Ronald Hardin was in attack mode from the jump Tuesday night, scoring 20 points to lead Adairsville to a 52-46 home win over Sonoraville on senior night.
“Coach [Reggie Wilkes] wanted to run the offense through me, and he told me to drive every time I got the ball,” Hardin said. “So that’s what I did.”
The Phoenix entered the night 10-1 and in second place in Region 6-AAA, with that one loss coming against a Calhoun team that’s 12-0 in region. That was well ahead of third place Adairsville’s 5-5 region record, but the Tigers (13-10, 6-5) looked like the better team all night to take the big win.
Hardin scored six points in the first quarter as Adairsville roared out to a 10-2 lead before Sonoraville’s Bryce Waters, who finished with 25, hit a jumper and a 3 to make it 10-7 after one.
After being recognized before the game, the seniors showed out for Adairsville.
In the second quarter alone, Juan Perez scored four points and hauled in four rebounds, Cole Hewatt hit a 3, and Hardin added four more points.
All seniors, and good enough for a 25-17 lead at halftime for Adairsville.
“Our seniors stepped up tonight and played like seniors,” Wilkes said. “They’ve played for three years, most of them have started, and the experience has really paid off for them.”
Sonoraville kept it close in the third, with Hardin scoring just two points in the period and the Phoenix cutting it the lead to 33-28 heading to the fourth, but Adairsville made the big plays to close it out.
A driving layup by Hardin made it 38-28 with 6:48 left before Sonoraville scored two quick buckets in response.
With just over three minutes left, the Phoenix closed the gap even further, to 40-36, but Hardin lulled his defender with a series of between-the-legs dribbles before exploding to the basket for a layup.
“I just felt like I had to take over at some point,” Hardin said.
Hunter Hice converted a tough layup while being fouled on the next possession, but missed the free throw to keep the margin at 44-36.
Sonoraville had one last comeback attempt left, but senior James Sims hit two free throws with 19.5 seconds left for Adairsville to take a 50-46 lead to the final 52-46 margin.
“It was tense,” Wilkes said. “[Sonoraville] has a really good team and they play hard.”
Perez finished with nine points and six rebounds, while Sims had eight and seven. Hewatt had five points, and the last senior, Denzel Pitt, finished with four points and five rebounds as Adairsville’s top five scorers were their five seniors honored on the night (Pitt and junior Cody Henderson each had four points).
“We just went out there to play as a team, and not just as a team, but as a brotherhood,” Pitt said.
The Tigers play next on Friday, as they wrap up their regular-season schedule with an away game at Coahulla Creek.