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Already off to their best start in school history, the John Hardin Lady Bulldogs rolled to another lopsided 17th District victory Tuesday night.
Senior post Michelle Montgomery had 18 points, 12 rebounds and four steals to lead the host Lady Bulldogs to a 60-16 win over Fort Knox at the Dawg Pound.
“Right now, we feel good,” said Montgomery, whose team has won five straight. “But after every game, we’ve got to put it behind us and focus on the next one.”
Junior wing Nawdya Fletcher and junior guard Tajah Haley hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start a 15-0 game-opening run for the Lady Bulldogs (6-1, 2-1 district), who forced five turnovers and held Fort Knox (1-6, 0-3) scoreless for the first 4 minutes.
“We definitely need to start games off better and come out more focused,” said veteran John Hardin coach Bryan Todd. “I think they’re doing that and we need to do that again Friday night against North Hardin. That’s going to be a little more difficult, but we’ve got to be focused and ready to play.”
While he’s enjoying the winning streak, Todd said there are areas his team can still improve.
One of those is free-throw shooting. The Lady Bulldogs were 11-of-21 from the line Tuesday.
“We just try to get better every game, and try to stay focused on what we’re trying to do: taking care of the basketball, playing good defense and rebounding,” Todd said. “We’re not perfect at any of those things yet, but hopefully we can keep getting better and peak at the end of the year.”
Another area is getting better play from their reserves, who only scored five points to stretch the lead to 20-4 at the end of the first quarter.
“I don’t think our subs were as focused as they should have been,” Todd said. “They were a little more lackadaisical than our starters. I took the press off when they went in and we played more half court man-to-man. They’re used to pressing the whole game, and I think that kind of held them back a bit.”
The Lady Bulldogs’ starters extended the lead to 36-8 at the half.
Montgomery said her teammates can expect intense practices today and Thursday in preparation for North Hardin on Friday.
“The next two days, we need to work hard in practice and work on a lot of things,” she said. “We need to get some extra (free throw) shots in. Free throws are a very important part of the game. We just have to practice and improve. I’m sure North Hardin is going to practice hard, just like we will be.”
The lead swelled to 47-12 – which started the running clock – late in the third quarter on a putback by sophomore reserve post Tamera Taylor, who had six points and six rebounds.
Junior guard Zacchea Small added eight points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal, while Fletcher had seven points, two rebounds, two steals, one block and one assist. Freshman guard Tyra Jackson, who played at Fort Knox last season, chipped in with seven points, two steals and one assist.
Fort Knox went scoreless in the fourth quarter. The Lady Eagles were 6-of-29 from the field overall and 2-of-9 from the foul line, but first-year coach Joe Hammond was encouraged by what he saw Tuesday.
“I think we’re getting better,” he said. “We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re taking baby steps. It’s a maturity level. We’re getting there. We’re going to keep working at it.”
A bright spot was seventh-grade guard Byanca Powell, who had 10 points, three steals, two rebounds and one assist.
“She’s still 13 and we’re trying to get her to mature and play at the varsity level,” Hammond said. “We’re trying to get her to be our floor coach when she’s playing, and that’s a different role for her. We’re trying to push her a little faster to grow than she’s ready for, but she’s doing well. She’s just got to get better at making the right decisions at the right times, and that’ll come with maturity and playing more.”
Fort Knox was playing its third straight game without injured senior Bianca Kelley, who pulled two tendons in her left foot in last week’s loss to North Hardin. Hammond said Kelley should return within the next week.
UP NEXT: John Hardin hosts North Hardin at 6 p.m. Friday in the first game of a girl/boy doubleheader. Fort Knox plays Caverna at 7 p.m. Dec. 20 in the Caverna Lady Colonel Christmas Classic.
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.