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The Central Hardin Lady Bruins finally ended their 13-game losing streak and recorded their first 17th District win.
Their two little sparkplug guards, eighth-grader Mariah Helton and freshman Jasmine Zaehringer, provided them with a shot of life off the bench.
Zaehringer scored a team-high nine points, while Helton added seven to propel Central Hardin to a 43-32 homecoming victory Friday night over district Fort Knox on Terry Buckles Court.
The Lady Bruins (2-14, 1-5 district) recorded their first victory since Nov. 30, while Fort Knox (1-13, 0-5) lost its 12th consecutive game.
“First district win, not our last,” first-year Lady Bruins coach Kristina Covington said.
Helton and Zaehringer each hit 3-pointers at key spots in the first half to give their team a much-needed boost. Zaehringer’s 3 gave the Lady Bruins their first points and lead. She buried a shot from the right corner and was fouled on the play. Although Zaehringer missed the ensuing free throw, she put Central Hardin up 3-2 with 3:23 remaining in the first period.
“I think right now she’s our little jitterbug, she’s our spark. She made that shot, everybody defensively started getting into it, starting acting like ‘well, hey, we’re in the ballgame now,’” Covington said. “I think she’s starting to understand a little more what’s going on and so she doesn’t have any fear.”
Having scored a career-high 22 points Thursday at district foe John Hardin, Helton was a factor in a district game again. Trailing 12-9 with 4:33 left in the second quarter, Central Hardin closed the period with 11 straight points. Helton gave the Lady Bruins an emotional lift heading into halftime, burying a 3-pointer off an assist from Zaehringer with 45 seconds left before halftime to give Central Hardin a 20-14 lead.
“She (Coach Covington) keeps fighting for us and that makes me want to fight even more because she broke her foot for us,” Helton said. “Therefore we have to keep working harder just to get to the top again.”
That bucket gave the Lady Bruins some major momentum, as they opened the third quarter on a 12-1 run to take a 32-15 lead with 1:37 left in the period. Fort Knox went 10:42 without a field goal, spanning the second and third quarters, and the Lady Eagles went 4-of-10 from the foul line during that stretch. They finished 14-of-32 (43.8 percent) from the foul line and 8-of-36 (22.2 percent) from the field.
It didn’t help that sophomore guard Taiesha Wynder, who finished with a game-high 11 points and team-high eight rebounds, cut her mouth with 5:25 in the third quarter and missed more than 4 minutes to stop the bleeding. She also had to change uniforms.
“What hurt us was we came out flat in the third quarter. She got hurt and they kind of piled on top of each other,” first-year Fort Knox coach Joe Hammond said. “We’re still learning. They’re young. But I think we’re getting better.”
Senior forward Bianca Kelley added seven points for the Lady Eagles.
“They did a good job of making some shots and we didn’t close out good on some 3-point shots we should’ve closed out on a little better,” Hammond said. “But overall it is what it is and we’ll get’em again. There’s Round 2.”
After missing its first 14 shots, Central Hardin finished 17-of-70 (24.3 percent) from the field. It went just 6-of-20 (30 percent) from the foul line.
“We just always start bad in the first quarter. I don’t know what it is. I guess we don’t warm up hard enough,” Helton said. “I guess we should get focused earlier on in the day and then start thinking about what we’re going to do. We need to do it rather than talk about it.”
Covington agrees. She wants a better start from her team and for the Lady Bruins to pick up the effort on both ends.
“(In the) second half we executed and that’s the biggest thing that I’ve been saying we needed to do – executing defensively and offensively, you have to set screens and use screens and then things start to happen,” Covington said. “When you execute a little better, regardless if we’re playing a good team in a man or a good team in a zone or a bad team, you’ve still got to execute and do you. In the second half, we did that and they enjoyed it and that’s why we looked a lot better.”
UP NEXT: Central Hardin plays at Warren East at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Fort Knox plays at Louisville Collegiate at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
John Groth can be reached at (270) 505-1754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CENTRAL HARDIN 43
FORT KNOX 32
Fort Knox 4 10 8 10—32
Central Hardin 5 15 16 7—43
Team FG FT R TP
Fort Knox 8-36 14-32 33 32
Central Hardin 17-70 6-20 57 43
Player FG FT R TP
Wynder 2-7 7-15 8 11
Noble 1-5 1-2 3 3
Stephenson 2-3 0-1 5 4
Kelley 2-8 1-2 4 7
Rice 1-2 3-4 1 5
Smith 0-1 0-2 4 0
Powell 0-10 2-6 3 2
Player FG FT R TP
Barnes 2-13 1-2 5 5
Maggard 2-9 1-2 10 5
Jaggers 2-6 0-0 9 4
Worth 0-2 0-0 3 0
Anderson 0-3 0-4 5 0
Krupinski 1-3 0-5 10 2
Helton 3-10 0-2 2 7
Powell 2-13 2-2 3 6
Cross 0-1 0-0 2 0
Zaehringer 3-4 2-3 0 9
Kerr 1-5 0-0 4 3
Loyall 0-0 0-0 1 0
Team 1-1 0-0 0 2
3-POINTERS: FORT KNOX (2-6): Bianca Kelley 2-3, Byanca Powell 0-3. CENTRAL HARDIN (3-17): Jasmine Zaehringer 1-2, Emily Kerr 1-2, Mariah Helton 1-5, Aislynn Barnes 0-2, Caynan Powell 0-2, Shelby Maggard 0-4. ASSISTS: FORT KNOX (3): Taiesha Wynder 2, Brianna Smith 1. CENTRAL HARDIN (7): Jasmine Zaehringer 3, Shelby Maggard 2, Aislynn Barnes 1, Caynan Powell 1.