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CECILIA — Bardstown’s bid for back-to-back 5th Region titles fell just short Tuesday, as John Hardin’s Brandon Price earned his tourney MVP performance with a monster 37-point, seven-assist night in the Bulldogs’ 74-66 win.
“It’s really tough,” Bardstown senior Jordan Brewer said. “You always come into games expecting to win, and I still think we should’ve won, but sometimes the ball just bounces the other way.”
The Tigers’ season came to an end with a 25-10 mark, while the Bulldogs — who also knocked out 19th District representative Bethlehem in the first round — improve to 22-8 overall and advance to next week’s boys’ Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, where they will face 15th Region champ Johnson Central (25-10).
The loss capped an outstanding two-year run for Bardstown under Jordan’s father, Tiger head coach James “Boo” Brewer. Brewer took over the Bardstown program last year and guided the Tigers to a 5th Region All A Classic title and the overall 5th Region title and a berth in the Sweet 16 — the seventh in school history. This season, Bardstown played in the top two invitational tournaments in the state, as well as getting all the way to the statewide All A Classic championship game, falling on a last-second three-pointer to Covington Holy Cross. Brewer has a 49-15 combined record following his first two seasons as Bardstown head coach.
“When I took the job, I didn’t know what I was getting into,” he said. “For the last two years I’ve had wonderful kids, wonderful seniors, (including) two of my own that I’m really going to miss, but all of them I consider my sons. I hated that it had to end, but we were in the region finals again — that’s two years in a row — and I told my guys, ‘you have nothing to hold your head down about, and just keep your head up, turn that chapter and write another chapter.’”
Bardstown struggled offensively for much of the game, hitting 23-of-58 field goals, while John Hardin hit 21-for-38 from the field and 12-of-19 before halftime. In the first half, the Tigers managed just 7-for-21 from the field and fell behind by 14 going into the locker room.
“We never could get over the hump from the first half,” Brewer said. “We missed a lot of shots under the basket, and we missed our defensive assignments.”
The Tigers rallied in the second half behind Brewer’s adopted son, Anthony Myrks — who scored all of his team-high 21 points after the break following a first half where the senior was saddled with foul trouble — and managed to pull within five points on a few occasions late, but could never get things down to a one-possession game.
“He was more focused the second half than he was the first half,” Brewer said of Myrks. “In the second half, our offense started clicking.”
But while Myrks had a monster second half, Price’s was even better, as the John Hardin junior managed to answer every big play by Bardstown with one of his own, such as his drive and dish out to teammate Jeremy Harness for a three-pointer that stretched the Bulldog lead back to 10 with 4:42 remaining after a Myrks three-point play had pulled the Tigers within seven. On two other occasions in the fourth quarter, Price hit free throws to keep the Bulldog lead at 10.
“You’ve got to give hands-down to Price — he had an unbelievable night,” Brewer said. “I’ve never seen him play like that. He’s a great guard, a great player. Tonight, it was all about him.”
In all, Price hit 11-of-15 field goal tries — including 2-for-3 on three-pointers to go with a host of acrobatic drives to the bucket — and was 13-of-17 from the free throw line. His 37 points was the most in a 5th Region championship game since 1993 when Marion County’s Anthony Epps exploded for 37 in an 87-59 win over Nelson County on the way to the Sweet 16 championship that year.
“I was trying to be aggressive,” said Price, who had a frustrating 9-for-16 performance from the foul line in the semifinals. “The past two games I haven’t played up to my ability. In order for us to win region, I have to attack.”
After Price’s free throws made it 64-54 with 2:37 remaining, Bardstown’s Marcus Cosby scored five consecutive points to cut it to 64-59, the closest the Tigers had been since the first quarter.
Price and Harness hit several clutch free throws during the final 1:04 of the game to keep the Tigers at bay. Devonte Grundy hit a three with 15 seconds left to cut it to 71-66, but time ran out on the Bardstown comeback try.
“Tonight, it just wasn’t our night,” Brewer said.
Bardstown also got 15 points from Grundy and 10 apiece from Brewer and Cosby. For John Hardin, Harness and Daveon Greene scored 10 apiece, while Greene also grabbed 12 rebounds.
The game marked the end of the road for Tiger seniors such as Myrks and Brewer, as well as starters Justin Hubbard and Cody Ramos and key reserves Drew Starks, Brandon Coulter.
“It’s always tough losing in a close game like that; you just have to move on in life,” said Cosby, a junior. “We had some missed opportunities — we just have to capitalize on those. We have to work hard and get it back.”
John Groth, a sportswriter for The News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown, contributed to this report.
Boys’ 5th Region Championship
at Central Hardin
John Hardin 74, Bardstown 66
B 6 13 16 31—66
JH 13 20 18 23—74
B (66) — Myrks 21, Cosby 10, Grundy 15, Brewer 10, Ramos 5, Cowherd 1, Starks 2, Hubbard 2.
JH (74) — Gaskins 2, Harness 10, Montgomery 4, Price 37, Greene 10, Williams 8, Smith 3.