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No team in the history of the Boys’ 18th District Basketball Tournament has won the title five straight times, although history looks it will be made this week at Hart County.
Led by star senior point guard Kelton Ford, the top-seeded and four-time defending champion LaRue County Hawks appear primed to make that history.
However, veteran LaRue County coach Paul Childress knows titles are not won on paper. That’s why the Hawks have to come out ready to play at 8:15 Tuesday night against the fourth-seeded Hart County Raiders (10-18) in the semifinals. Assuming the Hawks (18-7) take care of business, then the second-seeded Caverna Colonels (16-12) or the third-seeded Green County Dragons (10-19) will await them in the final at 8:30 Friday night.
“I’m concerned about us going in with the right mindset, because it’s about one game now,” Childress said. “We have to be ready to play. We can’t be hesitant. We have to play our game, play to our strengths and force Hart County to stop us.
“We have to come out with an intensity and energy,” he added. “But once we get going, I think we’ll be fine.”
With Ford playing near his best, the Hawks have been fine down the stretch. They enter tonight having won four straight, 8-of-9 and 14-of-16. Both losses were by less than 10 points each to teams with winning records (a 22-5 Russell County team and a 15-13 Elizabethtown squad), while all four wins in their most recent winning streak have been fairly comfortable at eight points or more.
“In the last two or three weeks, we’ve gotten a lot better and become more consistent, so we have a good feeling,” Childress said.
In the last two or three weeks, nobody has come close to slowing down Ford. In six games this month, Ford has failed to score fewer than 21 points just once. He scored a career-high 39 points Friday in the regular-season finale at Marion County to raise his area-best scoring average to 23.2 points per game.
“He’s taken his game to another level, although he’s been pretty consistent for us all year,” Childress said. “I guess he sees the end of his tunnel as a senior and he’s picked his game up. He’s been more focused and been a leader for us in the locker room.”
Unfortunately for Hawks’ foes, Ford has been getting some help. Junior forward Tyler Howell (7.9 points, 7.3 rebounds per game) has scored at least 24 points twice in the last 14 games, junior forward Kody Key-Close (10, 3.9) has scored 17 points twice in his last nine games and sophomore shooting guard Micah Wiseman has scored at least 14 points twice in his last 13 games.
“We have several guys who at the end of the season have developed confidence in their game,” Childress said. “Everyone is getting comfortable with their role and they’re not afraid of what they’re doing.”
The Hawks swept the Raiders in the regular season, winning 46-38 on Jan. 11 in Hodgenville and 61-57 on Dec. 7 in Munfordville. Both times the Hawks had a chance to blow the game open only to let the Raiders hang around.
“We played good for a spurt and then we would play bad for a spurt,” Childress said. “We need to maintain and sustain our runs. We need to become more consistent on defense when other teams are making their runs.”