By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
HAZARD—When North Laurel played at Harlan County Dec. 12 the Jaguars lost by 26 points. Saturday’s rematch in the WYMT Mountain Basketball Classic wasn’t decided until the fourth quarter with the Black Bears winning 51-43.
“Just because we play somebody close we don’t want to walk out of here happy because that’s a losing mentality. (The team) knows we are doing better,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said.
Sizemore saw the deciding factors this time as a few quick shots and ill-advised passes in the final minutes. The Jaguars turned the ball over 17 times, although most were not against the Black Bears press.
“We’re getting better as we go. We’re still making some crucial, silly mistakes with the game on the line. That’s the difference in winning this one and not,” Sizemore said.
The Jaguars did have Jake Allen back this time. Allen missed the first meeting with a broken finger. Sizemore thought having Allen back in the lineup took away some of the layups Harlan County scored in the first meeting.
“We tried to pack that zone in a little more today. I thought it slowed (Tyler) Brewer down at times, especially early in the first half,” Sizemore said.
The Jaguars led by three points after one quarter. They probably should have led by more. The Jaguars led 14-6 with 1:49 to play on back-to-back three-pointers by Marcus Carson and Austin Thompson.
“I thought we looked really good in the first half at times,” Sizemore said.
But it would be the last points of the first quarter for North Laurel. The Jaguars missed just three shots in the first quarter, but they were outrebounded, 12-6, and turned the ball over four times. That resulted in Harlan County getting 17 shots, almost twice as many as the Jaguars.
“We gave them so many points just from taking the ball from us inside. I thought we had position a couple of times, but they just kind of just moved us out of the way and laid it in,” Sizemore said.
The Jaguars maintained a lead in the second quarter until the final second. Alex Sergent beat the halftime buzzer with a three-pointer to give the Black Bears a 24-23 lead.
“We had the ball to go for one shot and turn it over. They come down and get a three, so it’s really a five-point swing,” Sizemore said.
There would be two lead changes and two ties in the third quarter, which ended with a 33-33 score. Harlan County never trailed in the fourth quarter. Rebounding and turnovers were again the issue in the fourth quarter. The Black Bears out rebounded North Laurel 8-4 in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars also turned the ball over five times in the final period.
“We’ve got some games left and hopefully we’ll get those things worked out because I do think we’re a lot closer than people think as far as playing really well,” Sizemore said.
The next week won’t get any easier for the Jaguars. North Laurel will play at Corbin Tuesday and host Clay County Friday. The Jaguars beat Corbin 70-67 in the finals of the Legacy Nissan Shootout. North Laurel lost at Corbin last year 52-50 on a tip in at the buzzer. Clay County rolled to a 68-53 over the Jaguars in Manchester.
WYMT Mountain Classic
at Perry County Central
Harlan County 51, North Laurel 43
North Laurel 14 9 10 10—43
Harlan County 11 13 9 18—51
NORTH LAUREL (43)—Carson 5, Broughton 10, Thompson 7, Rush 5, Allen 11, Henson 2, Jervis 3.
HARLAN COUNTY (51)—Brewer 5, Sergent 9, Massengill 16, A. Caldwell 10, Miller 10, Z. Caldwell 1.