By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
If you asked North Middle coach Russ Asher who was favored in the North Laurel Tip-Off Tournament he would not have said his Jaguars.
“I would have seen us about a third seed with Knox being a one and Northern Pulaski has a really strong team so I would see them as No. 2,” Asher said.
But it was North Middle that swept through the field with a 45-32 win over Knox Central in Saturday’s championship game.
“The effort these kids gave us this weekend is 100 percent. Intensity is what it is all about,” Asher said.
The Jaguars opened an eight-point lead in the first quarter against the Panthers and never allowed them to rally. A three-pointer by Tyler Conway with 25 seconds in the first quarter gave North Middle a 14-9 lead. Knox Central answered with a quick basket from Christian Bunch with five seconds left in the quarter. Five seconds was enough time for Adam Sizemore to push the ball down for a three-pointer at the buzzer.
“We had good guard play. We have three, maybe four guards that can shoot the ball real well. We’ve got some good ball handlers,” Asher said.
Conway opened the second quarter with a floater that gave North Middle a 19-11 lead. The lead reached double figures for the first time at 25-15 on a transition basket by Nick Broughton from a Sizemore assist.
“Our effort was strong. Defensive-wise we threw two different presses at them, maybe three. Our key is we have to have turnovers off of our press,” Asher said.
North Middle led 28-19 at halftime. Knox Central scored the first two points of the third quarter, but would soon be looking at a 17-point deficit as North Middle reeled off 10 straight. Jack Capobianco scored seven points on the 10-0 run, capped by a three-pointer for a 38-21 lead.
Knox Central slowly cut into the lead with some of their damage coming on the offensive boards.
“Rebounding is something fundamental we have to work on. We are getting steals, but we are getting beat on the glass,” Asher said.
The Panthers would get no closer than seven points in the fourth quarter. Conway led North Middle with 20 points, including four three-pointers. Capobianco scored 13 points and Matt Sizemore 10.
Capobianco scored 16 to lead the Jaguars in a 52-44 win over Northern Pulaski. North Middle also got nine points from Adam Sizemore and Conway in the win.
Also on Saturday the Jaguars beat Whitley County 50-44, although the game did not count toward the tournament. The Jaguars agreed to play the Colonels when another team did not show. Matt Sizemore led North Middle with 10 points.
Friday night’s game with the Colonels was the Jaguars’ first round game in the tournament. Matt Sizemore scored 13 points in the 40-24 win. Capobianco was also in double figures with 10 points.
North Middle did not take the lead for good until midway through the third quarter. A free throw by Matt Sizemore broke a 19-19 tie. Capobianco followed with a three-pointer from the baseline after a Whitley County turnover. The Colonels were still within 26-24 going into the fourth quarter.
North Middle pitched a shutout in the final period, outscoring the Colonels 14-0.