BOYS' PREP BASKETBALL: Smith sparks John Hardin past North Hardin (12/22)

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By Chuck Jones

John Hardin junior guard Elijah Smith had plenty of time to watch the North Hardin defense in the first half Friday night, so in the final quarters, he knew exactly where to be to get open shots.


After playing less than 5 minutes the first two quarters because of two early fouls, Smith sparked the Bulldogs in the second half, hitting five shots in the final 9 minutes to help them rally for a 63-55 victory over the Trojans in a 17th District game at Ron Bevars Gymnasium.

“I was hoping and praying that the shots were going to go in,” said Smith, who scored all 14 of his points after halftime. “I was just trying to take shots in the flow of the offense. People think I’m a good 3-point shooter and I can use that to my advantage to get other shots.”

Smith made 5-of-12 shots, including going 3-for-8 beyond the 3-point arc. The Bulldogs needed it after a lackluster start which saw them miss 15 of their first 17 shots and fall behind by 15.

“Elijah stepped up big,” John Hardin coach Mark Wells said. “It couldn’t have been much worse for us at the start. But credit North Hardin for that. I’m really proud of our team because I thought we grew up tonight. We kept grinding it out and we found a way to win.”

It was John Hardin’s 19th consecutive district win. The Bulldogs (3-2) improved to 3-0 in district play this season after going 11-0 last year and winning their final five district games in 2011-12.

But this one didn’t come easy.

Trailing 48-40 late in the third quarter, Smith came to the rescue by hitting three 3-pointers in a span of 2:08 to take a 49-48 lead with 6:31 remaining. He made the first with 39 seconds left in the third quarter before back-to-back treys in the fourth quarter, giving the Bulldogs their first lead since 5:11 left in the first quarter at 4-3.

“If he’s hitting them, he’s going to keep shooting,” John Hardin senior Patrick Anderson said. “That’s what great shooters do. He’s a great shooter and he proved that again tonight.”

North Hardin coach Michael Cofer said he wasn’t surprised by Smith’s shooting.

“Elijah was big,” Cofer said. “I’ve been here three years and he’s always hit big 3s against us. It’s always in the corner. He’s been doing it for three years.”

Leading 52-50, Anderson converted a three-point play, and after a layup by North Hardin junior forward Tony Bogle, Smith drained a 15-footer and then sophomore guard Matt Miller and Anderson made back-to-back layups to push the lead to 61-52 with 1:42 remaining.

“We came out the first half with too much intensity,” Smith said. “We were too hyped up to play. We made stupid plays and bad decisions. We picked it up in the second half. We started playing better on offense and smarter on defense.”

After leading much of the game, the Trojans struggled offensively in the fourth quarter. They made only 3-of-13 shots and turned the ball over six times.

“I think we ran out of gas,” Cofer said. “This is our third game this week. I’m proud of them. I tried to put it in perspective. It should hurt and they should remember it, but we have to stay together and be positive. This shows how good we can be by the end of the year.”

Freshman forward Tony Jackson paced North Hardin with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Sophomore forward Will Alexander grabbed 13 rebounds, while senior guard Kevon Davis dished out seven assists.

Trailing by one, the Trojans (1-6, 0-2 district) took control behind a 19-3 run to build a 22-7 lead with 7:12 left in the second quarter. Jackson, who scored nine points during the 4:55 span, started it off with a layup and junior center Joseph Freeman capped it off with a 7-foot jumper along the baseline.

The Bulldogs answered with an 8-0 run to get within 22-15 with 4:39 remaining. They trimmed the deficit to 27-24 after an Anderson 3-pointer with 1:36 left before halftime, but the Trojans stretched the margin to 32-24 less than a minute later.

Leading 32-27 at halftime, North Hardin opened the second half with back-to-back baskets by Jackson and Alexander, but the Bulldogs stayed within striking distance before taking control in the fourth quarter.

“Our shots weren’t falling early,” said Anderson, who finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. “I feel like Tre (Russell) and Brock (Bruner) came in and got us back composed after the early foul trouble. We started playing defense and rebounding and then we pulled it together after halftime.”

UP NEXT: John Hardin plays at Louisville Seneca at 6 p.m. Friday in the Wes Unseld Invitational. North Hardin plays Bowling Green at 6 p.m. Thursday in the T.J. Samson Holiday Classic at Metcalfe County.

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




John Hardin              7  2016    20—63

North Hardin            20  1216      7—55


Team                    FG      FT     R     TP

John Hardin       22-55  13-30    34     63

North Hardin      23-58    8-19    49     55


Player                  FG      FT      R    TP

Anderson            7-17      7-9     13     23

Smith                 5-12      1-2      1     14

Miller                   3-6      0-3      2      7

Williams              5-15      2-6      7     12

Cooper                 1-2      2-4      4      4

Montgomery          0-1      0-0      2      0

Bruner                 1-1      0-2      2      2

Russell                0-1      1-2      0      1

Goree                  0-0      0-2      0      0

Francis                 0-0      0-0      2      0

Team                                       1


Player                  FG      FT      R    TP

Davis                 1-13      3-6      2      5

Alexander             1-2      0-2     13      2

Harris                  1-1      1-2      1      3

B. Maxwell            2-5      1-2      2      5

Freeman               3-8      0-2      7      6

K. Maxwell            1-1      0-0      1      2

McDonald             0-1      0-0      2      0

Randolph              1-3      0-0      0      2

Jackson              9-19      1-2     14     20

Bogle                   2-3      2-3      2      6

Spiller                  2-2      0-0      0      4

Team                                       5


JOHN HARDIN (6-19): Elijah Smith 3-8, Patrick Anderson 2-3, Matt Miller 1-2, Keon Williams 0-5, Tre Russell 0-1.

NORTH HARDIN (1-12): Tony Jackson 1-2, Kevon Davis 0-6, Mayrell Randolph 0-2, Will Alexander 0-1, Brandon Maxwell 0-1.


JOHN HARDIN (10): Patrick Anderson 4, Keon Williams 3, Matt Miller 2, Gabe Montgomery 1.

NORTH HARDIN (11): Kevon Davis 7, Parker McDonald 1, Andre Harris 1, Brandon Maxwell 1, Tony Jackson 1.