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There will be some new faces in Hodgenville this week.
Three of the eight teams in LaRue County's seventh annual National Guard Holiday Classic boys’ basketball tournament are first-year participants. The newcomers -- the Greenwood Gators (3-5), the Louisville Southern Trojans (1-6) and the Nelson County Cardinals (4-4) -- are joined by five veterans in the Bardstown Bethlehem Eagles (2-6), the Green County Dragons (3-6), the Meade County Green Wave (5-4), the North Bullitt Eagles (3-5) and the host Hawks (4-5).
In the 12-game, three-day event which ends with Saturday night's championship game at 8, each team will play three times – once a day. The tipoff times (3, 4:30, 6:30 and 8) are the same all three days.
In the first of the four quarterfinals this afternoon, Southern meets Bethlehem in Game 1. Southern is coming off an 0-2 performance in the Stop DWI Classic at Covington Holmes, while Bethlehem went 0-3 in the Marion County Holiday Classic. Bethlehem, making its second NGHC appearance in three years, is led by former John Hardin coach Artie Braden.
Green County and Greenwood face off in Game 2. Green County, making its second NGHC appearance in three years, is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Campbellsville Holiday Classic, while Greenwood took third in the Rafferty's/Double Dogs Caveland Classic at Edmonson County.
After a break, the Hawks host North Bullitt in Game 3. North Bullitt, making its fourth NGHC appearance in six years, was fifth in the Caveland Classic, while LaRue County finished fifth in the Henry County Invitational.
In the Game 4 nightcap, Meade County faces Nelson County. Meade County, making its first NGHC appearance since 2008, went 2-2 last week in the Webster County Holiday Tournament. The Cardinals are coming off a third-place finish in their own holiday tournament. Meade County is in its first season under former LaRue County assistant Josh Henderson and today marks his first regular-season visit to Hodgenville since taking the Meade County job after last season ended.
Losers of Game 1 and Game 2 meet Friday in the first loser's bracket semifinal (Game 5) at 3, while the Game 3 and Game 4 losers will meet in the second loser's bracket semi (Game 6) at 4:30. The winners of Game 1 and Game 2 meet in the first winner’s bracket semi (Game 7) at 6:30, while the winners of Game 3 and Game 4 meet in the second winner's bracket semi (Game 8) at 8.
Losers of Game 5 and Game 6 meet Saturday in the seventh-place game at 3, while the Game 5 and Game 6 winners meet Saturday in the fifth-place game at 4:30. Losers of Game 7 and Game 8 meet Saturday in the third-place game at 6:30, while the winners of Game 7 and Game 8 meet Saturday in the championship game at 8.
LaRue County is 16-2 all-time in the NGHC, having won the title in 2007 when it was a four-team round robin and having won the title every year in the eight-team setup except for 2009, when the Hawks went 1-2 and lost to Webster County in the fifth-place game.
“We have really had great success with our tournament over the past few years,” said LaRue County coach Paul Childress. “It’s a great opportunity for us to play some games at home during the break and also a great opportunity to help our program financially.
“National Guard has been fantastic over the years supporting our tourney. We definitely would have a hard time maintaining the classic without their help.”
Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at 270-505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org.