Jared McCurry has said all year he wants one thing from his players coming off the bench.
“It was just effort,” the John Hardin boys’ basketball coach said. “That’s all they gave for about a three minute stretch. That’s all I asked for and that’s what that group gave. It was a turning point in the game.
“You have to produce when you’re out there. I thought they guys we had in there who don’t play as much gave the effort. That’s all they did. They just gave the effort. Good things happen when you give an effort.”
That effort eventually gave the Bulldogs a 56-49 victory over visiting North Hardin Friday evening in a key 17th District contest.
“Coach asks us to come in and play hard and that’s what we do,” John Hardin senior JR Montgomery said. “He says, ‘Let the points come to you.’ Get an offensive rebound and put it back in, stuff like that.”
Trojans senior Josh Moore hit the first three baskets of the third period and the last one gave his squad a 43-33 lead with 6:12 left in the quarter.
Montgomery, Trevin Harris, Jalen Tyus and Te Stone scored to make it 43-41 with 4:27 left in the period and Cofer called a timeout.
On the floor for the Bulldogs were Montgomery, Tyus, Stone, Jalen Kinnaird and Harris.
One minute and 15 seconds later, with a 47-45 lead, McCurry had Montgomery, Tyus, Rogers, Stone and Kinnaird on the floor.
“We just try to come in, give energy and play hard, and let the game come to us,” Montgomery said. “If we come in there and give energy, we keep the game moving. We play good defense and give them (Alex Matthews, Preston Murrell and Harris) a break and they can come back in and get us some more points.”
North Hardin had John Hardin on the ropes.
The Bulldogs eventually got out of the corner and survived another tough 17th District match-up.
“Everybody’s talking about John and E’town, but we’re not dead yet,” Trojans coach Mike Cofer said. “I’m gonna use (Kentucky coach John) Calipari’s phrase, we’re not dead yet. We’re gonna continue to get getter. As I’ve said, I believe in my guys. We’ll learn from it and hopefully get better and play good ball at the end of the season.”
John Hardin then outscored the visitors, 23-6 over the final 14:12 of the contest.
“North’s done that the last three years on us,” McCurry said of the Trojans’ patient offense, taking time off the clock. “Nobody wants to play in a game like that. Nobody wants to watch it. I think it was a great game plan because when we came out on them, they did a great job early in the game of driving by us and dishing off.
“We had to get a little bit quicker in there and once we started keeping them out of the paint we got back in the game.”
North Hardin’s Queshaun Davis scored at 3:59 and Harris answered 20 seconds later to make it 45-43.
Bulldogs senior Alex Matthews canned four straight free throws after a Trojans player was whistled for two technicals for a 47-45 lead at 3:12.
Montgomery then hit two freebies of his own with 0.3 seconds showing for a 49-45 cushion.
North Hardin’s Tre Butler made both ends of a 1-and-1 at 5:22 to cut the gap to 49-47.
Montgomery scored at 4:31 and North Hardin’s Jalen Sharps made a basket at 2:18 and it was 51-49.
Harris buried two charity tosses at 1:53 and then again at 37.1 for a 55-49 advantage.
“A little bit of that was us holding the ball,” Cofer said of the four-point final quarter. “That was our game plan. I thought we took some bad shots, but I also thought we also had some good shots that just didn’t go in. We just didn’t find the basket.
“Our guys’ effort was tremendous. They fought every step of the way.”
John Hardin took a 9-0 lead 96 seconds into the game.
“It seems like we find a way to win,” McCurry said. “We didn’t show very much toughness tonight, except for a stretch there in the third quarter where we had some guys who usually don’t play as much as tonight, but they came and gave it their all.
“We had a four point lead and I think there was about six minutes left. They were just gonna hold the ball. The competitor in me, I can’t do that. I want to play, so I told my guys to get back out there and defend them. The group I had out there, I thought we were doing a better job of stopping the ball.
“I wanted to get an eight-point lead on them and go down and hold the ball on them and make them come out man-to-man, then back up on defense and even go to a zone. Once you have that many points in a slow-down game like this, that’s a lot of points and tough to come back on.
“We’ll get better from it. The guys are very upset with the way we played tonight.”
North Hardin fought back to tie it at 24 at 6:02 of the second period after a 3 by Sharps and a 2 by Naasir Johnson.
The Trojans held a 31-28 after another Sharps 3 and 37-33 at halftime.
“Give our guys a lot of credit for the way they came back,” Cofer said. “Those are the steps we have to make to move forward.
“We fought, got back in the game and took the lead. We only had two turnovers in the first half. I think that was the story of the first half for us. That was one of things we wanted to focus on.
“We had Matthews on the bench with foul trouble and we stopped doing what we had been doing. We didn’t capitalize. We quit blocking out. We missed assignments. I thought we had some key turnovers in that stretch.”
North Hardin center Max Campbell injured his wrist and the team is hoping for a return by the district tournament.
“My hear goes out to Max,” Cofer said. “That’s a big loss for us. We’ll pray for him.”
John Hardin received 18 points from Harris and 15 from Matthews.
North Hardin had 14 points from Moore and 10 each from Johnson, Sharps and Davis.
JOHN HARDIN 55,
NORTH HARDIN 49
North Hardin 14 23 8 4–49
John Hardin 21 12 16 7–56
NORTH HARDIN: Moore 14, Johnson 10, Sharps 10, Davis 10, Butler 5. FG: 18. FT: 10-12. 3-pointers: Sharps 2, Davis.
JOHN HARDIN: Harris 18, Matthews 15, Murrell 7, Montgomery 6, Stone 4, Rogers 2, Tyus 2, Kinnaird 2. FG: 19. FT: 16-23. 3-pointers: Matthews 2.