By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
CORBIN—With 1.5 seconds left in Tuesday night’s South Laurel-Corbin game, Matthew Slavey had just drained a three to bring the Cardinals with two of Corbin, 67-65.
On the inbounds play, Jared Grubb was whistled for a hold on Corbin’s Kaleb Maguet before any time ticked off the clock, a call that didn’t sit well with the Cardinal fans in attendance.
On the other end, Maguet sank both free throws to give his team a four point lead, 69-65. Slavey heaved a 3/4 court shot that beat the buzzer, but it wasn’t enough, as South Laurel fell, 69-68.
“It’s South Laurel-Corbin,” Cardinals coach Jeff Davis said. “Our team was jacked up, their team was jacked up. But one point or 20, it’s still a loss, and it hurts.”
It was also Corbin’s 10th straight win over South Laurel. The last Cardinal win was back on January 29, 2009, a 66-58 decision.
While the loss hurt, Davis noted that his team is improving.
“We’re playing better,” Davis said. “We’re still making crucial mistakes, but we’re young. But it’s good to see how we are progressing and they understand how we’ve got to play.”
Early on it looked like Corbin (5-1, 1-0) would run away with the game, bolting out to a 17-5 lead before the Cardinals (2-4, 1-1) were able to cut the lead down to 19-10 at the end of the first. Corbin hit all eight of its shots in the first quarter. In fact, the Redhounds didn’t miss a shot until there were seven minutes left in the half and they were up, 21-10.
The Cards started to battle back when Slavey drained a three with 5:19 left to start a 9-2 run that cut the lead down to four, 27-23, at the 3:18 mark. A three by Corbin’s Kevin Goins sparked a 9-2 run to end the half and give the Redhounds a 36-25 lead. Slavey would finish with 19 points, several coming off offensive rebounds and hustling for loose balls.
“After the first game I told him we needed the old Slavey back,” Davis said. “He’s gotten himself back into basketball shape.”
Zac Baxter, who led all scorers with 22 points, got South going in the third quarter, scoring the first seven Cardinal points to bring his team back within five, 38-32. Some key baskets by Brennan Miller, and a nice save by Austin Schaser that resulted in a Slavey basket helped South cut the lead to three 44-41, with 1:34 left. But Corbin would end the third with a 9-0 run, including a three from Goins, to push its lead to 53-41 heading into the fourth.
But the Cards refused to give up.
Grubb opened the third with a three, followed by Slavey grabbing an offensive rebound and getting it to Baxter for a basket. Another Baxter basket and South was within five, 57-52, with 4:27 left.
Free throws, which were a sore spot in the win over Garrard County, helped the Cards stay within striking distance. Schaser sank two to cut the lead to 57-54. A steal by Zack Jones led to Slavey getting fouled, and when he made both of his free throws, South was within two, 58-56, with 2:39 left. And when Slavey scored with 1:22 left, what was once a 12 point lead was erased, as the game was now tied, 59-59.
Down the stretch, Corbin’s Hunter Grubb and Maguet combined to go 8-for-9 from the free throw line to help the Redhounds regain the lead. And when Grubb hit 1-of-2 with 6.2 seconds left to push the lead back to five, 67-62, it looked like the win was secure.
That is until Slavey hit another three to cut the margin to two 67-65, before Maguet sealed the win at the free throw line.
“We kind of slowed ourselves down in the second half,” Davis said. “Once we slowed down we started taking better shots.”
For the game, South Laurel was 17-of-48 from the field for 35.4 percent, while Corbin hit 22-of-37 for 59.4 percent. The Cards were 27-of-33 from the free throw line for 82 percent. The Redhounds hit 21-of-29 for 72.4 percent.
South Laurel will now host Harlan County Saturday night. The Black Bears rolled over North Laurel Wednesday night, 72-46, to improve to 5-0. They will host Leslie County tonight.
Corbin 69, South Laurel 68
South Laurel 10 15 16 27—68
Corbin 19 17 17 16—69
SOUTH LAUREL (68)—Baxter 22, Slavey 19, Rader 1, Schaser 6, Jones 2, Miller 7, Anders 2, Grubb 9.
CORBIN (69)—Farley 14, Igo 13, Maguet 11, Grubb 13, Goins 6, Waddle 6, Shelton 4, Hill 2.