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The North Hardin Trojans watched their lead disappear, but they regained their composure to make sure they didn’t let a win slip away.
The Trojans built a 13-point lead early in the third quarter before the Central Hardin Bruins came roaring back behind the play of senior guard Troy Squires to take their first lead of the game in the fourth quarter. The Bruins led 54-51 with less than 2 minutes after a Squires layup.
North Hardin senior guard Ruben Gosa, though, willed his team to victory, scoring six straight points to close the game, and senior center Tyler Landry blocked Central Hardin’s 3-pointer at the buzzer to secure a 57-54 win Wednesday night in a 17th District game on Terry Buckles Court at Bruin Gym.
“My team needed me,” said Gosa, who finished with a team-high 14 points. “With me having an off shooting night the first half, I needed to play better the second half. I’m the point guard of this team. My team gave me the ball. They gave me the game. I couldn’t let them down.”
It was exactly what the Trojans (10-5) needed after losing their last district game before Christmas. They wanted to start off the New Year with a win, which put them in second place at 2-1 and dropped Central Hardin to third at 1-2.
“It was a pretty important game,” said Landry, who recorded a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. He also blocked seven shots. “All that really counts at the end of the year is district games. That determines everything. To come out and beat Central Hardin which beat E’town, that’s big for us. We have another district game Friday, so we have to stay focused.”
It was a disappointing loss for the Bruins, who trailed by 12 at halftime before rallying behind Squires, who scored 22 of his game-high 30 points in the final 16 minutes.
“We fought so hard to come back,” Central Hardin coach J.C. Wright said. “Troy led us. He put us on his shoulders. We started making some shots and we started rebounding and playing defense better. It all goes hand in hand. We had a couple bad turnovers at the end and you can’t do those things against good ballclubs. You have to credit them as well because they played hard.”
Central Hardin took its first lead at 45-43 when Squires drained a 3-pointer and then senior Alex Crowder hit two free throws to stretch the margin to four with 5:41 remaining.
North Hardin came back to tie the score at 47 on a Scotty Sterusky tip-in and a Landry putback. Squires answered with his sixth 3-pointer, but the Trojans knotted the score at 50.
Crowder connected on two free throws with 3:40 remaining and Squires’ layup pushed the lead to 54-51 with 1:51 left.
Gosa was fouled driving to the basket and hit both free throws, and after a Central Hardin turnover, he made two more to give North Hardin a 55-54 lead with 1:24 left. Prior to the fourth quarter, Gosa was 0-for-3 from the foul line, but made all seven attempts in the final period.
“It was all mental,” Gosa said. “I like to have the ball in the clutch. It’s very mental at that point.”
After another Central Hardin turnover, sophomore guard Tyronn King fed Gosa for a layup on a fastbreak. The Bruins had two chances to tie, but misfired on the first 3-pointer and Landry blocked the other.
“I saw him (Crowder) looking for an open man to pass it to,” Landry said. “I almost got the pass when he threw it to the corner. I knew he (Tyler McCullough) was a long, slow shooter, so I knew I could get it. I knew when he caught it, he couldn’t get it off in time.”
The Trojans built an 18-8 lead in the first quarter and it swelled to 28-16 at halftime behind junior forward Khalil Rasheed, who scored nine of his 13 points in the first half.
North Hardin stretched the lead to 31-18 after a layup by senior Nick Lewis, but the Bruins slowly chipped away and tied the score at 40 on a Squires 3-pointer.
“You have to give them a lot of credit,” North Hardin coach Ron Bevars said. “They didn’t get even though they were down by 13. We gambled way too much in the third quarter. We were gambling and they took advantage of it. We were in foul trouble and had some adversity, but give our kids credit to. Down the stretch we did what we had to do.”
UP NEXT: North Hardin plays at Fort Knox at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Central Hardin hosts Elizabethtown at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Chuck Jonescan be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com.