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There was no lackluster holiday break swoon for the John Hardin Lady Bulldogs.
Even with coach Bryan Todd missing some practice time while taking in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, his assistants made sure his team stayed in form.
Four Lady Bulldogs scored at least eight points, with senior center Michelle Montgomery totaling a game-high 18, as they picked up a 68-21 victory Thursday night at 17th District rival Fort Knox.
“It was good balance and I just like the way the girls focused on defense. We worked on a lot of little things again on defense and I thought they played really well. I thought they were ready to play,” Todd said. “I’ve been gone for a couple days. I didn’t know if they’d come ready to play or not. They played hard and did everything I asked them to do.”
Winner of five straight and eight of its last nine, John Hardin (14-3, 3-2 district) made it a regular-season sweep of the Lady Eagles (1-10, 0-4). Coming off a 54-52 win over Paducah Lone Oak in Saturday’s championship of the McLean County Christmas Tournament, the Lady Bulldogs still had a boost in their step.
Todd was worried how they’d open up the game.
A 12-0 run eased his mind and John Hardin led 23-2 after the first quarter, forcing 10 turnovers, making 10 baskets and recording five assists.
Montgomery scored six of the team’s first 14 points and finished with 10 at the half. She made 5-of-6 field goals in the first two periods and went 9-of-11 overall, including 9-of-10 inside the paint. She recorded a double-double the last time the two teams met Dec. 11.
Montgomery acknowledged the assistants prepared them well, especially Eldred Peterson.
“We’re blessed to have great coaches, all of our coaches. Coach P was there just coaching us great and we got the mindset ready to get a win tonight,” she said. “But definitely coming out early, that’s what we have to come out in every game – especially since this is a district game, which is definitely even more important. Just coming out early, that’s the most important thing to do.”
The Lady Bulldogs remained assertive – especially defensively. John Hardin forced 33 turnovers and recorded 17 steals against the Lady Eagles, who lost their ninth straight.
“They have matured a lot as a team. They’ve come a long way. And they’ve matured enough that they’re ready to win a championship – and we did that down there at the tournament,” Todd said. “As long as they keep doing things like that and coming ready to play, they’re going to keep winning games.”
And they were also balanced. Freshman guard Emily Bohannon scored nine points, hitting 3-of-5 3-pointers off the bench, while junior guard Tajah Haley and junior guard Zacchea Small each scored eight. Freshman guard Tyra Jackson added five points and three assists. She banged knees with a Fort Knox player with 7:35 left in the second quarter, but returned a little more than 5 minutes later.
Fort Knox hadn’t played since Dec. 23 and students aren’t back in school until next week. First-year coach Joe Hammond said he was missing three starters and the Lady Eagles only had eight players available. In fact, those eight had only practiced once together before Thursday.
Sophomore guard Taiesha Wynder led Fort Knox with eight points, while junior guard Haven Noble had six points and four rebounds. The Lady Eagles developed their offense in the second and third quarters, scoring 18 of their points.
“I’m thrilled. I know the score doesn’t show it or anything, but we’ve been working on some stuff. A lot of it is starting to click. I’m thrilled with them,” Hammond said. “There were some mistakes made. We didn’t do everything right. We did a lot of things right that we’ve been working on. They’re getting it.”
UP NEXT: John Hardin plays at Thomas Nelson at 7:30 tonight. Fort Knox plays at Thomas Nelson at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
John Groth can be reached at (270) 505-1754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.