By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
RICHMOND— North Laurel walked into a fight Wednesday against a bigger opponent and they did it with one hand tied behind its back. Maybe two hands. What North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan saw in the 62-29 loss to Madison Central gave him reason for optimism.
“As long as we keep giving this type of effort we are going to keep getting better. As we get deeper, because our subs get more experience, then we are going to get better as the year goes along and we’re going to be hard to deal with in the second semester,” Mahan said.
The subs are getting a lot of experience. They have no other option. North Laurel knew before the season started that point guard Megan Bryant would not return from a knee injury. Then point guard Kayla Bruner went down in the final scrimmage with a knee injury. In Monday’s season opener, Kendall Ellington suffered a bruised shoulder.
Mahan said he was honest with his team about the ambush they were walking into at Madison Central.
“You tell them the truth. You are shorthanded and you are overmatched, but the one thing that can equalize it all is effort,” Mahan said.
The biggest problem North Laurel faced was a pressure defense that was impossible to duplicate in practice. The Lady Jaguars turned the ball over 19 times in the first half and 32 times in the game.
“(Ellington) would have helped us a lot. That’s our press breaker right there. She’s our middle person in zone press break and they wouldn’t have been able to press us,” Mahan said.
Turnovers led to most of the points as Madison Central opened a 23-9 first quarter lead. Ashton Feldhaus scored 10 points in the quarter and Larynn Brooks eight as both looked every bit the Division I players they are. They also rebounded, passed, and played defense with the same skill.
“Their length, their speed, their athleticism, you name it. You have Division I players out there with Feldhaus and Brooks, who are obviously some of the best in the state,” Mahan said. “What’s impressive about that is we had a seventh grader (Hannah Lawson) who is going right at them.”
Sophomore Hannah Gray led North Laurel with 10 points and sparked a mini-run that saw North Laurel cut the lead from 20 to 13 in the second quarter. Gray started the rally with a foul line jumper. After the teams traded free throws, Gray nailed a three-pointer. Brooke Carpenter followed with a three-pointer to make it a 35-22 score. The Lady Jaguars would get no closer as they managed just one point in the third quarter and seven points in the half.
Foul trouble and fatigue took over in the second half as the thin North Laurel bench continued to play while Madison Central continued to press.
“You have to be proud for our team’s effort and the way they are going at it,” Mahan said. “We are not always doing the smart thing and we are getting in foul trouble at times because of our aggressiveness. We were better in the second half about not fouling but I think some of that was because we were too tired to move,” Mahan said. “I’m happy. I can’t be upset with this because we’re giving everything we’ve got.”
North Laurel will travel to Garrard County Friday. The Lady Lions were a 50-43 winner over Somerset in their season opener. The Lady Jaguars hope to have Ellington back Saturday when they host Harlan.
Madison Central 62, North Laurel 29
North Laurel 9 13 1 6—29
Madison Central 23 13 22 4—62
NORTH LAUREL (29)—Wyatt 4, Gray 10, Lawson 8, Carpenter 6, Sexton 1.
MADISON CENTRAL (62)—Brooks 15, Feldhaus 17, O’Bryan 6, Hinkle 9, Bosley 3, Fultz 2, Cain 2, Singer 6, Wiloughby 2.