BOYS' PREP BASKETBALL: North hopes to avoid John Hardin's KO punch (01/18)

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By Chuck Jones

North Hardin coach Ron Bevars compared the John Hardin Bulldogs to a great heavyweight with a powerful knockout punch.

Bevars knows first hand.

In the first meeting Dec. 14, the Bulldogs put the game away early by outscoring North Hardin, 26-10 on their way to a 76-45 rout. Bevars is hopeful his team will get off to a better start tonight when the teams meet again in a 17th District game at Ron Bevars Gymnasium.

“We have to survive their knockout punch,” Bevars said. “We’ve had teams like that here. You can’t get knocked out in the first round. You have to rope-a-dope for a few rounds. You have to take their punches and battle back. I hope our kids will do that, and I think they will.”

John Hardin coach Mark Wells said the first game is misleading. The Trojans were in early foul trouble and the Bulldogs took full advantage. Wells said the Bulldogs can’t think this meeting is going to be as easy.

“We haven’t shown that on all occasions, but we did against North Hardin,” Wells said. “Once we got a lead, we kept on stretching it out. I think a big part of that was North Hardin was in foul trouble and our kids and coaching staff recognized that. Our kids kept attacking to extend the lead.”

John Hardin (13-3, 4-0 district) is the only unbeaten team left in the district. Bevars said there’s a good reason for John Hardin’s success.

“I think it starts with their athleticism,” Bevars said. “They play hard and they have good basketball players. They are well-coached. They do a lot of things well. They have the whole package. They are a legitimate state contender.”

John Hardin has won five straight despite playing the last four games without senior point guard Brandon Price. Bevars said the Bulldogs cause so many problems with their full-court press, forcing opponents into 18.9 turnovers per game.

“They keep the pressure on you from the time the game starts and it keeps coming,” Bevars said. “They do a good job defensively. It’s tough to get into your offense.”

Wells said the Trojans have the same ability on the defensive end. Opponents are averaging 17.1 turnovers a game against the Trojans, and senior Tyler Landry has blocked 60 shots.

“I think their biggest strength is their defense,” Wells said. “Early on in the last game, they were really intense and they took us out of the things we wanted to do. We’ve got to execute on offense. I thought we forced some shots the last time. You’re not going to beat a team like North Hardin going one-on-one all the time. We have to settle down and run our offense.”

North Hardin, which has won two straight and eight of its last 10, is coming off a 79-53 victory over Meade County on Tuesday, while the Bulldogs haven’t played for a week, which is a concern for Wells. John Hardin’s game against Elizabethtown on Tuesday was postponed to Feb. 4.

“It’s good and bad,” Wells said. “We had some guys banged up and probably needed it. But as a coach, I always hate to get out of a rhythm. I like for us to stay in our routine and keep playing every few days.”

Other boys’ games this weekend are: Russell County (13-3) at LaRue County (10-5) tonight; Fort Knox (4-10) at Metcalfe County (1-20) on Saturday; Muhlenberg County (5-11) at Meade County (6-13) on Saturday; Central Hardin (8-6) at Marshall County (13-4) on Saturday; and Elizabethtown plays in Scott County’s Toyota Classic tonight and Saturday.

Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or cjones@thenewsenterprise.com.