BOYS' PREP BASKETBALL: Central, North heading in opposite directions (01/07)

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By Ryan O'Gara

It’s been two completely different types of seasons for the Central Hardin Bruins and the North Hardin Trojans.

The Bruins (8-4) have won three in a row and 5-of-6, while the Trojans (2-11) have dropped their last two and 8-of-9 overall.

But they do have one thing in common: both are 0-2 in 17th District play, making tonight’s game at North Hardin crucial for each.

“Anytime you play anyone in district, it’s important, but when you’re both 0-2, it’s huge,” North Hardin coach Mike Cofer said. “Both teams are still in the mix.”

The game will tip at approximately 7:30 – weather permitting, of course – as Monday’s cancelled district girls’ game between John Hardin and North Hardin will start at 6.

Both schools are off today because of freezing temperatures, which has made scheduling practices difficult. While North Hardin was able to fit in a practice Monday, Central Hardin wasn’t allowed to, though it will have a walk-through today.

The game will be a reunion for Cofer and Central Hardin coach J.C. Wright. Cofer was an assistant under Wright from 2002-06 when Wright first took over at Central Hardin.

“When I was first starting out, I looked up to him,” Cofer said. “He’s done a heck of job there. They are always well coached, play hard and play together.”

Cofer’s first season at the helm after taking over for longtime coach Ron Bevars has been a challenging one. North Hardin lost on a last-second 3-pointer to Fort Knox and led by as many as 15 in a loss to John Hardin.

“They’ve had a rough start but they’ve played one of the toughest schedules around,” Wright said of North Hardin. “They have a young squad and their schedule is only going to help them get better for tournament time.”

North Hardin is coming off a 73-56 to Owensboro Apollo last Saturday in which it shot 44 percent (18-of-41) from the free-throw line. Senior Kevon Davis led the Trojans with 20 points.

Despite the struggles, Cofer has seen signs of progress. They just aren’t translating into wins yet.

“We’re getting good shots, we’re just not making them,” Cofer said. “Defensively, at times we play really well; at times, we give up too many easy baskets.”

Central Hardin is fresh off a dominating 26-point win over Owensboro Catholic on Saturday in which it shot 51 percent (24-of-47) and held the Aces to 35 percent from the field and one assist.

Senior forward Dillon Glenn and senior guard Jacob Barnes have been consistent options on offense, and the Bruins become even harder to defend on nights like Saturday, when they had nine players score.

While Wright is concerned with North Hardin’s quickness and athleticism – especially in the backcourt, which the Bruins have struggled defending at times this season – he is more fixated on continuing to play well, particularly on defense.

“You’re worried about the other team, but we have to continue to work on our weaknesses and strengthening them up as well,” Wright said. “District games are important but it’s more important to keep playing well.”

In their two district losses, the Bruins have been victims of big runs. Central Hardin allowed Elizabethtown to go on a 27-1 spurt in the second and third quarters in a seven-point loss Dec. 13, and four days later, John Hardin used a game-opening 18-2 run to win by 19.

“It’ll be a game of runs and most games are,” Wright said. “You have to limit those runs and overcome them. You don’t want a slow start to get yourselves in a hole.”

Ryan O’Gara can be reached at 270-505-1754 or rogara@thenewsenterprise.com.