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By JOSH CLAYWELL firstname.lastname@example.org
FORT KNOX — Jennifer Smiley is beginning to heat up for the North Hardin Lady Trojans.
A junior guard, Smiley scored 16 points to lead the visiting Lady Trojans past Fort Knox, 86-31 in a 17th District game on Monday.
“I don’t know what it was,” North Hardin coach James Slaven said of Smiley’s slow start this season. “Her minutes haven’t changed at all. I tell her all the time that she’s the only one who can stop herself.”
Since scoring a career-high 27 points against Owensboro on Jan. 3, Smiley has scored 20 or more points in two of North Hardin’s last three wins.
All it took to get going, Smiley said, was a little cotton candy.
“I ate it that game I had 27, and we’ve done it since,” said Smiley, who also had three rebounds, three assists and three steals. “I was slacking earlier this season.”
Smiley wasn’t the only one benefitting from a pregame sugar rush.
North Hardin (14-3 overall, 4-1 district) had four other players reach double digits in scoring in winning its sixth straight.
Junior post Destiny Bramblett recorded game highs in points (17) and rebounds (15). Bramblett also had four steals, two assists and two blocks.
“I think that’s a pretty good night,” Bramblett said. “I hope we all keep playing like we did in the second half.”
While the Lady Trojans led 48-20 at intermission, neither Bramblett, Smiley nor Slaven were very pleased with how the team played. North Hardin shot 34.6 percent (18-of-52) from the field and 8.3 percent (1-of-11) from behind the 3-point arc.
The Lady Trojans allowed the Lady Eagles (1-11, 0-4) to score 20 points in the first half after holding them to 22 total points in a 95-22 win on Dec. 12 in the teams’ first meeting.
“I was worried about our start,” said Slaven, who gave the team two days off following Friday’s 79-60 win over Shelby County. “I was worried about our kids not coming out strong. I thought we played selfish at times. We didn’t play Trojan basketball in the first half.”
The second half was much more to Slaven’s liking.
North Hardin limited Fort Knox to 11 points and forced the Lady Eagles into 24 turnovers.
“He said we needed to pick up the pace and shoot it better,” Bramblett said. “We were just getting beat long on the defensive end.”
Smiley said the team didn’t come out with enough firepower after the two-day layoff.
“We came in with the mindset that we’d beat them pretty easily. We just came in lackadaisical,” Smiley said. “At halftime, Coach realized that and he said he wasn’t having anymore of it.”
The game was tied once, at 2-2 less than a minute into the game. But North Hardin used a 7-0 run to build a 9-2 lead.
Fort Knox junior forward Katrice Fed then scored on a putback to trim the lead to 9-4, but the Lady Trojans pulled out to a 16-6 lead when sophomore guard RaeChaun Edwards hit North Hardin’s only 3-pointer off an assist from senior guard Sarah Anderson.
The Lady Trojans led 32-10 at the end of the first quarter. They extended it to 42-13 just 3 minutes into the second period. Fort Knox pulled to within 44-19 on a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Allyson Swilley, but that was as close as the Lady Eagles would get.
North Hardin’s lead grew to 40 midway through the third quarter and hit 50 just 30 seconds into the fourth.
Edwards added 15 points, eight assists, three rebounds and three assists, while eighth-grade forward Chanel Roberts had 14 points, eight rebounds and six steals. Senior forward Kurtrina Brunson had 10 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal off the bench.
Junior guard Tiana Benjamin paced Fort Knox with 10 points, eight rebounds and one assist, while junior wing Kamika Joyner added nine points, four rebounds and one block. Swilley had eight points and four rebounds.
UP NEXT: North Hardin hosts 17th District rival Elizabethtown at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Fort Knox plays at district rival Central Hardin at 8 p.m. Friday.
Josh Claywell can be reached at 505-1752