LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
North Laurel led by seven points with four minutes to play before falling to Harlan 53-47 Saturday. It wasn’t the final four minutes without a field goal that cost North Laurel the win as much as the opening minutes, according to coach Eddie Mahan.
“I feel like we didn’t show up with effort in the first half. It surprised me and caught me off guard,” Mahan said.
North Laurel trailed by as much as 10 points in the first half and were behind 26-17 after two quarters. Although the Lady Jaguars did not win their first three games, Mahan had come to expect a good start.
“One thing we had through the first three games was intensity to start out the game. It wasn’t until we started to get tired that we let up like that,” Mahan said.
Harlan lost to Whitley County, 62-38, in its only other game and appeared to be a good opportunity for the Lady Jaguars to earn their first win. Like North Laurel, the Lady Dragons are a young team with two eighth graders in the starting lineup and no seniors.
“I think we overlooked this team. I won’t say from a coaching standpoint. I think from a player’s standpoint where we had been playing the Madison Central and Garrard Counties and suddenly they think, “Oh, this isn’t a top 10 team,’” Mahan said.
The shooting of Brooke Carpenter kept North Laurel in the game in the first quarter when not much else was going right. North Laurel turnovers led to most of the Harlan points, but Carpenter buried a three to keep North Laurel even 9-9 after one quarter. Carpenter led North Laurel with 14 points on four three-pointers. Carpenter also led the Lady Jaguars with 12 points a night earlier against Garrard County.
“Brooke is a huge threat and we have to have her out there. We have to have that kind of production from her that we’ve gotten the last two games,” Mahan said.
The Lady Jaguars were getting nothing inside the paint in the first half. All of their points came on three-pointers or free throws except for a put back by Hannah Lawson. The only points in the first five minutes of the second quarter for North Laurel came on a three-pointer by Hannah Gray. By the time North Laurel scored again, a three-pointer by Carpenter, the Lady Dragons had opened a 10-point lead. They led 26-17 at halftime. During the break, Mahan focused his attention on seniors Kendall Ellington and Ashley Wyatt.
“They weren’t diving after the basketball. They weren’t rebounding like they should,” Mahan said. “Kendall can be a difference maker on the boards on every possession. She can come out of nowhere and get rebounds.”
The challenge from Mahan was accepted as Ellington led a North Laurel charge that saw a nine-point deficit turn into an eight point lead. Ellington opened the second half with a strong offensive rebound as she scored eight of her 11 points in the quarter. It was a baseline drive by Ellington that gave the Lady Jaguars a 31-30 lead. Wyatt closed out the third quarter with a driving layup and a three-pointer.
The Lady Jaguars still seemed to be in control when Ellington’s layup with 4:10 to play gave them a 46-39 lead. They wouldn’t score again until an Ellington free throw with 10 seconds remaining.
Harlan cut the lead quickly with back-to-back three-pointers after Ellington’s final field goal. They had also made a three before Ellington’s shot.
“They are a lot like us when it comes to shooting the three. If they start getting confidence, they’re going to keep hitting it,” Mahan said.
Two of the three-pointers were by Jourdan Ledford, who also made a pair of free throws to give the Lady Dragons a 47-46 lead.
“Ledford, their one junior, stepped up to the plate and hit big shots, free throws, and took the ball to the hole toward the end of the game,” Mahan said.
North Laurel turned the ball over on its next three possessions. To Mahan it still comes down to effort. It was the same struggle his team experienced last season before turning things around late in the season. He doesn’t want to wait that long this year.
“This was our first 13th Region opponent. One of our goals was to be 1-0 after playing our first 13th Region team,” Mahan said. “The only reason we are playing with any team right now is through our effort. Until they learn they have to give four quarters of it, this is what is going to happen.”
Garrard County 68, North Laurel 30
North Laurel led 10-7 after one quarter, but found itself trailing 34-18 by halftime. The turnaround can be traced to turnovers after Garrard County switched to a 2-2-1 press.
“We struggled with it and turned the ball over. That has to be the thing that is killing our team more than anything else is turnovers. We have to be averaging 25 turnovers a game,” Mahan said.
Devin Conley and Victoria Floyd each scored 15 points as Garrard County placed fur players in double figures. Brooke Carpenter led North Laurel with 12 points.
Harlan 53, North Laurel 47
Harlan 9 17 6 21—53
North Laurel 9 8 23 7—47
HARLAN (53)—Ledford 14, Brock 6, Charles 5, Bianchi 3, Mitchelle 14, Thomas 10, Wilson 1.
NORTH LAUREL (47)—Wyatt 6, Gray 6, Lawson 6, Carpenter 14, Ellington 11, Sexton 3, Chestnut 1.
Garrard County 68, North Laurel 30
North Laurel 10 8 5 7—30
Garrard County 7 27 22 12—68
NORTH LAUREL (30)—Gray 3, Lawson 2, Carpenter 12, Ellington 2, Sexton 2, Chestnut 4, Bridges 5.
GARRARD COUNTY (68)—Murray 6, Conley 15, Cain 12, Floyd 15, Smith 12, Kidd 4, Miranda Davis 2, Madison Davis 2.