ford – who had a game-high seven assists – with 38.9 seconds left to get the Hawks back in it.
“I’m not going to make excuses for him (Ford), but he probably shouldn’t have been out there tonight,” Childress said. “He’s got a pulled groin and he just wasn’t himself tonight. He gutted it out. He’s really hurting right now and it showed tonight. He kept us in the game.
“It’s just one of those games where we had to have other guys step up and we didn’t do that,” he added. “Hopefully with more games and more experience we’ll get to playing better. We’re going to get better. We’ve just to get have guys get more comfortable in those situations where we can keep playing and not go stagnant.”
CAVERNA 53, LARUE COUNTY 48
Caverna 11 6 13 23—53
LaRue County 4 13 16 15—48
Caverna (6-1, 3-0)
Trevor Stephens 14, Tyrone Franklin 14, Mason Faulkner 14, George Boyd 5, Mark Dice 3, Aaron Reed 2, Josh Davis 1. FG: 15-51. FT: 19-33. 3-pointers: 4-15 (Faulkner 1-4, Stephens 0-4, Dice 1-3, Franklin 1-2, Boyd 1-2). Rebs: 34 (Reed 7, Stephens 7). Assists: 3 (Stephens 1, Faulkner 1, Franklin 1). Steals: 12 (Stephens 3, Faulkner 3).
LaRue County (1-4, 1-1)
Kelton Ford 14, Tyler Howell 10, Kody Key-Close 7, Micah Wiseman 6, Thomas Harman 5, Caleb Sheffer 4, Dustin Coulter 2. FG: 19-57. FT: 6-16. 3-pointers: 4-17 (Ford 1-10, Micah Wiseman 2-5, Harman 1-1, Coulter 0-1). Rebs: 33 (Howell 12, Ford 6). Assists: 9 (Ford 7, Wiseman 1, Harman 1). Steals: 10 (Ford 6, Key-Close 2).
UP NEXT: LaRue County hosts Campbellsville at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.