By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
WILLIAMSBURG—The way this season has gone for North Laurel, you might think one more loss wouldn’t matter. This one hurt.
“I probably had more upset girls after this game than I had in the last three weeks. That’s what happens when you start putting out the effort. That’s what’s been missing,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said.
With 1:40 to play, Brooke Carpenter’s three-pointer from the baseline tied the game 36-36. It would be the final points for the Lady Jaguars as Whitley County held on for the 41-36 win.
“I’m happy with our effort. Our focus on what we needed to improve on was there as well,” Mahan said.
This didn’t look like the best opportunity for the Lady Jaguars to steal a win. The Lady Colonels (17-6) have one of the region’s best records. It was also senior night at Whitley County with the team honoring long-time coach Larry Anderson. Anderson is retiring after leading the Lady Colonels since 1987.
However, Whitley County is trying to piece their lineup back together after losing four starters to injury over the course of the season.
North Laurel (4-21) looked confident early as they jumped ahead 9-3.
“For some reason, our girls seem to read the first few minutes whether they feel like they are going to compete or not that night. If they do, they put up a pretty good effort,” Mahan said.
The Lady Jaguars had taken the lead with Ashley Wyatt and Brooke Carpenter hitting three-pointers. When the perimeter shots stopped falling for a couple of possessions the Lady Colonels took advantage, but they did not take the lead.
Whitley County had pulled within a point when Kelsey Chestnut hit a driving layup to keep North Laurel in front. Two baseline drives by Wyatt had the lead back to 17-10 early in the second quarter. Mahan saw the baseline as a good place to attack the Whitley County defense.
“We recognized that more after we started the game. We started putting some people in the corners that were going to be able to help with that,” Mahan said. “They are aggressive with on their closeouts, which leave the option for a shot fake and penetration.”
The Lady Jaguars went over three minutes without another field goal, allowing Whitley County to take an 18-17 lead. A put back by Kendall Ellington would be the only North Laurel field goal in the final 7 minutes of the half. Whitley County led 22-19 at halftime.
“I think we had them on their heels and if we could have continued attacking the basket and doing what we did early, I think it would have been a different ballgame,” Mahan said.
The Lady Jaguars stayed close in the third quarter. They tied the score 22-22 on a runner by Ellington. They tied it again at 24-24 on a baseline drive by Wyatt. Whitley County took a 30-29 lead into the fourth quarter.
Two free throws from Hannah Lawson gave North Laurel the early advantage in the fourth quarter. But Whitley County regained a five-point lead as the Lady Jaguars missed some contested shots in the lane. With 3:03, Lawson scored on an offensive rebound to make it a 36-33 game. Two missed free throws by the Lady Colonels gave North Laurel a chance to tie. That meant getting the ball to Carpenter for a three-pointer.
“Anytime Brooke Carpenter has an open look at a three, I feel comfortable with her shooting it.” Mahan said. “I don’t care how deep she is as long as she gets her feet set I’m good with it.”
Carpenter did get her feet set on the baseline and Ellington found her with the pass. The score was tied 36-36 with 1:40 to play.
Whitley County regained the lead with 1:20 on a free throw by Taylor Dingess. The Lady Jaguars got a good shot at the lead with 1:02. Wyatt drove under the basket and tried to muscle in the shot with a defender’s hand on the ball. The shot teased around the rim before coming off. The Lady Colonels were able to add to their lead from the foul line.
“It was four quarters with the effort. It was also four quarters with some of those mistakes you have to improve on,” Mahan said.
Whitley County 41, North Laurel 36
North Laurel 13 6 10 7—36
Whitley County 10 12 8 11—41
NORTH LAUREL (36)—Wyatt 6, Gray 10, Lawson 5, Carpenter 6, Ellington 7, Chestnut 2.
WHITLEY COUNTY (41)—Johnson 18, Dingess 14, Sizemore 5, Feltner 4.