By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
MCKEE—Jackson County swept the regular season series from North Laurel with a 71-61 win Tuesday. Now the Jaguars can only hope they get a chance to avenge those losses in the 49th District Tournament. Clay County will play at Jackson County Friday with the No. 1 seed in the district tournament at stake.
“Whoever we have to play, them or Clay County, is not determined yet. Depending on how that game goes Friday night we could play Clay County first. It’s going to be a hard first game, but hopefully we’ll get it going,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said.
Getting it going was something the Jaguars struggled with as they made their first appearance in the sparkling new Jackson County gymnasium.
“We got off to a slow start. We were just a step behind. We were kind of out of sync from the get go,” Sizemore said.
After a see-saw first quarter, the Generals began to take charge with a 10-0 run after a Jake Allen basket had tied the score 13-13. Jackson County just seemed a step quicker. They grabbed the first seven rebounds of the second quarter. North Laurel was outrebounded 9-3 in the second quarter with its three rebounds coming on missed Jackson County free throws.
“We didn’t guard the drives to open the game. (Jordan) Fox kept getting to the basket and getting easy stuff on pick and rolls. We didn’t box out. We just weren’t very aggressive,” Sizemore said.
North Laurel was also having a hard time finding an answer to Fox. Jackson County’s junior point guard scored 20 points and also set up a lot of the other Generals’ baskets with his passing.
“The first time we didn’t play them a whole lot of man. We’ve been doing that the last three or four games and it had been working. We opened up man-to-man on them to see how it would go and they ended up getting to the basket,” Sizemore said. “When you adjust to him getting to the basket, he made some really good passes.”
Sparked by the 10-0 run, Jackson County led 33-22 at halftime. They would extend the lead to 15 points early in the third quarter with Seth Bingham running the baseline for three-pointers.
“In the third quarter we made a little bit of a run, but they shot the ball extremely well. Bingham hit two threes in the third quarter that just broke our back,” Sizemore said.
The Generals led 45-30 when North Laurel made its best run. It came with the Jaguars pressing and showing the most energy they had all night.
Kendrick Henson started the rally with a putback. A steal by Peyton Broughton led to a three-point play. Broughton added another free throw after a blocked shot by Allen. Allen then scored on a spin move inside and added a free throw to cut the lead to 45-40.
“We fought back and made a game out of it, especially in the third quarter. It’s hard, especially playing on the road, to get behind to a team like that,” Sizemore said.
The Jaguars got as close as four points when Henson hit a jumper with 5:11 to play. Jackson County made sure the lead didn’t slip further by hitting 14-of-16 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Some of the Jaguars are battling health issues. Marcus Carson did not start Tuesday after missing Monday’s practice due to illness.
The loss ended a three-game winning streak for the Jaguars, which equaled their season best. They have three games left to get ready for the post season and a possible third meeting with Jackson County.
“They are going to be a hard out for somebody,” Sizemore said.
Jackson County 71, North Laurel 61
North Laurel 11 11 21 18—61
Jackson County 12 21 18 20—71
NORTH LAUREL (61)—Carson 14, Broughton 18, Thompson 4, Henson 6, Allen 6, Rush 8, Jervis 3, Miller 2.
JACKSON COUNTY (71)—Fox 20, Hammons 9, Wagers 11, Bingham 8, Lawson 16, Whitehead 3, Neeley 4.