By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
North Laurel appeared to have control of the game early, but didn’t close out Whitley County until late. The Jaguars ended the game on an 18-7 run for the 62-46 win in the second round of the Legacy Nissan Shootout II at North Laurel.
When North Laurel opened a seven-point lead in the first quarter it looked like it might be an easy night. North Laurel coach Bread Sizemore thought it should have been easier than the 16-point final margin.
“It could have very easily been 35. Again that is being ready to play extremely hard right out of the gate. We were a step and a half slow the entire first half,” Sizemore said.
The scored was tied 6-6 before the Jaguars started to convert Whitley County turnovers. North Laurel scored the last seven points of the first quarter in a span of about two minutes.
“That’s pretty cut and dried. That’s what I told them. We have to keep our turnovers down and we have to force the other team to turn the ball over so we can get some easy buckets,” Sizemore said.
The lead reached 10 points early in the second quarter on a three-pointer by Austin Thompson. It took about a minute for the Colonels to trim the lead to five points. After Boston Bryant scored in the lane for Whitley County, the Jaguars were called for a technical on an improper substitution.
The Jaguars led by eight at halftime, but should have led by more. When the Jaguars went four minutes without a field goal to start the second half, the lead dipped to 28-26. Sizemore called a timeout to challenge his team.
“I just told them to pick their effort up defensively. When you’re just kind of standing around expecting the other team to throw the ball to you, then you give up layups and open threes,” Sizemore said.
The result was a strong finish to the quarter with Jake Allen scoring seven of his game high 17-points in about 2 1⁄2 minutes. Allen is playing just his second game since breaking his finger in the preseason.
“It’s obviously a difference maker to have him out there. We’re glad to get him back and I know he is really excited. He’s sat out a month. I know he’s watched all the names he needs to watch. He’s hungry,” Sizemore said.
The Jaguars led by as much as 13 points in the third quarter, but did allow one last run by the Colonels. A driving layup by Bryant had Whitley County within 44-39 with 5:42 to play. The Colonels rally included a fourth foul on Allen, followed by a technical that sent him to the bench with a fifth foul. The Colonels would not get any closer. A layup by Thompson and two free throws from Austin Rush slowed the Whitley County momentum.
Four players scored in double figures for North Laurel with Marcus Carson just missing with nine points.
“We’re really deep I think as far as guys that can put the ball in the basket, so we’re a hard matchup for people if we are moving it and not being selfish,” Sizemore said.
The Colonels came into the game riding a three-game winning streak. The Jaguars made it two straight wins for just the second time this season. They had not won consecutive games since winning their first two.
“We just want to get better every day. Obviously we want to win our own tournament and we’ve put ourselves in that position,” Sizemore said.
Legacy Nissan Shootout II
at North Laurel
North Laurel 62, Whitley County 46
Whitley County 6 12 13 15—46
North Laurel 13 13 16 20—62
WHITLEY COUNTY (42)—Powers 15, Lawson 1, Bryant 6, D. Rutherford 8, Z. Rutherford 2, Hale 4, Sasko 2, Woods 8.
NORTH LAUREL (62)—Carson 9, Broughton 12, Thompson 10, Rush 14, Allen 17.