By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
After 22 lead changes and overtime, North Laurel held on for a 70-65 win over South Laurel in a textbook thriller between cross-town rivals. Neither team led by more than six points with a single point still separating the two with .47 seconds left in the extra period.
“I’m really happy for the kids. We’ve been grinding it out the last couple of weeks and just kept fighting every day in practice. We just kept believing,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said.
It was a spark from Kendrick Henson that put the Jaguars over the top in overtime. Zac Baxter had given the Cardinals a 62-59 lead with three points to kick off the overtime. South Laurel had the ball again with a chance to add to the lead.
The Cardinals missed and Henson grabbed the rebound and drove for a layup. And then he did it again to give the Jaguars a 63-62 lead.
He wasn’t done yet.
Henson came up with a turnover with Austin Rush cleaning up the offensive glass for two more points. Then a wild scramble under South Laurel basket ended with several bodies on the floor and Henson coming out with the ball. His free throw made it a 66-62 North Laurel lead.
“Kendrick is really good in the open floor and South is a rally hard team to trap. We tried to do that the last couple of minutes of overtime,” Sizemore said.
It was a game where several players were willing to step up for the hero role. Blake Sanders buried a three-pointer with 47 seconds in overtime that had South Laurel within a point. Four straight free throws from Marcus Carson would seal the win.
“(Carson) has been up here five years. He’s played a lot of varsity games. He’s got a lot of experience under his belt,” Sizemore said.
The first four quarters were a prelude to the dramatic finish with neither team able to wrestle control in their favor for long. There were four lead changes in the first quarter capped by Chris Miller’s three-pointer with two seconds that gave the Jaguars an 11-10 lead.
Early in the second quarter a 6-0 run allowed the Cardinals to open a three-point lead. They would lead by three points in every quarter and in overtime, but were never able to expand from there. By the half it was North Laurel back on top 26-25.
The third quarter belonged to Jake Allen. He would score all 13 North Laurel points as the lead peaked at 39-33.
“He’s so hard to guard, both of them (Allen and Austin Rush) in there. They are very skilled. They are big and they are strong,” South Laurel coach Jeff Davis said. “We are undersized. We knew that and we did the best we could.”
It was a good sign for Sizemore, who has been waiting for this since Allen went down in the preseason with a broken finger and has been working his way back to form. During one time-out, Sizemore told Allen, “Welcome back.”
“I think he’s going to be ready to go for the district tournament. He played four quarters and had a lot of energy even into the overtime,” Sizemore said.
South Laurel responded again and with a hot hand from Baxter regained the lead.
“Zac has been shooting the ball really, really well for us, especially down the stretch here, which is a good sign,” Davis said.
Baxter made three three-pointers in less than three minutes. Two of his bombs put the Cardinals in the lead. There were nine lead changes and two ties in the fourth quarter with a wild finish to regulation.
South Laurel took a 56-55 lead with 2:09 on free throws by Zack Jones. Carson tried to shoot the Jaguars back into the lead with a three-pointer. His shot caught the front of the rim, but he was there for the rebound and put back for a 57-56 North lead. Carson was fouled on the shot, but missed the free throw. Henson thought he had the rebound, but a jump ball went to the Cardinals. Jones gave the Cardinals the lead with 1:26 on a three-pointer from the baseline.
The Jaguars went back to their strength inside with Carson feeding Allen.
“They did a good job. Good coaching on their part to keep pounding it inside and hammer away at us,” Davis said.
Allen was fouled and tied the game again with a pair of free throws.
A shot for the lead by the Cardinals was blocked by Allen to send the game to overtime.
“I’m just proud of our effort tonight. We fought back. We are used to the overtime deal. I loved our poise even in the fourth quarter we were down and we fought back,” Davis said.
The win is the third straight for the Jaguars, tying their season best. The Jaguars will play a district game at Jackson County Tuesday.
“They wanted to come in here and get a big win. Hopefully this will give us a boost for the rest of the year,” Sizemore said.
The loss ends a three-game winning streak for the Cardinals, who will be at Clay County Tuesday.
“This is a good learning experience for us. We’ve got it on tape and we’ll learn from it,” Davis said.
North Laurel 70, South Laurel 65 OT
South Laurel 10 17 10 22 6—65
North Laurel 11 17 13 18 11—70
SOUTH LAUREL (65)—Slavey 10, Rader 2, Sanders 11, Baxter 23, Schaser 8, Jones 10, Grubb 1.
NORTH LAUREL (70)—Carson 8, Broughton 5, Thompson 3, Henson 12, Allen 24, Rush 11, Jervis 2, Miller 5.