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The John Hardin Lady Bulldogs have picked up right where they left off last season.
The Lady Bulldogs had their best season in school history last year, winning 19 games and earning the No. 2 seed – their highest in the program’s history – in the 17th District tournament.
John Hardin is 15-3 and tied for the 5th Region lead for wins with Marion County, the three-time defending champion. The Lady Bulldogs are riding a six-game winning streak and have won nine of their last 10 since a 59-48 setback to North Hardin on Dec. 14.
“I’m pleased with where we’re at, but we have a lot of things to work on,” John Hardin coach Bryan Todd said. “We have a lot of little things we need to correct. Things start to settle down for us now and we’ll be able to get some practice time in. We’ve been playing three, four, five games a week. You see little things you’re doing wrong, and against good teams, those things will beat you.”
It’s been a busy start for the Lady Bulldogs, who have played the most games in the region. John Hardin will play its third game in five days when they travel to LaRue County tonight. Game time is set for 7:30.
Like John Hardin, the Lady Hawks (9-3) are another up-and-coming team, winning three straight – the third time this season they’ve done that. Todd said the teams are in similar situations, fighting to get recognized in a crowded region.
“You’d like to earn respect and get respect as one of the top five teams in the region,” Todd said. “This is one of the games that can help you do that. They’re all big games, but when you have two teams fighting for respect, it does make it mean a little more. We want to prove we’re better than LaRue and I’m sure they want to prove they’re better than us. Is it life or death? No, but it’s still important.”
Two years ago, LaRue County beat the Lady Bulldogs, 61-44 on its home floor and John Hardin is 2-3 all-time at LaRue County. The Lady Bulldogs won last year, 56-40 to even the series at 5-5. Todd knows it will be a difficult challenge as the Lady Hawks have two of the top players in the region in junior Ivy Brown and sophomore Alexis Brewer.
“When you have two players of that caliber, it makes it tough for you defensively,” Todd said. “Defending one player of that caliber is tough, but they have two. They have good players around them who are playing better this year. They are a better team now than last year. Hopefully, we’re a better team now.”
It certainly appears that way. The Lady Bulldogs returned a strong core led by seniors Michelle Montgomery and Renee Stateman and juniors Nawdya Fletcher, Tajah Haley and Zacchea Small – all of whom started last season – and they added freshman Tyra Jackson, a transfer from Fort Knox who has started at point guard. Haley has bounced back from an ACL injury suffered last season, while Fletcher has been hindered by nagging injuries.
“Tyra is figuring out me, figuring out the coaching staff and her new teammates,” Todd said. “She is playing a lot better than she did two or three weeks ago. Tajah was probably 75 or 80 percent when she first started. She is approaching that 12-month mark. I was watching film and she’s starting to look like the Tajah of old. Nawdya has batted some injuries. If we can get everyone healthy, I think it will make us better.”
Todd, though, praised his bench. Stateman and eighth-grader Jayla Freeman both have started in place of Fletcher. Emily Bohannon, Kaitlyn Priddy, Katria Sanders, Tamera Taylor and Da’Inara White all have made significant contributions.
“Renee is playing much better. She has really come on and she’s playing well defensively,” Todd said. “Jayla has been playing well enough to start. She has really been playing well. We’re getting a lot of help from our bench. Like I said, though, I’m pleased where we’re at right now, but there are always things we can do better.”
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.