By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
South Middle’s sixth grade wrapped up play in the North Laurel Tip-Off Tournament by rolling to a 51-27 win over North Middle. The convincing win wasn’t enough to give the Cardinals the title in a round-robin tournament that saw three teams finishing with one loss. Hazard took home the trophy on a tie breaker.
“Our kids played hard. We are just undersized,” South Middle coach Curt Sanders said. “We just have to play so much harder on the defensive end because we give up so much size.”
The Cardinals only loss was 59-52 to Northern Pulaski, a game that was tied with two minutes to go. South Middle was forced to put Northern Pulaski on the free throw line at the end, which allowed them to open a larger final margin. Matt Cromer and Micah Anders each scored 13 points in the loss.
South Middle beat Hazard 51-50 on a pair of free throws by Cromer with 3.5 seconds to play. Cromer scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals also got 13 points again from Anders in the win.
Hazard then kept its hopes of winning the tournament alive by routing Northern Pulaski 36-10. Several of the Northern Pulaski players that were important in the win over South Middle did not play against Hazard. They instead played for Northern Pulaski’s seventh grade team in a tournament at North Middle.
In the tournament’s final game, North Middle stayed close with South Middle early and led 6-3 when Brady Gilmore buried a long jumper with his toe on the three-point line. The Jaguars wouldn’t score again in the first quarter as South Middle reeled off nine unanswered points with four different players scoring. It was a baseline jumper by Ethan Coots that gave South Middle the lead 7-6. A save by Cromer led to a basket for Alex Sizemore. The Cardinals then closed out the quarter by swinging the ball around the perimeter to find an open three-pointer for Cromer and a 12-6 lead.
A put back by Hundley to start the second quarter had North Middle within 12-8, but they would get no closer. Hundley led all scorers with 15 points.
With the Cardinals leading 17-10, they would close the first half on a 15-0 run to take control. Again it was balanced scoring for South Middle with steals and rebounding setting up most of the points. Drew Meador scored just before the half to give the Cardinals a 32-10 lead going into the break.
South Middle scored the first nine points of the second half to push the lead to 31 points. Hostettler hit a three-pointer and a runner in the lane during the 9-0 run.
South Middle’s lead peaked at 51-16 on a three-pointer by Cromer with five minutes to play. Hostettler led the Cardinals with 14 points and Cromer added 13.
North Middle dropped its other two games in the tournament to Northern Pulaski 45-20 and to Hazard 54-27. Hundley scored 11 points and Gilmore five in the loss to Northern Pulaski. The Jaguars were not able to rally after falling behind 21-5 in the first quarter. Hundley was again high scorer with eight points against Hazard.