By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
HAZARD—In North Laurel’s first round loss in the WYMT Mountain Classic, the Jaguars started slow before finishing strong. Thursday they flipped the script with a fast start carrying them to a 59-50 win over Betsy Layne.
“We dominated them early in the game,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said.
The Bobcats managed just two field goals in the first quarter on 13 attempts. The second field goal came with just one minute in the quarter. The Jaguars’ 15-5 first quarter lead also came with a change of strategy.
“This is the first time in a few games we started out pressing a team. We’ve been playing a lot of half court defense to start the game. Maybe that’s why we’ve been starting slow,” Sizemore said.
The press may have been the reason the Jaguars came out with more energy than the flat-footed start against Breathitt County. They had also started slow in last week’s loss to South Laurel and a come-from-behind win over Owsley County.
“I thought we came out and played really well. We were moving. We were active,” Sizemore said.
The Jaguars pulled twice as many rebounds as Betsy Layne and turned the ball over just two times in the first quarter.
North Laurel’s lead peaked at 15 points early in the second quarter. First it was Marcus Carson’s behind-the-back pass setting up a layup for Austin Thompson. Thompson then drove the baseline for a three-point play and a 20-5 lead.
“We didn’t play perfect, but we did some really good things today,” Sizemore said.
By the end of the second quarter, Betsy Layne looked like the fresher team. The Jaguars got a little careless with the ball and the Bobcats controlled the boards, scoring three times in the quarter on put backs.
“I think we came out playing really hard in the first quarter and just kind of hit a wall,” Sizemore said.
North Laurel still took a 25-16 lead into the break and led by 12 after three quarters. That is when four games in seven days and three long bus rides may have caught up with the Jaguars.
“They started pressing a little bit. Fatigue set in and we made some mental errors,” Sizemore said.
The Jaguars turned the ball over 10 times in a frantic fourth quarter. It was difficult for North Laurel to even get the ball inbounds against the Bobcats quickness. With 4:25 to play, Betsy Layne had cut the lead to four points and Jake Allen fouled out of the game.
“It was bad. We were just trying to beat the clock there at the end and try to hang on,” Sizemore said.
It may have been the youngest player that had the freshest legs. Eighth-grader Peyton Broughton scored eight of his 10 points in the final four minutes. The Jaguars also made their last seven free throw attempts to extend the lead.
“That’s a good team we played. That’s a good win for us and we won by nine, so I am very pleased,” Sizemore said. “It gives us another game this week. It gives us a chance to play another good team on Saturday to see where we are at.”
The Jaguars were scheduled to play Harlan County for fifth place in the tournament Saturday. The Black Bears also used a hot start to knock of Clay County 58-47. North Laurel lost their earlier meeting with Harlan County 72-46.
“If we can cut down on our turnovers and get to where we are making shots around the basket, and play hard. We have a chance to be really good. We’ve got five weeks to do that and I think we will,” Sizemore said.
The Jaguars will travel to face Corbin Tuesday.
WYMT Mountain Classic
North Laurel 59, Betsy Layne 50
Betsy Layne 5 11 10 24—50
North Laurel 15 10 13 21—59
BETSY LAYNE (50)—Meade 8, Case 12, Hamilton 10, Daniels 7, Rogers 9, Maldonado 2, Akers 2.
NORTH LAUREL (59)—Carson 4, Broughton 10, Thompson 12, Rush 14, Allen 8, Henson 11.