By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
PINEVILLE—Last year North Laurel used a late-season surge to make its first trip to the Sweet 16. The expected surge to end this season has yet to begin. Tuesday’s 66-56 loss to Pineville marked the third straight for the Jaguars and dropped their record under .500.
“I keep telling them we’re down to the final stretch. It’s obviously time that we need to start playing. We’re going to try to stay positive with them and go to the next practice, the next game,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said.
Sizemore said his team showed little energy early and then tried to make something happen in the third quarter. It has become somewhat typical of how the Jaguars play.
“We just struggled. No energy in the first half. We decided we wanted to play a little bit in the third. That’s kind of what our deal is. We usually do that. We come out flat a lot of times for whatever reason. Then we try to turn it on in the third quarter,” Sizemore said.
Although starting slow with just 4-of-12 shooting in the first quarter, the Jaguars kept the game tight. There were four lead changes in the first quarter, including Pineville’s John Simpson tossing in a half court three-point to beat the horn.
“We had a lot of open looks, we just couldn’t make them,” Sizemore said.
North Laurel was also getting beaten in the boards by Pineville’s rugged front court. The Mountain Lions turned the ball over only twice in the first half. And they shot just under 50 percent in the opening half. Still North Laurel stayed close with Peyton Broughton’s free throws cutting the Mountain Lions lead to 22-18 with 2:52 in the half. Those would be the only points for North Laurel in the final 4:25 of the half. An 8-0 closing run gave Pineville a 30-18 lead.
“It’s hard to compete in the region if you don’t play physical in the lane. I’ve been preaching that all year,” Sizemore said. “We’ve just got to go out there and do it, physically get a body on somebody.”
The Jaguars turned up the intensity in the third quarter to get as close as six points. Another Pineville buzzer beater, this time by Jared Philpot, made it 45-37 going into the fourth quarter. North Laurel had chances to get closer, but six straight missed free throws allowed Pineville to hold its margin.
“We were behind at the half and we came out in the third quarter and actually tried to play hard to get back in the game. Our legs go a little bit,” Sizemore said. “We had two or three plays where we don’t finish layups where the game was right there to cut it to within two or three points.”
With 2:22 to play, two straight three-pointers from Marcus Carson made it a 53-49 game. Pineville made 11-of-12 free throws from there to secure the win.
“You have to give them a lot of credit. They took care of the ball and made free throws down the stretch,” Sizemore said.
North Laurel has one regular season game remaining as it hosts Knox Central tonight. The Jaguars open 49th District Tournament play Tuesday against host Jackson County.
Pineville 66, North Laurel 56
North Laurel 12 6 18 15—56
Pineville 14 16 15 21—66
NORTH LAUREL (56)—Carson 12, Broughton 6, Thompson 4, Henson 4, Allen 10, Rush 7, Jervis 10, House 3.
PINEVILLE (66)—Philpot 7, Collett 8, Jeffrey 9, Ford 2, Asher 2, Skinner 13, Simpson 25.