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With most of their team adjusting from a lengthy run in the football postseason, the John Hardin Bulldogs heavily relied on one of their youngsters who got hot in the first half.
Sophomore guard Brandon Price scored 15 of his 22 points in the first half on 7-of-10 shooting and just missed a triple-double to lead the homestanding Bulldogs to an 87-66 win Wednesday night against visiting 17th District rival Fort Knox.
With Fort Knox keying on players like junior post Hunter Holloway, junior guard Jeremy Harness and senior guard Malcolm Foster, Price had arguably the best game of his young career.
“I’ve got to credit my teammates,” said Price, who also had 10 rebounds and seven assists. “They were worried about Hunter down in the post, and they were worried about Malcolm and Jeremy shooting it. They weren’t guarding me, so I had to take advantage. My teammates were unselfish. They drove, the defense collapsed and they kicked the ball out.”
Price cooled off in the second half as he went 3-of-11 from the field, but the damage was already done.
Price scored nine points in the first quarter as the Bulldogs (1-0 overall, 1-0 district) jumped out to a 25-9 lead.
“I think he was a big part of why we won the game,” John Hardin coach Mark Wells said. “He distributed the ball well and he rebounded. He had a good all-around game. I’d like to see him do some things better defensively, but he’s slowly becoming a leader on this team with our seniors. We need him to keep doing what he’s doing.
“Our seniors and other players did a good job early of recognizing we had a guy that was hot, and we got him the ball,” he added. “Other teams are aware of Malcolm and Landon (Savoy) and Jeremy, and that allows an opening for Brandon to get a lot of shots.”
After his performance Wednesday night, Wells expects Price’s name will pop up more on scouting reports.
“Teams are going to find out who he is and do things to stop him, so I don’t expect that stats performance every night,” Wells said, “but I do expect that type of effort.”
For the first game, Wells said he was pretty pleased with his team’s effort –especially in the first half when the Bulldogs shot 55.2 percent (21-of-38) en route to a 47-29 halftime advantage.
Fort Knox coach Kip Rambo didn’t think the Bulldogs would be rusty.
“Oh Lord no. When you have the type of athletes that are in this school, they may be a little rusty but I didn’t anticipate that,” he said. “I thought they’d have some nerves early, but Coach Wells is going to have his team prepared and they did a nice job.”
Price and the Bulldogs certainly didn’t make things easy for the Eagles (2-3, 0-2). Fort Knox pulled within 53-41 late in the third quarter before the much faster Bulldogs pulled away.
Senior guard Brandon Cullum paced Fort Knox with 22 points, five rebounds and four assists, while senior guard/forward London Moore added 21 points and nine rebounds.
“London is a heckuva ball player,” Rambo said. “Even the nights where he doesn’t perform like he did tonight, he’s doing a lot of little things on the court that people in the stands don’t realize. He’s an emotional leader for the team, and it means everything for him to perform well for us.”
Harness finished with 15 points, three rebounds and one assist, while senior forward Blake Bonner had 11 points and five rebounds. Foster finished with nine points, and junior forward Ervin Montgomery, who played at Fort Knox last season, had eight.
Wells expects the early going to be a bumpy ride for his team, which has two more games this week as they play at 5th Region rival Bardstown (2-0) on Friday night and host Paducah Lone Oak in Saturday’s Army Bulldog Classic.
“We look like a team that hasn’t been together for very long,” Wells said. “Obviously we enjoy having a good football program here, but on the basketball end we expect the first week or two to be really ugly. We told the kids ‘Let’s just try to win and play hard.’ We know we’re not going to do everything correct.”
The Bulldogs did just enough Wednesday night.
UP NEXT: John Hardin plays at Bardstown at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Fort Knox plays Louisville Collegiate at 5 p.m. Friday in the Louisville St. Francis Invitational.
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or at firstname.lastname@example.org