Along with their equipment, Central Hardin traveled Tuesday to John Hardin with a chip on their shoulder.
Carrying a nearly six-year losing streak with them, the Bruins entered the gym ready to play notching a convincing 91-63 win. The last time the team won against the Bulldogs was Dec. 12, 2016.
“I woke up ready,” junior guard Ace Jaggers said. “It feels good, especially for coach (Matt Nickell). Coach has been coaching here a long time so to get him a win against John feels good.”
Central Hardin led by as many as 32 points in the fourth quarter, fueled by 32 points from junior guard Brett Decker, who led all scorers, and 18 from Jaggers. Seniors Jakob Fredrickson and Nolan Stith each chipped in 11.
The Bruins applied pressure early, both offensively and defensively, as Decker scored 17 of his points in the first quarter and the team forced several Bulldog turnovers.
“That’s what we’ve been talking, is execution,” Jaggers said. “That’s what we wanted to do from the jump is get them running because they can’t run with us, so that’s what we planned on doing.”
It was a pace the young John Hardin team had trouble keeping up with, coach Austin Jones said.
“We knew we were going to go through growing pains,” he said. “We knew we were going to be smaller, so we kind of knew we couldn’t make as many mistakes as we did early.”
While taking care of the ball and offensive rebounding was an emphasis during practice, Jones said he wouldn’t say “all week, because I feel like all we’ve done is play games all week.”
“But we emphasized today at least trying to get to where we limit them to one shot because we knew that’s where they could really hurt us on the offensive rebounding,” he said.
It was a task easier said than done as the Bruins made good on several second-chance efforts on the offensive end and limited the Bulldogs to one chance on defense.
“I love the way Adam Hobbs controlled the glass in the first half,” Nickell said. “It seemed like he got every defensive rebound and was able to kick it out to our guards and then we were able to get downhill.”
The team nabbed 47 rebounds for the game with Hobbs pulling in 10 of them and Fredrickson 9.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit on the boards,” said Decker, who grabbed 6 boards. “Coach has been telling us we got to crash and not stand out on the three-point line.”
The Bruins shot 72.7% from the field, but Nickell said he sees room for improvement in that department.
“I still don’t feel like we shot the ball like we were capable, but I love the way we attacked the paint,” he said. “We had guys going to the offensive glass quite a bit, too. I was just really happy with our effort.”
The team also got to the line 24 times, netting 19 of those attempts.
And while the Bruins scored 54 points it the first half, Nickell said he thought his team let their foot off the gas in the second half, especially the fourth quarter where Central Hardin put up 17 points.
“The mark of a good team, you just stay consistent no matter what the score is,” he said. “I thought we got a little lax on offense in the fourth quarter. We started turning the ball over, we tried to get in gaps that weren’t there, we stopped moving the ball side to side. I just really feel like consistency will be the key for us moving forward and just playing a whole 32 minutes.”
For John Hardin, senior guard Jake Owens scored 17, followed by 12 from sophomore guard Andre Smith and 10 from senior guard Taj Douglas.
“This is just a minor setback for John Hardin basketball,” Jones said, referencing the streak. “They were due. They have a really good team and, hopefully, by the time it’s tournament time, we’ll be able to compete with them.”
The key to being able to do that is for his team to have more time together to “find an identity,” Jones said.
“We just have to find what we’re good at,” he