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The LaRue County Hawks Basketball Team’s season came to an end March 2 in the first round of the 5th Region Tourney at Greensburg. The Marion County Knights took away a 55-53 victory, leaving the Hawks with an overall season record of 17-11 and a district record of 7-1.
Head Coach Paul Childress felt the Hawks got off to a good start yet struggled offensively.
“I thought we came out early and did a good job defensively on Marion County,” he said. “They had hurt us before on penetration and I thought we did a good job in the first half, unfortunately we did not capitalize like we should on the offensive end.”
In the first quarter, LaRue County started out slow offensively with two quick turnovers. At the 5:29 mark with Marion County up 4-0, Coach Childress called a time out and it seemed to settle the Hawks down. Kelton Ford hit a quick two, Kyle Sheeran hit two free throws and when Ford stole the ball and hit a lay-up, the score was tied at eight. Marion County hit two three’s but Dylan Parr’s two free throws at 0:16 cut the Knight’s lead 14-12.
The Hawks came out at the start of the second quarter taking a 19-14 lead on a Sheeran two-pointer and a three and a Ryan Whitlock basket after a nifty pass from Sheeran. At this point, the Hawks turned cold, scoring only three points the last 6:53 of the quarter, leaving the score tied at 22.
The Hawks’ scoring drought continued in the third quarter with their first basket at the 5:57 mark by Chase Reynolds. Marion County steadily increased their lead throughout the third quarter, leading 37-27 late in the quarter. The Hawks continued to fight back, though, when Ford and Parr hit three’s followed by a Ford lay-up cutting the Knight’s lead to 39-35. The Knights took a 42-37 lead into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was anybody’s game with the Knights maintaining a four to five point lead. After Marion County’s lead reached 51-43, Sheeran hit a basket and was fouled, cutting the lead 51-46 at the 2:30 mark. At this point LaRue was forced to foul and the plan almost worked as the Knight’s struggled at the free throw line missing six free throws. With the Knights leading 52-48, Sheeran’s three cut the Knight’s lead to one. The Knights’ Carlos Litsey was fouled and sent to the free throw line for two shots. He missed both but a lane violation allowed him to shoot the second free throw over and he hit it to take a 53-51 lead.
LaRue County had the ball with 30 seconds left on the clock missing a shot but a Reynolds rebound and put-back tied the score at 53. The Knights came back quickly down the floor and scored a basket on a Deshawn Douglas lay-up, taking a 55-53 lead. The Hawks quickly called a time out with eight seconds left in the game to set up a last second shot. The Hawks tried to get the ball inside but Sheeran was forced to take an off-balance three-pointer and, unfortunately for the Hawks, missed.
Although disappointed with the loss, Coach Childress was extremely proud of his team, not only during tournament play but for the season as well. “In the second half, Marion County began to knock down some open shots and we struggled a little with turnovers, missing free-throws and lay-ups. We got down 10 but our guys never gave up. That's the way we played for most of the season. We may not always have been the most talented team but we always seemed to play hard and fight the whole game.”
Childress praised Whitlock for “some big plays while Marion County was trapping Kelton and Kyle.”
Ford and Sheeran did a good job of beating the double teams but they wore them down, he added.
“Kyle and Kelton both made some big shots at the end to get us close and the rebound put-back by Chase to tie the game was huge. Unfortunately we were just one play away from winning this game and that is what you tend to run into this time of year in the post-season. Our guys played hard and gave ourselves a chance to win but those last shots just didn't go down.”
Childress said his team “surprised a lot of people” this season and exceeded his own expectations.
“It was a blast coaching this squad,” he said. “It was all about the team with these guys and they developed into a competitive group that was fun to coach. We demonstrated the very toughness that allowed us to win 17 games this season.”