After watching a 15-point lead slip away, the North Hardin High School boys basketball team made a defensive adjustment in the fourth quarter and stayed alive in its quest for its first Forcht Bank King of the Bluegrass Holiday Classic title.
The Trojans drew four charging fouls – three by Kamrin Boone – and limited Fern Creek to eight points in the fourth quarter on their way to a 60-54 victory in a KOB quarterfinal at Fairdale.
“In the third quarter they were penetrating our zone and getting into the lane way too easily,” North Hardin coach Michael Cofer said. “In the fourth quarter we picked up the defense and had some guys in the middle step up and take some very big charges for us.”
Tony Jackson posted 21 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and three steals as North Hardin (8-1) – No. 18 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s preseason poll of coaches – advanced to face Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy (8-0) in Tuesday’s 9 p.m. semifinal.
Brandon Maxwell (16 points, seven rebounds) and Will Alexander (13 points) also had big games for North Hardin, but Fern Creek coach James Schooler said Jackson was the difference.
“He’s a grown man on the court,” Schooler said. “He thinks and he plays that way.”
DaiQuan Jones scored 12 points and Anthony Wales has 10 to lead No. 16 Fern Creek (6-3), which will face Evanston (Ill.) Township at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in a consolation-round games.
The Tigers finished 0 for 12 from 3-point range and 12 of 21 from the free-throw line Monday.
“I thought our kids fought hard,” Schooler said. “There’s a lot of inexperience, and this is just going to pay dividends for us as we continue to grow.”
Alexander’s layup gave North Hardin a 32-17 lead with 2:42 left in the first half, but the Tigers used a 12-1 run to pull within 33-29 at the break.
Maxwell’s basket pushed the Trojans’ lead to 43-32 with 5:01 left in the third quarter before Fern Creek answered with a 14-3 surge. Ahmad Price’s tip-in at the buzzer tied the score at 46 entering the fourth quarter.
But the Tigers missed their first six shots of the fourth quarter and committed nine turnovers, including four charging fouls. Maxwell’s basket gave North Hardin a 55-48 lead with 1:48 remaining, and Fern Creek never got closer than three points the rest of the way.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
FERN CREEK 13 16 17 8 – 54
NORTH HARDIN 18 15 13 14 – 60
Fern Creek (6-3) – Thomas 4, Wales 10, Price 2, Jones 12, Wickliffe 4, Hawkins 4, Washington 5, Rogers 9, Childress 2, Yussef 2.
North Hardin (8-1) – Alexander 13, Root 4, Harris 3, Maxwell 16, Jackson 21, Pitre 3.
3-point goals – Jackson 3.