By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
North Laurel got off to a good start. Then it got better.
The Lady Jaguars (3-16) outscored Hazard by 17 points in the second half for a 49-32 win Tuesday.
“I think we were much better the second half. Our focus was much better on the offensive end. Not that we were getting better looks, but our looks in the first half we weren’t converting,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said.
North Laurel shot just over 20 percent in the first half. They were still tied 22-22 at the break by outrebounding the Lady Bulldogs and committing fewer turnovers. The success they did have in the first half carried over into the second half in the form of confidence.
“Its head games for us. Maybe instead of a coach we need a shrink,” Mahan said.
With the score tied 24-24 in the second half it was Kelsey Chestnut that came off the bench to spark the Lady Jaguars. It was on defense that Chestnut made her mark, often checking in and out of the game just to cover Maddison Niece.
“I knew their offense went through (Niece). That’s their main go-to player and if you let her dictate the pace she’s going to make sure they score enough points,” Mahan said.
Niece led all scorers with 19 points, but with Chestnut as her shadow in the third quarter it gave North Laurel a chance to take a lead.
“Kelsey Chestnut came in and gave us a spark, which is what she needed to do,” Mahan said.
Hazard (11-7) scored just four points in the final 6:55 of the third quarter. North Laurel took the lead for good at 26-24 on a pair of free throws by Hannah Gray. The Lady Jaguars ended the quarter on a 9-4 spurt.
The fourth quarter began with six straight points from Ashley Wyatt as North Laurel made it a double-figure lead.
“It’s a matter of head games right now for us. When we are on we look like a good basketball team and when we are off we can look like a bad basketball team,” Mahan said.
The confidence showed as North Laurel extended the lead in the fourth quarter. Even with Hazard turning up the pressure defense, the Lady Jaguars did not turn the ball over. They also extended their rebounding edge and their lead.
“That’s what I see in practice. We are focused every day in practice like we finished the game. We have to convert that over into game situations. If we can do that we will be competitive,” Mahan said. “I’m pleased with the win and I’m pleased even more with how they played at the end of the ballgame. Maybe that can lead to things to come.”
It will be a busy weekend for North Laurel. The Lady Jaguars will host Wayne County (11-11) Friday and Southwestern (10-9) on Saturday. Monday North Laurel will host South Laurel.
“It’s still going to be aiming for district hoping that somehow we can find our way into region. That’s what we are working for,” Mahan said.
North Laurel 49, Hazard 32
Hazard 8 14 6 4—32
North Laurel 13 9 11 16—49
HAZARD (32)—Niece 19, Roark 4, Caudill 2, Patrick 4, Webb 2, Sparkman 1.
NORTH LAUREL (49)—Wyatt 10, Chestnut 3, Gray 13, Lawson 6, Bridges 1, Carpenter 9, Ellington 4, Sexton 3.