With 20 seconds left in the first quarter, North Hardin's Greg Johnson saw an opening in the paint. He dribbled left and exploded down the lane for a two-handed dunk that gave the Trojans an 11-point lead.
And after that, things only got worse for Lafayette (8-13). North Hardin, ranked No. 16 in Dave Cantrall's Rating the State, continually pressured the host Generals, forcing 15 first-half turnovers and cruising to a 78-51 victory.
Junior forward James Berry had a team-high 18 points, including 10 in the first half, and senior guard Billy Thompson added 15 for the Trojans (16-7).
"We work really hard in practice, and we emphasize our press," Berry said. "And if that works, then it'll lead to easy points and turnovers like tonight."
Johnson's dunk just before the end of the first quarter sparked a 19-2 run, and North Hardin went into halftime leading 44-18.
"We've got to compete harder," said Lafayette Coach Damon Kelley, whose team lost to North Hardin 81-68 earlier this season. "Our struggles with the press — we had the wrong guys taking the ball out of bounds, and guys weren't getting where they were supposed to be."
North Hardin's pressure bothered a smaller Lafayette team that was without their second-leading scorer, Ray Roberts. The Trojans thrived in their up-tempo game, blocking 12 shots and scoring 21 points off turnovers.
"We play basically the same style of basketball, get up and down the floor and run with it, and our press was pretty effective," North Hardin Coach Ron Bevars said. "I thought we played one of our better halves this year in the first half."
A 13-5 Lafayette run to start the second half cut the deficit to 18, but the Generals couldn't pull closer, and North Hardin took a 57-31 lead into the fourth quarter.
Mike Walker led Lafayette with 25 points, including five three-pointers. Tyler Barber chipped in with seven points for the Generals.
Ex-UK quarterback and North Hardin graduate Andre Woodson attended the game. He led the school to three straight Sweet Sixteens from 2001-03. But North Hardin, who's undefeated in 5th Region play, hasn't been back since.
"I think we've got a shot at it this year."," Bevars said. "We're in the mix. There are five or six teams that probably could win it and we're one of them."
North Hardin 78, Lafayette 51
North Hardin (16-7) — Berry 18, Roo.Emerson 7, Irvin 6, King 6, Johnson 11, Thompson 15, Bramblett 8, Rol.Emerson 2, Coney 2, Rutley 3.
Lafayette (8-13) — Yarbrough 2, Duncan 2, Walker 25, Shaftner 4, Lawless 5, Barber 7, Davis 6.
North Hardin 23 21 13 21—78
Lafayette 10 8 13 20—51