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LEXINGTON — When John Hardin coach Mark Wells was asked about Montgomery County – the Bulldogs’ quarterfinal opponent in the KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 Basketball Tournament – he scoffed at the notion he knew much about the Indians.
The Bulldogs were fresh off a 79-69 victory over Fleming County on Thursday afternoon in the first round of the state tournament at Rupp Arena. Wells said he wasn’t looking past the Panthers and the coaching staff would begin preparations for Montgomery County later in the evening.
John Hardin (29-3) meets Montgomery County (32-4) at 6:30 tonight. The Indians pulled away for a 71-63 victory over Warren Central prior to John Hardin’s win. This marks the second consecutive year the Bulldogs have advanced to the quarterfinals.
The Bulldogs will have to contend with Montgomery County senior Omar Prewitt, a 6-foot-3 forward who scored 29 points in Thursday’s win. Junior guard Bryan Wallace added 17 points.
Prewitt averages 23.3 points per game followed by Wallace’s 16.1 and junior forward Darius Jones’ 10.5.
“I don’t know a lot about them,” John Hardin senior point guard Brandon Price said. “We saw them play today. I played against Omar in AAU and Junior All-Star tryouts. He’s tough. They look like they play a lot like us. They want to get up and down the floor. It’s going to be a tough game.”
SHUT-DOWN DEFENDER. In football, analysts talk about shut-down corners, such as New York Jets’ Darrelle Revis. Junior Patrick Anderson is such a player on the football field, even intercepting a pass against Bowling Green in the Class 5-A state semifinals.
Anderson has become a shut-down defender for the Bulldogs, especially during the team’s postseason run. The 5-foot-10 guard has had to defend the likes of North Hardin’s Ruben Gosa, LaRue County’s Kelton Ford and Bardstown’s Devonte Grundy.
On Thursday, he was assigned to guard 6-4 junior forward Todd Steward, who came in averaging 18.4 points a game. Anderson hounded him into 6-of-13 shooting from the field, including 0-for-3 on 3-pointers. Steward had made 76 3-pointers on the season.
“I knew he was a great shooter,” Anderson said. “I just tried to make him take contested jump shots. I wanted to keep him uncomfortable and never let him get in the game.”
Wells said Anderson’s defense on Steward along with junior Keon Williams and sophomore Elijah Smith was instrumental in the team’s success.
“We looked at a lot of tape and he did such a good job hitting big 3s,” Wells said. “Patrick has done that the entire season. He takes a lot of pride in his defense. We thought a key was to get him contained and we did a good job.”
LACK OF 3-POINTERS. The Bulldogs didn’t make a 3-pointer for the second time in their last three state tournament games. They were 0-of-5 from the 3-point arc.
Last year in two state tournament games, John Hardin went 2-for-25 on 3-pointers, including an 0-for-10 effort against Johnson Central. The players said adjusting to Rupp Arena is difficult.
Wells, though, was pleased with how his team didn’t let an off-shooting day affect its offense. The Bulldogs dominated the post, holding a 56-46 edge in points in the paint, and they had 22 second-chance points on 20 offensive rebounds.
“That was a big advantage,” John Hardin senior forward Daveon Greene said. “Brandon talked to us before the game about not settling for jumpers. We penetrated and we got the ball inside for easier baskets. That really helped out a lot.”
NOTES & NUMBERS. The Bulldogs are 2-2 all-time in state tournament games. … The 79 points were a school record in the state tournament. The previous mark was 49, which the Bulldogs scored in last year’s victory over Johnson Central. … The Bulldogs have scored 70 or more points in 20 games this season. … John Hardin has a school-record 29 victories, including a program-best 21 consecutive wins. … Fleming County blocked 10 shots, while John Hardin didn’t have one. … This was the first postseason game where the Bulldogs didn’t trail at some point. … Price has scored 1,421 career points, second on John Hardin’s all-time list to Maze Stallworth.
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or email@example.com.