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John Hardin has two stars in seniors Brandon Price and Daveon Greene, but the high-scoring Bulldogs are far from a two-man show.
Friday night, they made that point very clear to the North Hardin Trojans.
With Price shaking off the rust from a four-game layoff and Greene sitting out the final 5:29 with an injury, the Bulldogs found production from other players on their way to a hard-fought 63-52 victory in a 17th District game at Ron Bevars Gymnasium.
“No matter who’s on the court, we still need to execute our offense,” said John Hardin junior guard Patrick Anderson, who had 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists. “Other guys came in and did a good job. Daveon and Brandon are a big part of our team, but other guys stepped up. That’s what championship teams do.”
John Hardin, which won the district and 5th Region tournaments last season, is showing it still has that championship pedigree. With the victory, the Bulldogs (14-3, 5-0 in district) can finish no worse than the second seed for the district tournament after extending their winning streak to six.
“I’m pleased to get out of here with a win,” John Hardin coach Mark Wells said. “They always play well here and this is always a tough place to play. I was proud of them for hanging in there mentally and surviving with a win. We knew Brandon would be rusty, but we got good games from other people and efforts like that help a whole lot.”
Price played for the first time since spraining an ankle against Ohio County on Dec. 30. Price struggled, scoring only six points on 3-of-13 shooting, but he dished out a game-high five assists.
Greene led the Bulldogs with 17 points, six rebounds and three assists before leaving the game with a right shoulder injury with 5:29 left. The forward entered the game with his right hand heavily bandaged.
North Hardin, which lost for only the third time in its last 11 games, weathered John Hardin’s initial surge, even coming back to take a lead, but the Bulldogs’ final spurt was the one that did the Trojans (14-7, 3-3) in.
“We competed tonight,” North Hardin coach Ron Bevars said. “But we made a lot of mistakes. We dug ourselves a hole too early and that’s tough to climb out of. I think fatigue sort of set in there in the fourth quarter because we only played six players for a majority of the game and we lost our focus.
“We’ve made great strides since we played them in December,” he added. “We were never really in that game. We have gotten better and we still have a month to go until the (district) tournament starts.”
Leading by two points early in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs closed the game with a 21-12 run. North Hardin had pulled within 42-40 on a putback by sophomore guard Tyronn King, who finished with a team-high 16 points, 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, and had a chance to tie or take the lead but missed a 3-pointer.
The Bulldogs began to pull away on back-to-back layups by Greene and Price. After a short runner by junior forward Khalil Rasheed, Greene made consecutive baskets, crashing to the ground after getting fouled hard on the second one. Freshman guard Matt Miller came off the bench to make the free throw to push the lead to 51-42 with 5:29 left.
Price buried a 15-footer to stretch the lead to 11, and after Rasheed hit two free throws, sophomore guard Elijah Smith and Anderson made consecutive layups to take a 57-44 lead. John Hardin led by 10 or more points the final 3:50 of the game.
“Composure,” Greene said. “That’s the one word to describe it. That’s what my old high school coach always used to stress to us. This is a tough place to play. It’s easy to get distracted by the crowd. We had to prepare for that and people talking to you, but we kept our composure.”
This looked like it might be another runaway win for the Bulldogs in the early stages. They built a 14-3 lead less than 6 minutes into the game. They did it with their defense, forcing eight turnovers. Greene sparked the run with six points and an assist to Anderson for a layup.
Trailing 22-10 with 5:02 remaining, the Trojans sliced the lead to four at halftime and senior guard Scotty Sterusky, who had 11 points and seven rebounds, scored seven points to open the second half to give North Hardin a 30-29 lead – its first since 3-2.
Anderson answered with four consecutive points, and after senior guard Ruben Gosa made 2-of-4 free throws, senior Adryan Jackson converted a three-point play to lift John Hardin to a 36-32 lead with 2:59 remaining.
“We were a little rusty,” said John Hardin junior forward Keon Williams, who had 14 points and six rebounds. “I think not playing on Tuesday showed at time. But you have to give them credit because they were aggressive on both ends of the floor. But we never get too down no matter what the score is. We’re going to fight and go for the win.”
UP NEXT: John Hardin plays at Fort Knox at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. North Hardin hosts Elizabethtown at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.