LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
North Laurel knows how to make a game close. They just haven’t found a way to win many of the close ones.
“We just couldn’t get over the hump. We always had somebody making a mistake the last three or four possessions, a lot of different things that they just didn’t effectively finish the ballgame out with,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said.
Thursday’s 47-44 loss to Barbourville was another one that got away. The Lady Jaguars last five losses have been by an average of six points. They have three other losses of less than five points.
There were six lead changes with North Laurel’s last lead at 28-26. Barbourville took the lead for good at 30-28 on a pair of free throws from Kara Erslan with 1:24 in the third quarter. Kelsey Erslan followed with a three-point play on a possession that saw the Lady Tigers grab three offensive rebounds.
“We still made key mistakes at key parts of the ballgame,” Mahan said. “Three offensive rebounds in a row for Barbourville made a huge change.”
The 7-0 spurt that pushed Barbourville into the lead came on the heels of seven straight points by the Lady Jaguars to open the second half.
“Sometimes that’s just where it takes so much intensity to catch up that you relax because you feel like you may have accomplished something,” Mahan said.
It was a theme that continued throughout the game. Barbourville would open a small lead and North Laurel would rally only to fall behind again.
“If we could have ever gotten the lead, I think that’s where the energy really builds and starts to add to our intensity a little bit,” Mahan said.
There would be chances. Hannah Lawson and Kayla Bruner scored to open the fourth quarter and cut the Barbourville lead to one point. Lawson and Bruner would lead North Laurel with 13 points. Once the Lady Jaguars got close, Barbourville would again find an advantage on the boards. A quick 7-0 burst included two baskets on offensive rebounds.
“When we get tired I think our mentality is the first thing to go. It’s not just our legs, it’s our minds,” Mahan said.
With 3:08 to play, Madison Shepherd started another rally with a three-pointer. Hannah Gray followed with a three-pointer. Laker Woolum answered with a three-pointer for Barbourville. A Bruner three-pointer pulled North Laurel within 45-43. With 41.3 seconds, Bruner went to the foul line with a chance to tie the game. Her first shot was true, but the second rolled off.
The Lady Jaguars would get another chance when Kelsey Erslan missed the front of a bonus free throw. North Laurel would turn the ball over with 10 seconds. Kelsey Erslan went back to the foul line where she sealed the win this time.
North Laurel may have had a chance to build a lead early as they held the Lady Tigers without a field goal for almost five minutes.
“Our best basketball is the first three or four minutes of every ballgame. Part of that is because we get tired throughout the game,” Mahan said.
The Lady Jaguars weren’t scoring much either so they settled for a 6-3 lead. Barbourville’s first field goal, a three-pointer by Kara Erslan, tied the game. There would be three ties and four lead changes in the first quarter. North Laurel scored just seven points in the second quarter as the Lady Tigers opened a five-point halftime lead.
Barbourville 47, North Laurel 44
Barbourville 14 13 7 14—47
North Laurel 14 7 7 16—44
BARBOURVILLE (47)—Liford 10, Kelsey Ersland 12, Kara Erslan 13, Mills 5, Woolum 5, Daniels 3.
NORTH LAUREL (44)—Shepherd 3, Gray 7, Lawson 13, Bruner 13, Raines 2, Bridges 6.
Records—Barbourville 9-6, North Laurel 2-11.