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LEXINGTON — The John Hardin Bulldogs relied on their balance Thursday afternoon as the two-time defending 5th Region Tournament champions beat the 16th Region champion Fleming County Panthers 79-69 in the first round of the KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 State Basketball Tournament at Rupp Arena.
Senior point guard Brandon Price had a team-high 20 points, four rebounds and a game-high six assists for the Bulldogs, who advance to play the Montgomery County Indians in Friday’s quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. Montgomery County advanced with a 71-63 win over 4th Region champion Warren Central in Thursday’s opening quarterfinal.
All five John Hardin starters scored at least eight points as the Bulldogs (29-3) won their school-record 21st consecutive game.
Junior forward Keon Williams added 19 points and a game-best 12 rebounds for John Hardin, while senior forward Ricky Burns also posted a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) and senior forward Daveon Greene approached another double-double (14 points, seven rebounds).
Junior guard Patrick Anderson chipped in with eight points for the Bulldogs, who never trailed and were able to take their largest lead at 17 points – 64-47 – with 4:40 left in the game on a layup by Greene.
Williams and Burns had as many combined rebounds by themselves, 23, as Fleming County did as a team.
Fleming County guard Darion Burns matched Price with a game-high 20 points. Forward Brady Saunders added 17 points for the Panthers, while forward Troy Steward had 13 and guard Austin Crisp had 11.
It was the second straight season the Bulldogs won their State opener. Last year, they beat Johnson Central.
For detailed coverage and photos, see Friday's print edition of The News-Enterprise.