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The LaRue County Hawks lost to John Hardin 78-84 in overtime Monday night in the 5th Region Tournament semifinals.
After falling behind by as many as 12 in the third quarter, John Hardin chipped away at LaRue County’s lead and eventually tied the game at 67-all with 5.7 seconds remaining on junior point guard Brandon Price’s 8-foot jumper to force overtime.
In overtime, the Bulldogs pulled out to a six-point lead and held on for victory at Central Hardin High School’s Bruin Gym. The Bulldogs face Bardstown Tuesday night for the championship.
For LaRue County, it was a painful ending to a good season which saw the Hawks (23-8) win a record fourth consecutive 18th District Tournament. The Hawks will graduate three seniors – Jonathan Firquin, Kyle Meredith and Kyle Sheeran.
“Absolutely,” LaRue County coach Paul Childress said. “I told the guys to hold their heads up. They brought the love back to LaRue County basketball. A lot of people see the games, but they don’t see how hard these guys have worked. We wouldn’t be where we’re at without their hard work and dedication to the program.
“They have so much to be proud of the last four years,” he added. “This loss hurts because you feel like we had a chance to win. This will hurt for awhile.”
The Hawks certainly had John Hardin on the ropes. They led 46-34 after junior point guard Kelton Ford drained a 3-pointer from the right wing with 6:16 left in the third quarter.
But the Bulldogs used a 9-0 run to get back in the game. Price made a short jumper, Williams and junior forward Daveon Greene had back-to-back putbacks and then Williams nailed a 3-pointer.
John Hardin cut LaRue County’s lead to one on four occasions in the final 11 minutes, but the Bulldogs were never able to get able to get over the hump as the Hawks answered each John Hardin run.
LaRue County missed 6-of-13 free throws in the final 3 minutes.
“We missed some important free throws at the end,” said Sheeran, who poured in 33 points. “We had a couple of chances to put them away. We didn’t do and they made us pay for it.”
In overtime and trailing by five, Sheeran hit 3-of-4 free throws and junior guard Gabe Shirley made a pair of free throws to pull LaRue County within 76-75. The Bulldogs fought back to take the win.
“It boils down to they’re a good team,” Childress said. “Their offensive rebounds and second chance points made the difference. We didn’t have an answer for (Greene) inside. We couldn’t keep them off the offensive boards.”
The Hawks came out firing on all cylinders, hitting five of their first six 3-pointers. They were 9-of-12 behind the arc in the first half. Sheeran drilled six of them, Meredith two and Ford one.
John Hardin led 4-3 before LaRue County’s barrage of 3s. The Hawks pulled out to a 32-17 lead after a layup by Firquin with 4:09 left before halftime.
“It was real important to get off to a fast start,” said Sheeran, who was selected to the All-Tournament team along with Ford. “We had to show them we could stay in the game. We came out hitting our shots. We just came up a little bit short in the end.”