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The John Hardin Bulldogs were not in a celebratory mood despite rolling to their 13th consecutive victory Tuesday night.
Although the seventh-ranked Bulldogs easily dispatched of the Marion County Knights, 85-67 at the Roby Dome, they weren’t pleased with how they got the win.
“It was a tough night,” said John Hardin senior point guard Brandon Price, who had 14 points and eight assists. “We had no intensity what so ever. We walked through the motion. Since I’ve been at John Hardin we’ve been known for our defense and this team doesn’t seem to be getting that message.”
John Hardin, which matched its longest winning streak since the 2010-11 team began the season with 13 wins, built a comfortable lead late in the second quarter, but never managed to put the Knights away.
“We were being lazy on defense,” said John Hardin sophomore Elijah Smith, who scored a team-high 19 points. “We were thinking more about offense than defense. That’s not the way we play. We need to pick it up more in practice and focus more on defense.”
Coach Mark Wells wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort on the defensive end. The Knights had 16 offensive rebounds and John Hardin only forced 16 turnovers.
“Effort is the key word,” Wells said. “I thought Marion County outhustled us. They played extremely hard and we didn’t. It was a lack of consistency. We played well in spurts. We talk about playing hard and doing things the right way. We played hard, but we didn’t do things correctly.”
The bright spots were John Hardin’s offense and Smith’s performance. The Bulldogs shot 50 percent from the field and had 21 assists on 34 baskets.
Smith led the Bulldogs in scoring for the first time this season. He made 7-of-11 shots from the field, including going 4-for-6 behind the 3-point arc.
“Elijah’s our best shooter and one of the best shooters in the region I think,” Wells said. “He stepped up and played with confidence. Elijah was due. He’s had some great practices, so it’s good to see it translate into a game. I’m sure that will lift his confidence.”
Smith said he worked with assistant coach Jared McCurry to iron out his shooting. Smith was shooting 37.9 percent from the field and 32.1 percent on 3-pointers.
“I think it’s big,” Smith said. “I worked with Coach McCurry and he helped me with some things I was doing wrong. They’ve talked to me about having more confidence and this gives me a lot of confidence.”
John Hardin led 19-8 after a layup by senior forward Daveon Greene, who scored 18 points, with 7:46 left before halftime, but Marion County sliced the lead to 23-21 on a 3-pointer by junior guard Alex Smith.
The Bulldogs responded with a 16-3 run to close the first half to build a 39-24 lead. Marion County missed six consecutive shots and committed three turnovers after pulling within two.
After layup by senior forward Vincent Collins to start the second half, junior forward Keon Williams, who had 16 points and seven rebounds, hit a layup and Price made back-to-back layups.
Leading 47-30, Smith drained a 3-pointer, Price made another layup and then Smith converted a three-point play as the Bulldogs reeled off eight straight points to extend the lead to 55-30.
Marion County cut John Hardin’s lead to 73-60 with 4 minutes remaining, but junior guard Patrick Anderson and Smith nailed consecutive 3s to squash any comeback hopes.
“They are very difficult to defend because they have top athletes,” Marion County coach Montrell Irvin said. “They never drop off even when they go to their bench. They just wore us down. I’m very pleased with our effort but we can only last so long. You hope to hang in there and be close at the end. But that wasn’t the case.”
JOHN HARDIN 85, MARION COUNTY 67
John Hardin 17 22 24 22—85
Marion County 8 16 21 22—67
John Hardin (21-3)
Elijah Smith 19, Daveon Greene 18, Keon Williams 16, Brandon Price 14, Ricky Burns 6, Patrick Anderson 5, Matt Miller 4, Johannesburg Boulware 2, Marcus Goree 1. FG: 34-68. FT: 11-21. 3-pointers: 6-16 (Smith 4-6, Anderson 1-4, Williams 1-5, Price 0-1). Rebs: 41 (Anderson 7, Williams 7). Assists: 21 (Price 8).
Marion County (11-15)
Latrelle Irvin 26, Alex Smith 14, Anton Cowherd 8, Vincent Collins 7, Clay Lanham 3, Brandon Knopp 3, Chase Lancaster 2. Anthony Mattingly 2, Jalen Powell 2. FG: 23-58. FT: 17-21. 3-pointers: 4-22 (Smith 3-9, Lanham 1-4, Lancaster 0-5, Irvin 0-2, Knopp 0-2). Rebs: 36 (Irvin 11). Assists: 7 (Lancaster 3).
UP NEXT: John Hardin hosts Louisville Eastern at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com.