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With junior starting point guard Jermaine Ruttley hospitalized in Louisville and likely done for the season, the North Hardin Trojans plan on using a by-committee approach to handling the ball.
Whether senior Trevino Coney keeps the job or the Trojans continue with a divide-and-conquer tactic, this much is certain – get the ball to Jordan Brangers.
The sophomore shooting guard scored a career-high 30 points, mostly on assists from Coney, and the Trojans opened the season with a103-66 win Friday against visiting 17th District rival Fort Knox.
Coney found Brangers early and often on the left wing as Brangers buried three of his eight 3-pointers in the opening 3 minutes.
“When I caught the ball, they were leaving me open. And if I’m open, I’m going to shoot,” said Brangers, who scored his team’s first 13 points.
Brangers sat the final 4 minutes of the first quarter after picking up his second foul. He had a hard time getting back in a groove in the second quarter, missing his first three attempts from the arc.
He soon regained his touch, knocking down 5-of-7 shots from the arc in the final 6:32 of the half as the Trojans (1-0 overall, 1-0 district) cruised into the break with a 53-31 lead.
“I realized early on he was in a zone and that’s why I kept getting him the ball. He was definitely in a rhythm tonight and it seemed like everything he took was going in,” said Coney, who just missed a triple-double with 13 points, nine assists and nine rebounds.
Brangers and Coney weren’t the only players to torment the smaller Eagles.
Jauan Akins, the Trojans’ new 6-foot-5 junior wing, had 21 points, five rebounds and two blocks. He scored 13 points in the third quarter as the Eagles, his former team, chose to focus defensively more on Brangers instead of their ex-teammate.
“I had to take advantage with them keep talking mess to me,” Akins said.
Senior forward Chris Sterusky nearly notched a double-double with 14 rebounds and nine points. Junior Adam Hendrix, who was mostly a reserve post player last year behind Area Player of the Year Roosevelt Emerson, added 19 points and a game-high 15 rebounds for the Trojans.
North Hardin won its 30th consecutive game in the gym named for its coach, Ron Bevars, who moved within 14 wins to tie Clay County legend Bobby Keith as the Kentucky Basketball Coaches’ Association’s all-time varsity wins leader.
“Everyone on this team can score and we can all make plays,” Coney said. “But we still have a lot of work to do to get where we want to be.”
As does Fort Knox (1-2, 0-1), which lost its 36th consecutive district game and remains winless against the Trojans in Radcliff since 1992.
Fort Knox, playing without ill senior guard Gadiel Mendez, only had one starter (senior London Moore, who played point guard most of the night) taller than 5-11, while the Trojans countered with a lineup with only one starter (Coney) shorter than 6-1. The Trojans’ overwhelming size showed as North Hardin outrebounded the Eagles 69-35 and scored 25 points off 34 offensive rebounds.
Moore and senior guard Brandon Cullum scored 21 points each for Fort Knox, which is winless in its last eight meetings with the Trojans since Jan. 12, 2007. Moore added seven rebounds and a game-high five blocks. Senior guard Jermell Rogers overcame a rough night from the field (2-of-11) to finish with 10 points and a team-high three assists.
Like Coney, Akins said the Trojans should be pleased but not satisfied as they matched their school record with 90 field-goal attempts – missing 50 – committed 20 fouls and had four players with multiple turnovers.
“We had a few unnecessary fouls and turnovers and we don’t need that. And if we’re going to win the region (tournament), we can’t have that,” Akins said.
Winning the region, which the Trojans did last year, could be more difficult while the Trojans’ minds are with Ruttley, who broke his leg in two places in a scrimmage. Since the surgery, Bevars said Ruttley has had kidney problems.
Bevars said he hoped Ruttley could be taken off dialysis this weekend while he recuperates at Norton Hospital.
“We’re optimistic. He’s got good people working on him and he’s in a great place to be,” Bevars said. “I hate it for Jermaine because he’s the hardest-working young man that I’ve ever coached, bar none. This game is very important to him.”
UP NEXT: North Hardin hosts Glasgow at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Fort Knox plays at district rival John Hardin at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at (270) 505-1758 or at email@example.com
FortKnox 7 2418 17—66
North Hardin 26 2729 21—103
Team FG FT R TP
FortKnox 22-60 14-27 35 66
North Hardin 40-90 12-21 69 103
Player FG FT R TP
Cullum 8-18 2-2 2 21
Moore 7-15 5-11 7 21
Rogers 2-11 4-6 3 10
Orange 3-6 1-2 7 7
Carney 1-2 0-2 0 3
Raj 1-4 0-0 3 2
Cain Booth 0-1 1-2 1 1
Parton 0-0 1-2 0 1
Samuel 0-3 0-0 4 0
Player FG FT R TP
Brangers 11-20 0-1 4 30
Akins 9-20 2-4 5 21
Hendrix 8-15 3-3 15 19
Coney 5-9 2-4 9 13
C. Sterusky 4-11 1-2 14 9
Martin 2-3 0-0 1 5
Brunson 1-7 1-3 10 3
Landry 0-1 3-4 2 3
Nelson 0-1 0-0 2 0
S. Sterusky 0-1 0-0 0 0
White 0-2 0-0 2 0
3-POINTERS: FORT KNOX (8-25): Brandon Cullum 3-9, London Moore 2-6, Jermell Rogers 2-6, Andrew Carney 1-2, Hunter Raj 0-1, Xavier Samuel 0-1. NORTH HARDIN (11-28): Jordan Brangers 8-16, Jauan Akins 1-6, Trevino Coney 1-2, Darrin Martin 1-2, Chris Sterusky 0-1, DuWayne White 0-1. ASSISTS: FORT KNOX (6): Jermell Rogers 3, Brandon Cullum 1, Rashaud Orange 1, London Moore 1. NORTH HARDIN (16): Trevino Coney 9, Jauan Akins 3, Chris Sterusky 3, Keandre Nelson 1.