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LEXINGTON — John Hardin freshman Tyree Moody let out a loud sigh of relief Thursday afternoon when Fleming County's Brady Saunders missed the front end of a one-and-one bonus with the Bulldogs holding a 78-69 lead with 24 seconds left during opening round action in the KHSAA Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena.
The whole JHHS student section remained on its feet in the final seconds when someone shouted, "start it". Another student hollered, "wait".
Then John Hardin's Keon Williams dribbled up the floor, drove into the lane to shoot, missed and was fouled with 15.3 ticks on the clock.
As Williams first shot fell through the net, a student again hollered out "start it" and suddenly the pep section breaks into "I believe, I believe, I believe we can win", repeating several times.
As the final seconds ran off the clock, cheers erupted from the student section as John Hardin moved on to the quarterfinals tonight at 6:30 p.m. against Montgomery County.
Senior Lexi Skaggs, dressed in a Superman outfit with a tutu, said she will be back for tonight's game and all the others as long as the Bulldogs keep winning. Senior Aaron Gatlin, donning a Batman outfit — sans tutu — said it was "exciting to be here and support the team. Of course I want to be here Sunday" for the championship game. Several other students repeated the same as they headed out to the buses and cars after the outing.
A large contingent of Bulldog supporters and pep band filled the lower end section of Rupp Arena as three bus loads of students filed into their seats long before the game started. Many were dressed in costumes ranging from super heroes to a student wearing a Gumby outfit.
The John Hardin student section started standing while the team warmed up and stayed on their feet until the final buzzer sounded definitely making more noise on their end than the crowd from Flemingsburg. The Panther supporters had little to cheer about as their team quickly fell behind and never led.
Each time John Hardin's Brandon Price stepped to the foul line, the students would hold up both arms with three fingers extended — Price's jersey number. As the free throws fell, a "whoop" would come from the pep section.
During a second-quarter break, the public announcer asked both student sections to give their version of the "Harlem Shake" which was being judged during the tournament and the winner to be announced later in the week. John Hardin went first and easily bested Fleming County's effort.
John Hardin bested Fleming County in other ways during the game as students Will Ryan and Reneé Johnson-Stateman won a shoot around contest during halftime.
Sophomore Dorien Moorman took a break during halftime and enjoyed a chili dog. When asked how he thought the game was going, he replied "going great and I'm confident we can win this game" as the Bulldogs held a 34-24 advantage.
Even as the Bulldogs went out to a 15-point lead in the second half, the John Hardin faithful stayed on their feet cheering every basket and defensive effort by their beloved team.
Neal Cardin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (270) 505-1753.