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The John Hardin Bulldogs enter an important week of the season with two key 17th District games where they could wrap up the No. 1 seed for the postseason tournament.
The Bulldogs, though, aren’t concerned with district seeding right now. Their focus is solely on the Elizabethtown Panthers, who play at John Hardin at 7:30 tonight. The teams split last year’s meetings with each winning at home.
“I don’t want us to look at the district standings and who’s where right now,” John Hardin coach Mark Wells said. “Right now, John Hardin has to continue to get better. I thought last year we didn’t get caught up looking at district standings. I think this group is the same way. We need to stay focused and take one game at a time. Right now, our focus is E’town.”
John Hardin (13-3) is 4-0 in district play and, with wins over Elizabethtown and North Hardin on Friday, could lock up the top seed. Meanwhile, Elizabethtown (9-4) is 2-2 and needs a victory to stay in the running for the No. 1 seed.
“I really enjoy competing against good quality teams, and they are a really good team,” Elizabethtown coach James Haire said. “Sometimes it brings out the best in teams, and sometimes it’s doesn’t. It’s time for us to start growing up. We need to come prepared to play hard every night, just like we need to come prepared to practice hard every day. We’re seeing some improvements, but we need to keep getting better.”
Elizabethtown and John Hardin have contrasting styles. The Panthers, who are coming off a 58-37 loss to Henderson County on Saturday, rely on post players Zane Najdawi and Dominique Harding. The duo combined for 32 points in a 73-65 victory over North Hardin last week.
“First of all, they have great balance,” Wells said. “They has great size inside, which we haven’t seen a lot this season. It’s one thing to have size, but when you have guards who can shot and penetrate like them, that’s what makes them so dangerous. Their size is a major concern because they do a great job of getting the ball to their bigs.”
John Hardin, which has won five straight, counters with its quickness. The Bulldogs are forcing teams into 18.6 turnovers a game with their full-court relentless pressure which sparks their offense.
While their defense could pose a problem for the Panthers, Haire said John Hardin is just as lethal on the offensive end. The Bulldogs have four players – seniors Brandon Price and Daveon Greene and juniors Keon Williams and Patrick Anderson – averaging nine or more points.
“They have great foot speed,” Haire said. “They are aggressive on both ends of the floor. It looks like they have the ability to score from seven or eight positions on the floor. They get the ball down the floor and in the bucket so fast. We have to get back on defense. We can’t give up layups or it’s going to be a long night. They are playing well right now.”
The good news for the Bulldogs is they should have Price back after missing the last four games because of a sprained ankle. Despite not having Price, they continued winning, having playing like Anderson and Williams step up in his absence.
“I think we grew from not having Brandon, we definitely grew from it,” Wells said. “We saw different guys step up. I think it gives all our guys confidence that we can win without him. I don’t know if we had that mindset earlier in the season.”
The news isn’t as good for the Panthers, who will be without junior guard Nic McDonald. He has been sidelined for six games with a toe injury on his left foot and Haire is unsure when McDonald might return.
The Trojans host the Meade County Green Wave tonight at 7:30. Meade County won last year’s meeting, 66-61 to snap a three-game skid to the Trojans.
North Hardin (13-6) has been on a roll lately, winning four of its last five, while Meade County (6-12) is heading the opposite direction, dropping two straight and five of its last seven.
In other action, LaRue County (10-5) plays at Barren County (13-4). In girls’ games, LaRue County (11-4) takes on Barren County (5-10), and Fort Knox (1-13) plays at Louisville Collegiate (7-5).
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com.