BOYS' PREP BASKETBALL: North Hardin wins rematch with John Hardin (01/25)

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By Greg Crews



By GREG CREWS gcrews@thenewsenterprise.com RADCLIFF — The North Hardin Trojans are building a pretty convincing case to be called the top team in the 5th Region. That case only got stronger Friday as the Trojans got out to an early lead and held off two second-half comebacks on their way to topping the visiting John Hardin Bulldogs, 69-57 in a game that saw 45 fouls, including four technicals. “It was a real emotional game. Everyone had a lot to lose,” said North Hardin senior guard Greg Johnson, who came off the bench to record a team-high 20 points to help put the Trojans in position to claim the top seed for the 17th District Tournament. “We were both fighting for that No. 1 seed. John Hardin was fighting to keep their (12-game) winning streak and we were trying to stay undefeated at home.” In their first meeting on Dec. 18, North Hardin built a 14-point lead in the first quarter and cruised to 74-49 lead as it outscored the Bulldogs in every quarter. Friday night’s game had an eerily similar start as the Trojans (14-7 overall, 6-0 district) built a 16-point lead in the first quarter, but this time John Hardin (14-4, 3-2) fired back. “We had talked about that before the game,” John Hardin coach Mark Wells said. “We knew North Hardin, at home, on homecoming night, was going to come out fired up. We just had to weather the storm and try to come back.” After trailing by 11 at halftime, the Bulldogs pulled within 44-37 in the third quarter. However, the comeback came to an abrupt end as North Hardin went on a 13-0 run to go up by 20. “That was one of the key stretches of the game,” North Hardin coach Ron Bevars said. “That was really big for momentum.” The Bulldogs made one more comeback bid, going on an 11-4 run in the fourth quarter to shrink their deficit to 66-57 with 1:21 remaining. The Trojans fired back with two successful free throws and after the third and fourth technical fouls of the game, North Hardin made one more with 30 seconds left. John Hardin senior guard Corey Baker, who finished with eight points, received two technical fouls in the fourth quarter and was ejected with less than a minute remaining. He will be forced to sit out the Bulldogs’ game against district rival Central Hardin on Monday. “It was a battle,” said North Hardin junior center Roosevelt Emerson, who tallied 10 points and nine rebounds. “These are two good teams and everyone was real emotional.” Junior guard James Berry came through with another sharpshooting night for North Hardin as he hit 4-of-8 from behind the 3-point arc and finished with 14 points. Senior guard LaRod King finished with nine points and a game-high 15 rebounds as the Trojans outrebounded John Hardin, 45-28. “I thought we played hard tonight, we were just up against a very good team,” Wells said. “We showed a lot of heart in the way we played and the way we kept coming back.” Senior guard Gary Williams led John Hardin’s comeback efforts as he scored a game-high 21 points to go along with six rebounds, six steals and four assists. Senior center Chris White added 11 points and eight rebounds. “We had to come back last Tuesday (in a win over Elizabethtown), so we’re kind of used to it,” said Williams, who feels his team has made big strides since its first meeting with North Hardin this season. “We came a long way since the last time we played them. We realize that we can’t just put on the jersey, go out and win. We’ve got to play our hearts out.” For the Bulldogs to get another chance at the Trojans, they will likely have to meet in the district tournament championship. North Hardin has all but locked up the No. 1 seed, needing to win just one of its final two district games or have Central Hardin (3-2) lose one of its final three. John Hardin will play Central Hardin with the winner moving into position for the No. 2 seed the loser likely taking the No. 3 seed. UP NEXT: John Hardin plays at 17th District rival Central Hardin at 7:30 p.m. Monday. North Hardin hosts 17th District rival Elizabethtown at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Greg Crews can be reached at 505-1754