HALL OF FAME
BOYS' 5th REGION TOURNAMENT: John Hardin holds off Bardstown, 68-64
February 27, 2013Bardstown High School
Monday, February 25, 2013 at 11:27 pm (Updated: February 26, 3:10 pm)
MUNFORDVILLE — John Hardin hit six free throws in the final 28 seconds to hold off Bardstown and score a 68-64 win in a thrilling 5th Region quarterfinal matchup Monday at Hart County High School.
“My guys — I’m going to be honest with you — they played their hearts out,” Bardstown coach James “Boo” Brewer said. “They have got nothing to be ashamed of. We came in here with a game plan, did what we needed to do, and just came up a little bit short.”
The two teams have met each of the past three seasons in the 5th Region tournament, with the winner capturing the region crown and advancing to the Sweet 16 each time.
“It was the two best teams (in the region) on the floor tonight and it’s a shame one of us … had to lose,” Brewer said.
Trailing by two with less than five minutes left, John Hardin used a 10-2 fourth-quarter spurt to seize control, but had to hit its free throws down the stretch as Bardstown kept coming.
“It’s all part of the postseason,” said John Hardin junior Keon Williams, who scored 11 points. “All the games are tough. It was a total team effort. It was two teams going at it and we were able to drag out a win. That’s the most important thing.”
The seventh-ranked Bulldogs (26-3) lived to see another day, moving on to meet the LaRue County (21-7) at 6 p.m. Friday in the region semifinals. LaRue County downed Adair County, 58-45 in the first game Monday. The Bulldogs beat the Hawks 84-78 in overtime in last year’s region semifinals at Central Hardin.
The Tigers (23-10) got off to a hot 10-5 start with senior Marcus Cosby — who scored a team-high 26 — but the Bulldogs (26-3) roared back with eight unanswered, setting the tone for what became an exciting back-and-forth affair. Cosby ended up hitting 10-of-13 field goal tries, including 4-for-6 from three-point land, and grabbed eight rebounds in his final high school game.
“He’s been steady all year long,” Brewer said. “Not only did Marcus (play great), but I thought L.J. (Cowherd) played great as well. I thought L.J. was one of the best guards on the floor. He showed a lot of leadership.”
Cowherd, a sophomore point guard, tallied 19 points, six boards and four assists, hitting 8-of-16 from the field. Senior Devonte Grundy bounced back from an injury suffered in the district championship by grabbing 18 rebounds to go with 11 points.
“His shot wasn’t falling outside, but he hit the boards,” Brewer said. “We had a lot of guys step up tonight.”
John Hardin’s Daveon Greene scored 20 of his game-high 27 points in the first half to help his team to a 36-34 lead at the break. Greene also snared 14 rebounds and dished out four assists.
The Bulldogs led by as many as six in the third quarter, but the Tigers clawed back to claim a 54-52 lead with 5:47 to play after Cowherd hit the front end of a one-and-one, with Cosby getting the offensive rebound on the second one and scoring the putback.
But after Bardstown got the lead, John Hardin came right back.
With guard Brandon Price (13 points, seven assists, five rebounds) on the bench with four fouls, John Hardin struggled to generate any offense until he returned with less than five minutes left. With Price back on the floor, the Bulldogs took off.
Junior guard Patrick Anderson and Williams made back-to-back layups to give John Hardin a 56-54 lead with 3:42 left. After a Bardstown turnover, Williams drained a 15-footer on an inbounds pass from Price.
Cowherd made a runner in the lane to stop John Hardin’s run temporarily. Anderson and Williams once again had consecutive layups to push the lead to 62-56 with 2:31 remaining.
“That was big,” Brewer said. “I only had one timeout remaining, so I couldn’t use it on something like that because I knew I would need it later. We played 30 minutes of great basketball, but we had two minutes where we did some ill-advised things and they capitalized on it. They got the momentum and we never got it back.”
Neither Williams nor Anderson was having a good night offensively until the fourth quarter. The two had combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting before Williams scored eight points and Anderson four in the final eight minutes.
“What people won’t be able to see in the box score is how hard they were working on the defensive end,” John Hardin coach Mark Wells said. “They were so focused on that end of the court in order to help us win that it took away from their offense. That just shows how unselfish they are.”
Bardstown hung around, however, getting a three-point play by Cowherd — who scored 21 — to cut it to 64-62 with 21.5 seconds left, but the Tigers could get no closer.
In an instant classic much like the two previous years when these teams had met, this was the type of game many expected from two region heavyweights. The game had three ties. John Hardin’s largest lead was seven, and Bardstown’s was five — both of which came in the first quarter.
“Was that the region championship game?” Brewer asked. “I’m tired of playing them. It was two great basketball programs giving all they got. I know we left everything on the court.”
Chuck Jones is the sports editor for The News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown and can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Peter W. Zubaty is the sports editor for The Kentucky Standard and can be reached at 348-9003 Ext. 115 or at email@example.com.