By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
MCKEE—After three lackluster quarters, North Laurel used a six-point possession early in the fourth quarter to fend off Jackson County, 46-37.
“We played in the fourth quarter like we probably should have been playing the entire ball game. I don’t know if it was dead legs from last night, or lack of focus because we beat them by (25) last time,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said. “We mentally were not ready for this game and I put that on my shoulders.”
There was no lead larger than three points in the first three quarters. A free throw by Hannah Gray with 1:30 in the third quarter gave North Laurel the lead for good at 28-27. It was the 11th lead change of the game, which also featured seven ties.
“We weren’t really ready for a district game where (Jackson County has) improved tremendously since the first time we saw them. They were the aggressor. I don’t like it when another team is out hustling us,” Mahan said.
North Laurel took its largest lead at 31-27 when Hannah Lawson connected on a three-pointer to open the fourth quarter. Jackson County answered with a strong move inside by Brianna Rose for a three-point play. The biggest swing of the game came next and it took less than a minute.
Lawson made the first of two free throws for a 32-30 lead. She missed the second, but slipped inside for her own rebound. This led to a layup for Makayla Sexton on an assist from Ashley Wyatt. Sexton was also fouled on the play, but had to leave the game when her head hit the floor hard on the foul. Brooke Carpenter shot the free throw, but missed. This time it was Wyatt claiming the rebound, which led to a three-pointer from Gray and a 37-30 lead. The Lady Generals never got closer than five points from there.
“I knew that with their coach they would get better,” Mahan said. “He’s done a good job with this team. They are twice the team we saw before. Their defense is so much better.”
Still Mahan thought his team should have been more aggressive attacking on offense and they were beaten to too many loose balls and rebounds.
“Right now we are a team that may play up or may play down. I don’t like a team that does that. I want a team that is consistent,” Mahan said.
North Laurel has five regular season games remaining before they return to Jackson County again and will probably have to beat this same Jackson County team a third time to reach the 13th Region Tournament.
“I think we were waiting for someone to step up and didn’t know who that was going to be. The big problem for our kids right now is we don’t have that leadership of people who are taking control out there and setting us up,” Mahan said.
North Laurel 46, Jackson County 37
North Laurel 8 10 10 18—46
Jackson County 10 10 7 10—37
NORTH LAUREL (46)—Wyatt 9, Gray 10, Lawson 9, Bridges 2, Carpenter 3, Ellington 6, Sexton 7.
JACKSON COUNTY (37)—Rose 15, Belt 8, Ball 4, Ward 6, Crowe 4.