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John Hardin senior guard Patrick Anderson still has bad memories of the heartbreaking 33-28 loss to Bowling Green to end the Bulldogs’ football season.
On Saturday night, Anderson and the Bulldogs took out some frustration as they pulled away for a 53-44 victory over the Purples in the Bluegrass Cellular New Year’s Classic at Central Hardin.
“It’s a big game,” said Anderson, who had a game-high 19 points. “It’s sort of rivalry because of football. They were hungry to come in here and get a win, but we had that hunger as well. We wanted to win this game.”
Fellow senior Keon Williams knew this game meant something more to Anderson, who made 7-of-13 shots from the field and 5-of-6 free throws. He also had five rebounds and three assists.
“You take away a state championship from someone, of course it’s going to motivate them,” Williams said. “This is a tough rivalry in the state in football and basketball. It was two good teams going at each other.”
The Bulldogs (7-3) bounced back in their first game since a 72-53 loss to Hopkinsville in the Wes Unseld Invitational championship game. This game had a similar feel with John Hardin building a lead in the third quarter before the Purples came roaring back.
Leading 34-31, Anderson made a 16-foot jumper and then a layup. Sophomore Matt Miller, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists, hit a pair of free throws, and after Bowling Green senior Clay Stivers made 1-of-2 foul shots, Williams drove in for a layup to stretch the lead to 42-32 with 2:23 left.
“I keep talking about will,” said Williams, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds. “We came out with a lot of energy and we had that will that we were going to beat this team.”
Senior Joseph Ayers made a short jumper in the lane with a minute left in the third quarter, and then junior Logan Riehn drilled two 3-pointers from the left baseline sandwiched around an Elijah Smith layup. Junior Tucker Sine cut the lead to 44-42 with 6:45 left after hitting two free throws.
John Hardin couldn’t turn things around when Hopkinsville made its late run, but this time the Bulldogs answered. Senior Dimitri Cooper made a layup off a feed from Anderson and then he hit 1-of-2 foul shots to build a 49-44 lead with 1:37 remaining.
“We didn’t panic,” Anderson said. “We stayed calm and played under control. We missed some shots, but we never lost focus. We talk about defense and rebounding. We stepped it up and we’re able to pull away.”
With Bowling Green struggling to score, Anderson sealed the victory by hitting four free throws in the final 36.2 seconds to snap the Purples’ 10-game winning streak.
“I thought we showed toughness and we’re learning lessons,” John Hardin coach Mark Wells said. “I didn’t really say anything. We made a few adjustments (at halftime), but I thought we played well in the second half. We made some shots and we made some free throws down the stretch. That’s good to see.”
Bowling Green was coming off a 64-43 victory over South Warren on Friday night and Coach D.G. Sherrill said it might have had something to do with his team’s lackluster performance.
“We might have had some tired legs,” Sherrill said. “They started trapping us and they did a good job defensively. We tried to run our man stuff because our zone stuff wasn’t working. I thought they were more aggressive than we were. They put us on our heels. They are a great team with athleticism and they’re well-coached.”
John Hardin forced the Purples into 19 turnovers and Bowling Green managed to shoot only 41.5 percent from the field. Senior Nacarius Fant, the team’s leading scorer, was held to two points before fouling out with 7:39 left in the fourth quarter.
“He’s been our most consistent offensive player,” Sherrill said. “He always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is scoring 16 (points) a game. And he’s probably our most sure-handed ball handler. I think that hurt us against their pressure. The more they came at us, the smaller we played.”
JOHN HARDIN 53, BOWLING GREEN 44
Bowling Green 12 15 7 10—44
John Hardin 17 10 15 11—53
Bowling Green (10-3)
Clay Stivers 12, Joseph Ayers 12, Tucker Sine 6, Logan Riehn 6, Malik Carothers 4, Nacarius Fant 2, Cheivy McCutchen 2. FG: 17-41. FT: 8-12. 3-pointers: 2-10 (Riehn 2-3, Sine 0-1, Perry Ayers 0-1, Carothers 0-2, Fant 0-3). Rebounds: 35 (Stivers 8, McCutchen 7). Assists: 7 (Carothers 3).
John Hardin (7-3)
Patrick Anderson 19, Matt Miller 14, Keon Williams 12, Elijah Smith 5, Dimitri Cooper 3. FG: 19-51. FT: 13-27. 3-pointers: 2-13 (Smith 1-4, Miller 1-5, Williams 0-4). Rebounds: 33 (Williams 11). Assists: 9 (Anderson 3, Miller 3).
UP NEXT: John Hardin hosts Meade County at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com.