LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
North Laurel needed clutch free throws and key shots down the stretch to slip past South Laurel 50-46. There were 11 lead changes and five ties before the Jaguars took the lead for good in the fourth quarter.
“They’ve got a really good team. They’re going to play well down the stretch. We had to play really well and this is a game we needed,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said. “This is a good game for us because it made us pick our level of play up.”
South Laurel coach Jeff Davis praised the effort of his players, but the disappointment showed in a game he thought they could win and almost did.
“Nobody believes in us and that’s the fact. We brought that on ourselves. We told our guys the only people that believe in us have got to be us in this locker room,” Davis said.
There were probably believers when a spinning move by Zac Baxter gave the Cardinals a 38-37 lead with 6:10 to play. South Laurel had battled back from an eight-point hole and seemed to have confidence.
North Laurel regained the lead when Chris Miller scored off an offensive rebound by Weston Griebel. A couple of South Laurel misses led to baskets on the other end for Bryson Asher. Asher scored 13 of his 15 points in spurts in the first and fourth quarter. Between he sat with foul trouble.
“Bryson got in foul trouble, but when he was in there he did a tremendous job,” Sizemore said.
The Jaguars led 48-42 on a put back by Asher. The Cardinals would have one more rally. A pull up by Baxter with 1:32 made it 48-44. The Cardinals missed a couple of chances to cut the lead further. With 21.6 seconds, Trevor Grubb drove the middle for a layup to make it a 48-46 game. Two Miller free throws would seal the win.
“You play your butts off and put yourself in a position to win a game and you feel like you should have won it, but you have to execute down the stretch. Give North credit, they executed down the stretch. They hit their free throws,” Davis said.
The beginning of the game was just as close as the end. Almost every shot resulted in a tie or a lead change. South Laurel took a 9-7 lead into the second quarter.
The teams continued to swap leads until Elijah Jervis gave North Laurel a 14-13 lead with a pair of free throws. Jaythus Riley followed with the only North Laurel three-pointer of the game and his first of the season. Broughton picked off a pass and pulled up for a jumper and a 19-13 lead. The lead peaked at eight on Austin Thompson’s free throws with 1:25 to play.
“Our younger guys got a little wide-eyed in the first half. I thought we played really hard and I was proud of our effort,” Davis said.
The Jaguars still led 26-18 early in the second half. It took less than three minutes to lose the lead with an 11-0 Cardinal run.
“We just coughed the ball up and gave them some easy layups,” Sizemore said. “We had two out of three straight possessions that we shot 30 footers and didn’t run any kind of offense. We just have to learn how to play smart when we have a lead.”
Jared Grubb scored off a steal to put South Laurel on top 27-26. Another steal and assist by Baxter led to a Trevor Grubb layup and a 29-26 lead.
“I’m proud of the way our guys fought back tonight. We haven’t been playing well, so I was happy with the way we played,” Davis said.
The lead continued to see saw with South Laurel grabbing some momentum to end the third quarter. They held for the final shot and Baxter delivered for a 34-33 Cardinal lead.
Although the lead slipped away in the fourth quarter, Davis still sees a lot of positives in the game.
“I love my team. We had a little rough stretch there after Christmas and everybody was writing us off. That’s fine. The more people that keep writing us off our kids keep fighting,” Davis said.
Sizemore also sees the win as another building block for the main goal of finishing strong in the post season. He saw similarities between the Cardinals and an upcoming district opponent.
“That team is kind of like Jackson County. That was a good matchup for us, being small with a lot of guys that can score,” Sizemore said.
North Laurel 50, South Laurel 46
South Laurel 9 8 17 12—46
North Laurel 7 16 10 17—50
SOUTH LAUREL (46)—T. Grubb 7, Anders 2, Vandeventer 3, Brennan Miller 8, J. Grubb 10, Holcomb 2.
NORTH LAUREL (50)—Broughton 17, Miller 6, Jervis 2, Thompson 4, Asher 15, Jeffers 2, Hodges 1, Riley 3.