By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
MANCHESTER—It may have seemed overwhelming for North Laurel to face defending 13th Region champion Clay County and the state’s No. 4 rated team, Perry County Central, on consecutive nights. It was by design.
“We’re trying to get out and get better,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said. “I knew it was going to be a challenge. I will be honest. I was shocked how well we played.”
Coming off a physically and emotionally draining 79-65 loss to Clay County Friday, Sizemore wasn’t sure how much his team would have left in the tank. They had plenty. Perry Central’s Braxton Beverly made a pair of free throws with six seconds to give the Commodores a 66-64 win Saturday in the Bobby Keith Classic at Clay County.
“These kids are in the locker room crying and upset. They want to win. Everyone is telling them they can’t win because we aren’t good enough. We don’t believe that,” Sizemore said.
Perry Central started hot from the outside with four three-pointers accounting for 12 of its first 14 points.
“When you are packing it in on (Justin) Johnson like that, guys are standing wide open,” Sizemore said.
North Laurel didn’t make any three-pointers in the first quarter, but were able to keep pace. There were six lead changes and a pair of ties early. Peyton Broughton’s foul line jumper had the Jaguars within 14-13 with 2:42 in the first quarter. North Laurel wouldn’t score again in the quarter and trailed 20-15. Two of the Commodores last three field goals were set up by blocks from Johnson.
“We just kind of panicked. They turned their defense up. These really good teams, if you don’t take a good shot or you turn it over they convert it on the other end,” Sizemore said.
When Damon Tobler scored to start the second quarter, Perry Central had nine-point lead at 22-13. The Jaguars would chip away at the lead beginning with a hot hand for Chris Miller. Miller scored seven straight North Laurel points, including a three-pointer with a defender in his face. Bryson Asher would follow with a big three-pointer.
“I thought we battled back and made some big shots,” Sizemore said.
With six seconds in the half, Peyton Broughton scored on an offensive rebound to cut the lead to 33-31.
Broughton scored the first six points of the second half for a 37-33 North Laurel lead.
Johnson, a Western Kentucky signee, had been held to six points in the first half. He would come alive in the third quarter to lead the Commodores comeback. A 17-6 run by the Commodores started and ended with Johnson dunks. Johnson had four impressive dunks on the night, but none more impressive than a reverse dunk off a turnover.
Perry Central’s 10-point lead didn’t hold up for long. With one second in the third quarter, Kyle Jeffers rebounded a missed free throw and scored to pull North Laurel back within 53-49.
“I was shocked how well we rebounded the ball with those guys. Johnson can rebound with anybody in the country. He is really athletic,” Sizemore said.
North Laurel was within 63-61 when Broughton scored with 4:04 to play. The Jaguars backed into a zone and allowed Perry Central to run out most of the clock. Braxton Beverly stood in the corner with the ball on his hip until North Laurel attacked with 1:25 to play. With 1:05 remaining, a Jervis steal led to a three-point play for Broughton and the ninth lead change as North Laurel went ahead 64-63.
A free throw by Johnson with 53 seconds tied the game. North Laurel would turn the ball over with 34 seconds, which set up the game-winning free throws. With six seconds, the two free throws from Beverly provided the final margin. The Jaguars pushed the ball down court but would turn the ball over without getting a shot.
“These kids are growing up every game. They are getting better. We just have to figure out how to win,” Sizemore said. “We’ve dropped three games now and they’ve all been with less than three minutes to play. Hopefully they will balance out and we will win them when they count.”
Bobby Keith Classic
at Clay County
Perry Central 66, North Laurel 64
Perry Central 20 13 20 13—66
North Laurel 13 18 18 15—64
PERRY CENTRAL (66)—Neace 6, Stacy 3, Beverly 13, Johnson 23, Tobler 8, Hill 11, Bowen 2.
NORTH LAUREL (64)—Broughton 30, Miller 12, Jervis 6, Thompson 4, Asher 10, Jeffers 2.