By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
BARBOURVILLE—If you know a fisherman, then you’ve probably heard about the one that got away.
South Laurel knows how that fisherman feels.
Tuesday night the Cardinals let one get away, falling to Knox Central, 43-39, after blowing an 11-point lead late in the third quarter.
Afterwards, Coach Jeff Davis was not pleased with how his team played in the final quarter.
“They (Knox Central) got up into us, played more physical defensively and we backed down,” Davis said. “We let them control the game defensively. We didn’t answer the call.”
With 1:13 left in the third quarter, South Laurel (7-9) had just completed a 9-0 run that saw the lead grow to 11, 33-22. The returning Blake Sanders drained a three to give the Cards what looked like a good cushion to go into the fourth quarter with.
But that basket would be the last South would score until the 1:49 mark of the fourth quarter when Matthew Slavey broke the scoring draught. During that span of almost eight minutes, the Panthers went on a 16-0 run to turn the 11-point deficit into a 5-point lead, 38-33. The Cards were 0-of-6 from the field and turned the ball over six times.
“We did O.K. for three quarters,” Davis said. “In the fourth quarter we caved.”
Still, the Cards were not out of the game. Slavey scored again with 1:13 left to keep the Panther lead at three, 40-37. Following a Knox Central time out, the ball was deflected on the inbounds and sent straight into the air near midcourt. South Laurel’s Slavey and Zac Baxter, along with Central’s Brandon Garrison, all leaped for the loose ball, but Slavey was whistled for a foul. So instead of having possession of the ball, South was called for a foul. Fortunately for the Cards, Garrison missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 56.6 seconds left.
Unfortunately for South Laurel, it still couldn’t make a basket. Slavey missed a lay-up and a three-pointer. He then fouled after missing the three trying to steal the ball away from Jared Hall. Hall made the first free throw, but missed the second. But that one made free throw now made it a two possession game, 41-37, with 27.4 seconds left.
South finally scored when Baxter drove to the basket for a lay-up with 6.3 seconds left to bring his team within two, 41-39. Jeffrey Adams sealed the deal for Knox Central with two free throws to make the final 43-39.
The game was tied after one, 8-8, and South led at the half, 18-17.
Slavey opened the third with back-to-back threes to make it 24-19. After a three from Adams cut the lead to 24-22, South went on a 9-0 run for the 33-22 lead. The Cards led after three, 33-26. But after scoring 33 points through three quarters, the Cards could only muster six in the fourth.
The game did see the return of Blake Sanders to the South Laurel line-up. He had been sidelined with a broken hand since the Wayne County game. He scored 11 points against Knox Central (12-6).
“He’s not in game shape, but he has done a good job of keeping himself in good condition,” Davis said. “He still has some tightness in his hand, but he came in and played a good game.”
The Panthers were without their leading scorer, Matthew Barger, who was out with an injury. In his place freshman Chad Marsee scored 18 points to lead all scorers.
“He’s a good, big physical kid who is good around the basket,” Davis said. “Their size was a concern for us coming in.”
Baxter led South with 12 points, while Slavey added 10. Adams had 10 for the Panthers.
South Laurel will now travel to take on Whitley County Friday night as part of a girl-boy doubleheader. The Cards beat the Colonels earlier in the season, 62-48, but Whitley was without center Boston Bryant for that game. The Colonels are riding a 4-game losing streak and have dropped 9 of its last 10 games.
“We’ve got to rebound, defend shooters and be patient on offense,” Davis said. “We have to work until we get a good shot and play four quarters.”
The loss snapped South’s 3-game winning streak. The Cards will then travel to George Rogers Clark on Saturday to take on Harrison County at 2 p.m. in the MLK Classic. The Thorobreds are 12-5 through January 11 and are on a 4-game winning streak. That game will wrap-up South’s 4-game road trip, but things don’t get any easier at home as the Cards will host Corbin Jan. 22.
Knox Central 43, South Laurel 39
South Laurel 8 10 15 6—39
Knox Central 8 9 9 17—43
SOUTH LAUREL (39)—Baxter 12, Sanders 11, Vandeventer 2, Miller 2, Schaser 2, Slavey 10.
KNOX CENTRAL (43)—Merida 4, Hensley 6, Marsee 18, Adams 10, Garrison 2, Wilburn 2, Hall 1.