By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
MCKEE—An unsatisfying regular season for North Laurel was forgotten Tuesday with a 47-43 overtime win over Jackson County in the first round of the 13th Region Tournament. The win helped blot out a 14-14 record for the defending 13th Region champions and avenged two losses to the Generals.
“These boys came down here to prove a point. I’ll be honest with you. I told them before the game a lot of people don’t think we can win this game. Everybody doubts you,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said.
Maybe the underdog role does not seem well-suited for a team expected to be a main contender for the region title. And although the underdog role may have been their own doing, it might have been just the incentive they needed when trailing by six points in the fourth quarter.
“I’m just happy for them. They have fought adversity all year. It’s been a different experience learning how to play with a target on our back,” Sizemore said.
The three seniors on the North Laurel roster, Kendrick Henson, Marcus Carson, and Austin Rush, accounted for all but six of North Laurel’s 23 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Henson scored six of the Jaguars nine points in overtime, including the shot that put North Laurel on top for good.
“I’ve been telling him for two or three weeks, I know the way you are capable of playing. I have seen you do it,” Sizemore said. “These guys are seniors and they know if they don’t play their season is not going to continue,” Sizemore said.
North Laurel trailed 35-29 with 4:37 in the fourth quarter. It was a Jake Allen three-pointer on an assist from Henson that stopped the Generals’ momentum. A diving save by Carson led to a layup for Rush. Jackson County’s Steven Wagers got free for a putback, but Peyton Broughton followed with a clutch three-pointer to make it a one-point game.
“I told (Broughton) in the timeout they are sagging in the lane, so don’t be afraid to miss one. He’s played big like that all year,” Sizemore said.
Broughton’s shot had North Laurel within 37-36 with 2:05 to play. Jordan Fox made one free throw for the Generals. Henson missed a three-pointer that would have given North Laurel the lead. He would get another chance. Jackson County tried to take the ball inside, but with the Jaguars defense attacking the shooter someone got a hand on the shot. Henson missed again, but grabbed his own rebound to tie the score with 1:02.
Fox drove again and tried to draw contact, but the officials did not give him the call as the game extended into overtime.
“We played extremely hard defensively. We didn’t play great, but we played great in spurts. When the game was on the line people made great plays,” Sizemore said.
Jackson County took the first lead in overtime on a Seth Bingham free throw. Henson put North Laurel ahead for good with a step-back jumper. After the Generals missed two free throws, Henson scored again on a slashing drive. The three-point lead proved to be just enough. The Generals found scoring hard in the final minutes with Allen active on defense. Free throws from Henson and Carson would seal the win.
“Jackson County’s got a really good team. These guys have heard about them all year and they knew how tough it was going to be coming down here,” Sizemore said.
It would be tough from the opening tap with most of the highlights coming on defense. North Laurel made just 3-of-13 shots in the first quarter. They still scratched out a 7-4 lead by rebounding, committing just one turnover, and holding Jackson County to two field goals. North Laurel would shoot even worse in the second quarter and finished the half just 5-of-25.
“These kids win and advance or lose and go home. Maybe they were putting too much pressure on some of those shots around the basket,” Sizemore said. “This gives us a chance to relax and play on Friday. We know we’re going to be in the region tournament.”
Jackson County got a boost from back-to-back three-pointers from Bingham and led 20-14 at the half.
The Jaguars didn’t score the first three minutes of the third quarter and were soon looking at a 22-14 hole. The Jaguars still trailed by eight with three minutes in the third quarter. Austin Thompson fueled a rally with an effort basket inside and a free throw. A blocked shot by Allen led to a layup for Carson. After a Jackson County miss, Carson connected on a three-pointer to send the game into the fourth quarter tied at 24-24.
“We’ve had two games in a row now where we have given everything we had. We’ve coached as hard as we can. We’ve played as hard as we can,” Sizemore said.
Now the Jaguars have to tackle another team with two wins over them. Clay County beat the Jaguars 68-53 in Manchester and 58-52 in London. Although the Jaguars did upset Clay County in the region finals last year, the Tigers have won nine straight 49th District titles. Clay beat Red Bird in the semifinals, 78-38. Tonight’s game will tip-off at 7 p.m.
Boys’ 49th District Tournament
at Jackson County
North Laurel 47, Jackson County 43 (OT)
North Laurel 7 7 10 14 9—47
Jackson County 4 16 4 14 5—43
NORTH LAUREL (47)—Carson 17, Broughton 3, Thompson 6, Henson 11, Allen 4, Rush 6.
JACKSON COUNTY (43)—Fox 3, Hammons 12, Bingham 3, Lawson 15, Wagers 10.