By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
MANCHESTER—It went about like you would expect when a Clay County team that has lost only once meets a North Laurel team that has won only once. The Lady Tigers opened a double-figure lead in the first quarter and turned on the cruise control for a 68-40 win.
The Lady Jaguars turned the ball over 11 times in the first quarter and made just 3-of-11 shots. North Laurel made just 5-of-24 shots in the first half. If they were going to play with Clay County, this wasn’t the way to do it.
“The problem is we’re beating us before a team has a chance to,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said.
The Lady Jaguars are spotting opponents a lot of points by averaging over 25 turnovers per game. Now that the word is out that North Laurel is charitable with the ball, opponents are taking even more advantage.
“Teams that don’t even press normally are coming out to press us because the way our mentality is against the press,” Mahan said.
With point guard Kayla Bruner out for the season with a torn ACL, it has forced the Lady Jaguars to scramble the lineup. But now the Lady Jaguars have had 10 games to adjust and are looking at the same record they had through 10 games last season.
“For lack of a better word it’s stupid mistakes. That’s what it comes down to,” Mahan said. “We are so worried about getting rid of the ball that we’ll throw it into the third row.”
That’s not something you can do against a powerful Clay County team that’s only loss came on a late three-pointer by Whitley County.
“We’re our own worst enemy,” Mahan said. “Clay County is a great team and there is no doubt about it. Their bigs are as good as there is in the region.”
Most of the damage was done inside by Cheyenne Madden with 21 points and Morgan Chestnut with 14. Madden would be playing for Mahan had she stayed at North Laurel after her sophomore year. Instead she is starring for the Lady Tigers and averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Madden scored 10 in the first quarter for Clay County, showing a soft touch in the lane and power under the goal.
Clay County scored the game’s first eight points before Kendall Ellington got North Laurel on the board with a pair of free throws. The Clay County lead reached double figures with Madden scoring eight straight points for the Lady Tigers.
“When we got the ball up court we still couldn’t get into our offense because we were not handling the ball long enough to get set up,” Mahan said. “The few times we were patient enough and didn’t get those traps going, we did O.K.”
Clay County opened the second quarter with a 9-0 run to push the lead to 22 points. They led by as much as 26 in the second quarter and 32 in the third quarter.
“I was more pleased with how we ended the ballgame as far as effort with the average age of our players probably being about 13 at that point” Mahan said.
Kelsey Chestnut closed out the third quarter with a pull up jumper and then a three-pointer at the buzzer. Mahan also pointed out a solid effort by Ashton Bridges on offense and defense.
“Maybe out of innocence or just being naive they weren’t scared like our older kids are,” Mahan said. “Our youth did much better than our seniors except Kendall Ellington.”
What he is seeing from the younger players has prompted Mahan to look at making changes.
“We’re going to change a little bit of our style in the second semester and go a little deeper, even though our bench may not be as acclimated to my system as I would like them to be, we’re going to change some things up. There are things my bench can do that my starters can’t,” Mahan said.
Waggener 54, North Laurel 42
North Laurel was coming off its closest game since picking up its first win at Jackson County. The Lady Jaguars had chances to take the lead against the Wildcats, but couldn’t shut down Jada Jackson. Jackson poured in 22 points for Waggener.
North Laurel was led by Kendall Ellington with 16 points and Hannah Lawson with 11.
The Lady Jaguars are scheduled to play at Russell County Thursday and travel to Knoxville Catholic on Saturday. They are in a stretch of seven straight road games before hosting Knox Central on Jan. 5.
Clay County 68, North Laurel 40
North Laurel 10 6 7 17—40
Clay County 23 16 13 16—68
NORTH LAUREL (40)—Gray 4, Lawson 8, Carpenter 2, Ellington 12, Sexton 1, Raines 5, Chestnut 5, Bridges 3.
CLAY COUNTY (68)—Roberts 5, Cotton 7, Mathis 9, Allen 2, Chestnut 14, Madden 21, Robinson 6, Woods 4.
Waggener 54, North Laurel 42
North Laurel 9 7 16 10—42
Waggener 17 11 14 12—54
NORTH LAUREL (42)—Wyatt 6, Gray 4, Lawson 11, Carpenter 3, Ellington 16, Sexton 2.
WAGGENER (54)—J. Jackson 22, A, Jackson 2, Montgomery 7, Lamb 6, Roden 2, Woolridge 8, Fraley 5, Mackel 2.