By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Zack Jones came off the bench to provide a spark, leading four South Laurel Cardinals in double figures with 15 in a 57-46 win over visiting Clark County Tuesday.
“We needed it,” coach Jeff Davis said of the play of Jones. “He has been playing a lot better and gave us a lift tonight. Not only has he been shooting well, he’s also been aggressive on offense and defense. He’s not a one-dimensional player.”
The Cards (10-11) weren’t as sharp as they looked in their previous three games, but still were able to gut out a victory, something that pleased Davis.
“It’s good to play as bad as we did and still come out with a win,” Davis said. The win was the third in a row for South Laurel, the second time this season the Cards have put together a 3-game win streak.
While he was pleased that his team picked up the win, he wasn’t pleased with the 25 turnovers they committed.
“We can’t turn it over 25 times, 14 in the first half,” Davis said. “The good thing is we forced them to commit 24. Chalk to up to a Tuesday night in January. We were doing things we normally don’t do.”
At the start of the game, it looked like South Laurel had picked up right where it left off in the win over Barbourville, holding a 10-2 lead when Jones drained a three with 3:36 left in the first quarter. The Cards looked poised to run away from Clark County (7-15), but Khmarkis Blanton had other ideas, scoring seven of his game-high 26 points in the quarter to keep his team within striking distance. Blanton could have scored more points had he not struggled from the free throw line, hitting just 2-of-8. As a team, the Cards were 3-of-10, while South Laurel made 16-of-23, which proved to be the difference in the game.
Zac Baxter, who poured in 31 against Barbourville, came out hot in the first quarter also, scoring seven points. He would finish with 14.
A bucket by Blanton tied the game, 19-19, with 5:18 left in the first half. He had a chance to give Clark its first lead of the game as he was fouled on the play, but couldn’t convert his free throw.
Jones responded with a three, then following a turnover, scored on a lay-up to push South’s lead to five, 24-19, at the 4:52 mark.
Then it Blanton again. An old-fashioned three-point play cut the lead to two, 24-22. He would again tie the game at the 3:24 mark, and was fouled on the play, but like the previous time, missed the free throw that would have given Clark the lead. The Cards finally did take their first lead of the game when Damion King’s jumper gave Clark County a 26-24 halftime lead.
“Clark was very aggressive on defense and switched up defenses, which got our kids off balance,” Davis said.
The game would be tied three more times in the third quarter (26-26, 28-28 and 30-30) before a three by Baxter keyed a 6-0 run to end the third with South on top, 36-30, a lead the Cards would never relinquish.
Baskets from Baxter and Blake Sanders, plus a Sanders free throw, gave South Laurel a 41-32 lead. That lead would grow to 10 on five points from Jones and two Trevor Grubb free throws, and with 3:45 left, South was up, 48-38.
Clark would cut it to six, 48-42, at the 2:37 mark, but that would be as close as they would get. South made 5-of-6 from the free throw line over the final 1:49 to seal the win.
Sanders finished with 13, while Matt Slavey added 10.
The Cards will now travel to take on North Laurel tonight. South defeated the Jaguars earlier in the season, 62-53.
“North is playing well right now,” Davis said. “Jake Allen is back in basketball shape, which he wasn’t the first time we played them. If we played like we did tonight, they will beat us by 20 or 30.”
South Laurel 57, Clark County 46
Clark County 11 15 4 16—46
South Laurel 15 8 8 21—57
CLARK COUNTY (46)—Sharrock 5, Blanton 26, King 4, Greene 5, Caudill 2, Warner 4.
SOUTH LAUREL (57)—Baxter 14, Slavey 10, Jones 15, Miller 2, Sanders 13, T. Grubb 3.