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BOYS' PREP HOOPS: John Hardin uses fast start to rout North Hardin (1/26)

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By Chuck Jones

The John Hardin Bulldogs entered Friday with their confidence shaken after a 75-56 setback Tuesday at Elizabethtown, while the North Hardin Trojans were brimming with it after back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

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But neither of those trends lasted long.

The Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead and never looked back for a wire-to-wire 71-44 victory over rival North Hardin in a 17th District game at the Dawg Pound.

“That was the key,” John Hardin senior Keon Williams said of the fast start. “We came out with effort and intensity, something we didn’t do (on Tuesday). We were bringing that into this game. It showed in everything we did.”

After the loss to Elizabethtown, John Hardin (11-4, 5-1 district) earned a huge district win to keep its hope alive for the No. 1 seed. The Panthers hold a half-game lead at 5-0.

“We really talked about starting off strong,” John Hardin coach Mark Wells said. “I’m proud of the kids for the way they bounced back and responded. I thought we came out with good energy and that carried over to the good start.”

The Bulldogs rebounded from a woeful shooting night against the Panthers to hit 43.5 percent from the field. They distributed the scoring with four players reaching double digits and the basketball with 14 assists on 27 baskets.

“We’re a great team when we do that,” John Hardin sophomore Matt Miller said. “We’re very good at penetrating and kicking the ball out for good shots. Sometimes we get selfish and don’t take good shots. Coach talked to us about that and showed us. We’re learning and correcting our mistakes.”

North Hardin (5-14, 1-5) saw its two-game winning streak snapped. Freshman Tony Jackson was the only Trojan to reach double figures with 13 points and eight rebounds.

North Hardin’s downfall can be traced to its lack of rebounding and its high number of turnovers. John Hardin held a 41-33 rebounding advantage, including 20 on the offensive end. The Trojans turned the ball over 22 times, leading to 21 Bulldog points.

“They outplayed us offensively and defensively,” North Hardin coach Michael Cofer said. “We made some mistakes and that led to some easy opportunities for them on the offensive end, and to compound matters, we didn’t block out. We’re going to keep working and continue to get better, especially in those areas.”

The Bulldogs had a balanced attack. Williams led the Bulldogs with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. Miller added 16 points and dished out four assists. Junior Elijah Smith had 14 points and three assists, while senior Patrick Anderson chipped in with 12 points and five assists.

“It’s a huge asset when we can get that,” Williams said. “Teams can barely stop two guys, so when we can get four guys scoring like that and spreading the ball around, we’re a great team.”

John Hardin jumped out to a 6-0 lead on two layups by Miller and one by Anderson, and after the Trojans closed within 8-5 after a Jackson basket, junior guard Smith drained a 3-pointer, Anderson made 1-of-2 free throws and Miller converted a three-point play to build a 15-5 lead with 2:31 left in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs started to stretch the lead in the second quarter behind their 3-point shooting as they connected on 4-of-5 behind the arc. Williams drained two from the right baseline, the second making it 25-14. Anderson drilled a 3-pointer to start a 12-4 run to close the first half and Smith capped it with one to extend the lead to 39-22 at halftime.

Miller opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to keep the momentum going. John Hardin finished 8-of-18 on 3-pointers led by Williams and Smith each going 3-for-6.

“They always shoot the ball well here,” Cofer said. “We were playing some zone to try to contest their shots and contain them better. We were trying to keep them out of the paint. But they were patient. They ran their offense and they made shots.”

The Trojans cut the lead to 15 after Andre Harris made 1-of-2 free throws, but John Hardin pushed the lead to 52-32 after three quarters, and then used 12-0 run to in a 3-minute span in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

UP NEXT: John Hardin hosts Fort Knox at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the second game of a girl/boy doubleheader. North Hardin plays at Elizabethtown at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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