March 3, 2014

Too hot to handle

Roberts’ eight threes carry Clay to 68-37 win

By Mitch Howard
Sports Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — MANCHESTER—North Laurel needed to control Clay County’s strong inside game to give themselves a chance in the 49th District championship game. That is unless the Lady Tigers came out shooting like they did Friday.

“I won’t say it’s the best they’ve played. It’s very definitely the best they have shot, which makes them a very dangerous team because they are so post oriented,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said.

Clay County made six three pointers in the first quarter to bolt to a 24-5 lead.  It was a huge head start that carry them to a 68-37 win. Leading the Clay County bomb squad was Kelli Roberts with eight three-pointers on her way to a 28-point night.

Roberts made a three-pointer off the opening tip. She followed that with another from the baseline. Ajaycia Cotton made a pair of three-pointers sandwiched around another three-pointer from Roberts. The Lady Tigers led 15-3 with nine of their first 12 shots from behind the arc.

“We were slow reacting. After they hit one or two, it seems like we got even tighter,” Mahan said.

Roberts hit her fourth three-pointer with 1:25 in the first quarter. Her fifth came in the opening seconds of the second quarter. Roberts already had 15 points and her team led 27-4.

“Our kids are great when things are going well. If we hit a few shots early, thing open up for us. We are good defensively. We are good rebounding. Everything kind of goes our way,” Mahan said. “When we can’t hit a shot, things tighten up for us. That’s what we did tonight.”

Although Clay County would not hit another three-pointer in the second quarter, it may have been their best quarter. With North Laurel forced to edge the defense outside a little further, Cotton started to penetrate and dish. The Lady Tigers scored 26 points in the second quarter and led 42-15 at halftime.

“It was just frustration for us. It was a learning experience,” Mahan said.

Mahan spent a lot of time with his team after the game trying to move past this game and move on to the next. The Lady Jaguars advance to the 13th Region Tournament where they will face the winner of the one of the other three districts.

“You have a choice now of Bell, Corbin, or Barbourville. None of three are very easy to beat,” Mahan said.

Mahan did have a little history on his side when trying to deal with Friday’s lost. In 2012, his first season at North Laurel, the Lady Jaguars faced a similar situation.

“Last time we gave up eight threes to one of Clay County’s players we had a pretty good showing. That was two years ago. We made a pretty good run. We upset Whitley County and then played Harlan County to within two possessions in the semifinals,” Mahan said.

 The region tournament gets underway tonight at The Arena in Corbin.

Girls’ 49th District Tournament

at Clay County


Clay County 68, North Laurel 37

North Laurel       5     13     11  18—37

Clay County      24     26     11    7—68

NORTH LAUREL (37)—Sheppard 7, Chestnut 1, Gray 3, Bruner 15, Lawson 7, Raines 2, Bridges 2.

CLAY COUNTY (68)—Roberts 28, Cotton 13, Robinson 15, Woods 12.