LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Entering Monday’s showdown with rival North Laurel, the most South Laurel had scored in a game was 47 points. The Lady Cardinals were only averaging 36.5 points per game. They would almost double that number for a 70-62 win over the Lady Jaguars.
“It’s more than we’re used to. I thought we stayed really, really aggressive tonight offensively and I think sometimes we get a little tentative and look for someone else to score. We didn’t do that tonight,” South Laurel coach Konnie Snyder said.
It was the second straight win for a South Laurel team that dropped its first eight games. The loss ended a two-game winning streak for North Laurel, who had lost its first eight games as well.
“This is a game we better learn from, better learn from quick. We didn’t play very well and we have to understand we have to quit looking to lose,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said.
North Laurel led by as much as five points in the second quarter, but would fall behind by as much as six before the half ended. With North Laurel leading 20-15, South Laurel turned the tide when they turned up the pressure defense.
“This is actually the first night we have pressed. That is something we did have time this week to work on a little bit more,” Snyder said. “It seems like it helped get us in an up-tempo game. That’s something we haven’t been able to get into very easy.”
South Laurel scored eight straight points and took a 21-20 lead when Shelby Davis converted a three-point play on the press. With 2:04 in the half, the lead reached 30-24 on a pair of free throws by Morgan Madden.
North Laurel’s struggles with the press were highlighted with one of its best ball handlers on the bench. Hannah Lawson picked up three quick fouls and took a seat in the second quarter. Lawson was forced back into the lineup before the half and picked up a fourth foul. She would not play in the third quarter.
North Laurel still mounted a rally behind two quick baskets from Kayla Bruner. A pair of free throws from Kelsey Chestnut tied the score 30-30 with 36 seconds in the half. The Lady Cardinals did take a two-point lead into the half when Davis scored on an assist from Brittany Vandeventer.
“I think they were definitely as motivated and focused as I have seen them all year long. I expected that,” Mahan said.
The second half started well for North Laurel with Makayla Sexton tying the game on a put back. Madison Shepherd made a steal and then an assist to Bruner as North Laurel regained the lead. Bruner returned the favor with a steal and a pass to Shepherd, who was fouled. Her free throw made it a 35-32 game.
Vandeventer tied the game with a long three-pointer. A three-pointer by Preslie Baker marked the ninth lead change of the game. It would also be the last lead change. By the end of the third quarter the lead reached eight points, capped by Taylor Cromer’s three-pointer.
“It was our lack of focus, our lack of energy, our lack of finish on defense,” Mahan said.
With the guard play of Bruner and the inside play of Sexton, North Laurel was back within a point with 3:18 to play. It was a free throw by Chestnut that made it a 58-57 game. The next few minutes would be critical and did not go well for the Lady Jaguars.
Vandeventer made the first of two free throws. When she missed the second, Austin Hacker slipped in for the rebound. That led to Vandeventer going back to the foul line where she made one more.
“We didn’t finish our defense because we never would rebound, even on free throws and I think that is what killed us,” Mahan said. “Especially in the fourth quarter we had at least four opportunities I can think of from the free throw line.”
After a North Laurel miss, Vandeventer scored again on an inbounds play. She would lead the Lady Cardinals with 22 points.
“She played extremely well, played hard and had a good scoring night for us. We needed that,” Snyder said.
A steal and layup by Baker pushed the Lady Cardinals lead to 64-57. North Laurel would not get closer than four points again.
“We’ve had a little bit of time off after our Christmas Tournaments. We’ve had a little bit of time to work on some things and make a few adjustments. I don’t know if it is that or just because it’s a rivalry game and didn’t want to lose. I’ll take it either way,” Snyder said.
South Laurel 70, North Laurel 62
South Laurel 15 17 20 18—70
North Laurel 13 17 13 19—62
SOUTH LAUREL (70)—Miller 1, Vandeventer 22, Madden 2, Baker 12, Davis 9, Reynolds 6, Hacker 2, Cromer 14, Riley 2.
NORTH LAUREL (62)—Shepherd 11, Chestnut 5, Gray 5, Bruner 23, Lawson 4, Bridges 2, Sexton 12.