By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Every game has that one key moment that defines the outcome.
In Friday night’s South Laurel-North Laurel battle, that moment came early, with 1:16 left in the first quarter. That’s when North Laurel’s Jake Allen picked up his second foul and spent the rest of the half on the bench. At that time, his team was up, 10-8. He had scored all 10 of those points. But once he took his seat, South Laurel outscored the Jaguars, 20-9, over the remainder of the first half, taking control and never letting it go en route to a 62-53 win.
“When Jake picked up that second foul it changed the game,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said. “We started off hot and had things where we wanted them to be. Then came that second foul which was out of frustration more than anything. He thought he was fouled on the play.”
“Any time we can get one of their big guys out it helps,” South Laurel coach Jeff Davis said. “Allen is still not completely in basketball shape. They are a great team.”
Another key to the Cardinals win was their press, which caused several North Laurel turnovers. Davis said his team had to press out of necessity.
“We had to negate their size,” Davis said. “We did get the job done containing those big guys. We got one of them out of the game early and that helped us.”
Early on the atmosphere was like that of a tournament game, with a nearly packed house at South Laurel. It would be the Cards (5-8) jumping out to a 5-0 lead on a basket by Austin Schaser and a three from Trevor Grubb.
Then it was North Laurel’s (8-7) turn to answer in the form of Allen, who scored nine straight points (including stepping out for a three), to give his team a 9-5 lead with 3:09 left.
The lead was down to 9-8 when Allen was fouled. He missed the first, but made the second to give his team a 10-8 lead. Next came the moment that turned the game around. Jon Helton reached over the knocked the ball away from Allen, and Brennan Miller picked up the loose ball. Allen then fouled Miller, and with 1:16 left in the first, North’s big man would go to the bench with his second foul.
A three by Grubb gave South an 11-10 lead. Kendrick Henson answered with a three of his own to put North up by two, 13-11. Matthew Slavey scored to tie the game after one, 13-13.
The game would be tied 17-17 on a basket by Austin Rush with 4:31 left in the half. From that point on, it was all South Laurel. The Cards ended the half with a 9-2 run to hold a 28-19 lead at the break. A three by Zac Baxter ignited that run. He would finish with 24 points to lead all scorers.
Sizemore wasn’t pleased that his team was unable to put up a better battle in the first half after Allen went to the bench.
“We played O.K. for a couple of minutes then everything went south,” Sizemore said. “We didn’t get under control. We were flat. It’s a cross-town rivalry; you think you would be ready to go for that.”
South continued to maintain its lead throughout the third quarter. A three by Baxter gave the Cards a 36-27 lead with 4:53 left. This after North had cut the lead to three, 30-27. Every time the Jags made a run, the Cards countered. A 9-2 run made it 45-33. South led after three, 47-36.
North made a couple of other runs in the fourth quarter. A three from Henson at the 3:49 mark cut South’s lead to seven, 49-42. Another three, this time from Elijah Jervis, and the lead was down to seven, 56-49, with 1:06 left. Baxter scored, then Slavey made a big steal and was fouled. He sank both of his free throws, and South held on for the 62-53 win.
Foul trouble plagued North in the second half, as Rush finished with four fouls and Carson fouled out late.
“We missed some easy chances,” Sizemore said. “We were slow of foot. It’s hard to win a game like this when you can’t get anything going. Give South Laurel credit; they played inspired. We just didn’t get it under control.”
“We followed the game plan the way we practiced it all week,” Davis said. “We stayed focused and stay within ourselves. For us this is a big game because we finally played a complete game. We’d been playing good teams but only a quarter here or there. Tonight we finished the game. It’s good for our kids.”
For the game, South Laurel was 18-of-26 from the free throw line for 69 percent, while North was 9-of-15 for 60 percent. The Cards shot 41.6 percent from the field compared to North’s 31.1 percent.
North Laurel traveled to take on Owsley County on Saturday. The Jags will face Breathitt County Tuesday in the WYMT Mountain Classic at Perry County Central at 6:30 p.m. South Laurel will host district foe Williamsburg Tuesday.
South Laurel 62, North Laurel 53
North Laurel 13 6 17 17—53
South Laurel 13 15 19 15—62
NORTH LAUREL (53)—Carson 6, Broughton 6, Thompson 5, Rush 5, Allen 18, Henson 10, Jervis 3.
SOUTH LAUREL (62)—Slavey 9, Rader 5, T. Grubb 12, Baxter 34, Schaser 5, Miller 3, Jones 2, Helton 2.