By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
North Laurel and Whitley County were tied at 36-36 with 2:44 in the third quarter Saturday in the U.S. Energy Coal Classic at North Laurel. Shortly after that tie, North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore sent five new players into the game. When they checked out about eight minutes later the lead was 21 points. They would leave the floor to a rousing cheer when the starters checked back into the game.
“They got us going in the press and forced a lot of turnovers. Chris Miller hit a big three. Peyton (Broughton) was able to get to the basket two or three times. We made our free throws,” Sizemore said. “We played 10 kids tonight and I thought all 10 kids played well and helped us win.”
Along with Miller and Broughton, the lineup that sparked the Jaguars to a 75-55 win over the Colonels included Ryan House, Austin Thompson, and Bryson Asher. Sizemore said that more than anything they brought a boost of energy.
The Jaguars were coming off their first three-game losing streak since Sizemore took over as head coach last season. Although the Jaguars took off in the third quarter, changes actually were visible from the opening lineup.
“That’s the first time I have lost three in a row, so we tried to shake it up a little bit. I thought everybody responded really well,” Sizemore said.
Thompson and Broughton were out of the starting lineup with Kendrick Henson and Elijah Jervis making their first starts of the season. Broughton, coming off the bench for the first time, scored a team-high 18 points. He was named Player of the Game for the Jaguars.
“He’s in the eighth grade. It’s hard to play really well every game. He’s going to hit some growing pains and he’s kind of done that the last week or so,” Sizemore said. “But he’s had some really good weeks of practice and he responded really well.”
Which lineup the Jaguars will use Tuesday at Leslie County and Friday against South Laurel is still in question.
“We just go day to day depending on matchups,” Sizemore said. “We’ll go game to game and see what happens.”
North Laurel’s revised starting lineup did some very good things against the Colonels. North Laurel shot 50 percent in the first quarter and outrebounded Whitley County 9-6. But it took a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Henson to give them an 11-8 lead. One reason for the tight score was seven North Laurel turnovers.
“In the first half I was kind of worried if it would be a sloppy game just from the standpoint that both of our games got cancelled this week and we hadn’t played since last Friday,” Sizemore said.
Broughton had a key role in the Jaguars opening a double-figure lead in the second quarter. He sank a three-pointer and also turned two steals into layups. But the Colonels finished the quarter strong and were within 32-26 at the half.
“The start of the game tonight we played well in spots we just never could break the lead open. We were up six at the half and I thought we possibly could have been up 15,” Sizemore said.
The Whitley County comeback continued, led by Boston Bryant. Bryant, a Brahma bull of a forward, scored eight of his 23 points in the third quarter. He would earn Player of the Game honors for the Colonels. It was Bryant’s layup off a North Laurel turnover that tied the score 36-36.
“Whitley County is playing a lot better than when we played them back in December,” Sizemore said.
But so is North Laurel, who won the first meeting 62-46.
“We’re coming to the home stretch. Hopefully we’ll get it going, but this is a big win for us,” Sizemore said.
After Bryant tied the score, North Laurel made the lineup change and went on a 25-4 run.
“We are in a positive frame of mind. We’ve had a really good week of practice. Everybody in our locker room realizes we have played some really tough teams one right after another. You can’t win them all,” Sizemore said. “We think we are right there, really close. It’s not like we’re getting beat bad. I like where we’re at right now.”
U.S. Energy Coal Classic
at North Laurel
North Laurel 75, Whitley County 55
Whitley County 8 18 10 19—55
North Laurel 11 21 14 29—75
WHITLEY COUNTY (55)—Powers 6, Lawson 6, Bryant 23, D. Rutherford 2, Z. Rutherford 3, Sasko 10, Woods 3, Smith 2.
NORTH LAUREL (75)—Carson 6, Broughton 18, Thompson 6, Rush 10, Allen 15, Jervis 3, Henson 3, Asher 2, Miller 7, House 5.