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The North Hardin Trojans feel like a different team than the one which lost to the Fort Knox Eagles twice this season.
If they want their season to continue, they’ll have to be.
The fifth-seeded Trojans (7-20) take on the fourth-seeded Eagles (10-15) at 8 tonight in the 17th District Tournament quarterfinal at Central Hardin.
North Hardin is brimming with confidence after having 5th Region Tournament contenders Bardstown (21-6) and Taylor County (23-6) on the ropes before losing and knocking off Marion County (19-9) and Green County (16-11) in their last four games. It’s a far cry from the end of January when the Trojans suffered a 27-point loss to John Hardin and a 38-point setback to Elizabethtown.
“Everything is clicking right now – defensively and offensively,” said Trojans senior guard Kevon Davis, who averages 15.6 points and 4.3 assists per game. “We’re moving the ball and getting layups.”
The Trojans and Eagles have already engaged in two closely-contested games, both of which came down to the final seconds. In the first one Dec. 18, Fort Knox senior guard Michael Armstead knocked down a 3-pointer with 7 seconds left for an 80-77 win. Fort Knox senior guard Chris Jackson’s steal and layup with 7 seconds left in the rematch Jan. 10 was the difference in a 68-67 victory.
“We feel like we owe them, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is advancing,” said North Hardin coach Mike Cofer. “Our record is 0-0, and I know Fort Knox is going to bring their best game, and hopefully we can continue to play well.”
The Eagles, who are searching for their first postseason win since 2001, aren’t putting too much stock into the first two meetings.
“I think we recognize we have to play one game at a time,” said Fort Knox coach Kip Rambo. “The past is the past and we have to come out and play well (tonight).”
Top-seeded Elizabethtown (19-8) takes on the winner Thursday.
North Hardin, which lost in the district final and region final last season, is wary of Fort Knox’s ability to put points on the board in a hurry. The Eagles erased a 10-point halftime deficit in the second meeting and an early blitz in the first meeting put Fort Knox up handily.
Armed with shooters such as Jackson, Armstead, senior guards Kyle Gibson and Michael Powell and junior forward Shamar Brown, Fort Knox is shooting 37 percent from 3-point range and never feels like it is out of the game.
“Last year, I used to watch them and they didn’t have a lot of shooters,” North Hardin sophomore forward Andre Harris said, “so I guess over the summer they really, really perfected their shots. It’s crazy.”
The Trojans’ emphasis on defense has been the biggest reason they’ve finished the regular season strong. They allowed an average of 61.5 points per game their final four contests to lower their season average down to 68.7.
North Hardin sophomore guard Keyshawn Maxwell said getting out on Fort Knox’s shooters will be the key tonight.
“If we find their shooters and stop the 3-point shot, we’ll win,” Maxwell said.
What the Trojans lack in long-range shooting, they make up for on the glass. Freshman forward Tony Jackson, the area’s fifth-leading scorer at 16.4 points per game, is relentless on the glass and averages 8.4 per game.
For the Eagles to advance, limiting the Trojans on the boards could be a major factor.
“We have to get that done on both ends of the court,” Rambo said. “We’re not going to make everything we put up and if we can get a few second shots, that’d be huge.”
Ryan O’Gara can be reached at 270-505-1754 or email@example.com.