BOYS' SWEET 16: Seniors leave mark on John Hardin program (3/10)

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By Chuck Jones

LEXINGTON — The John Hardin Bulldogs have enjoyed more success the last three years than any stretch during the program’s 12-year history.

Much of that can be attributed to the seniors – Brandon Price, Daveon Greene, Ricky Burns, Adryan Jackson and Johannesburg Boulware.

The Bulldogs have compiled a 74-17 record the last three years. The 74 wins are the most in a three-year span, breaking the mark of 73 set from 2005-07.

John Hardin won back-to-back 17th District and 5th Region titles this season, a first for the program. The Bulldogs also won a school-record 21 consecutive games, a streak that ended with Friday’s 66-57 loss to Montgomery County in the KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 Basketball Tournament quarterfinals.

The Bulldogs became the first team to win consecutive region championships since North Hardin did it from 2001-03. They also became the first region team to reach the state quarterfinals in consecutive trips since North Hardin in 2001-02 when the Trojans made the semifinals both years.

“This has really been the best four years of my life,” said Price, who was selected to the All-Tournament team. “I’ve always been around the program since my brother (Ricky) played here. I’ve been with the team since my eighth-grade year. I’m been blessed. We built a family. Teams talk about being a family, but we are a family.

“This definitely hurts right now and it’s going to hurt,” he added. “But we accomplished a lot. I’ve never worried about scoring X number of points, but I wanted to put John Hardin basketball on the map. It’s been amazing.”

John Hardin coach Mark Wells said it will be difficult to replace this year’s seniors. Price and Greene both finished with more than 1,000 points in their careers – only the second and third Bulldogs to accomplish the feat.

“I don’t think I can put into words what these seniors have meant to this program,” Wells said. “We’ve talked about taking the program to a different level since I first started. We talked about winning district championships and then region championships. We’ve been in the final eight back-to-back years and we had a chance to be in the final four this year. They’ve taken us to a new level.”

WALLACE BURNS THE BULLDOGS. The Bulldogs were concerned about the scoring prowess of Montgomery County senior Omar Prewitt, but it was junior Bryan Wallace who ended up hurting them.

Junior Keon Williams held Prewitt scoreless for the first 12 minutes. After Williams picked up two fouls, junior guard Patrick Anderson and Burns both guarded him. Prewitt finished with only 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting, including missing all three 3-pointers.

Wells admitted the Bulldogs gambled, leaving Wallace open and he made them pay. Wallace scored a game-high 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He was a perfect 3-for-3 on 3-pointers.

“I was feeling comfortable with my jump shot,” Wallace said.

LET HIM PLAY. Despite picking up his third foul in the first half, Montgomery County coach Happy Osborne left Prewitt in the game and didn’t take him out when he was whistled for his fourth with 7:15 left in the final quarter.

The move paid off as Prewitt never fouled out and was instrumental in his team’s win. Prewitt had seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocked shots.

“That’s not Omar’s first rodeo,” Osborne said. “We play to win, and I trusted him. I’m not gonna look these kids in the eye and tell them to go for it, be reckless, play loose, and then me get over there and tighten up and not play them.”

NOTES & NUMBERS. The Bulldogs are 2-3 all-time in state tournament games. … Montgomery County held John Hardin to 57 points. It was John Hardin’s lowest total since scoring only 51 in a win over Louisville Eastern. The Bulldogs failed to score 60 or more points in only five games this season. … John Hardin made 6-of-12 3-pointers. It was the most 3-pointers the Bulldogs made in a state tournament game, breaking the mark of three set in the loss to South Laurel in 2006. It was also the program’s best 3-point percentage in a state tournament game. … Price scored 1,433 career points, second on John Hardin’s all-time list to Maze Stallworth. Greene is third all-time with 1,062.

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