By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Heading into the fourth quarter of Friday night’s game with visiting East Jessamine, North Laurel were only down by three, 43-40, on a lay-up by Austin Rush at the buzzer.
The Jaguars wouldn’t score again from the field until there was 3:49 left in the game. North Laurel missed its first seven shots and were outscored 6-1, giving the visitors a 49-41 lead. North would never recover from that, falling in the battle of the Jaguars, 60-54.
“We got off to a slow start,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said. “We’ve had some guys battling illness. That’s why I didn’t start Jake (Allen). He missed the last two days of school.” Allen would finish with 11 points.
East Jessamine (21-7) came into the game winners of 8 of its last 9 games, but were coming off an 88-77 loss to Dunbar. North Laurel was also coming off a loss at Jackson County.
East was paced by three players in double figures, led by Jimmy Bradshaw’s 15. Ronnie Carson and Mike Jones each added 13. Marcus Carson led North with 13, most of those coming in the fourth quarter.
“(Ronnie) Carson is as smooth a player as we’ve played,” Sizemore said. Several times the speedy Carson would lead a North Laurel defender in their tracks as he drove to the basket, either for a shot or to dish it off to a teammate underneath.
“They shot the ball well,” Sizemore said. East Jessamine was 17-of-51 from the field for 33 percent, while North was 21-of-69 for 30 percent. The difference was three pointers, as East hit six compared to three by North.
The visiting Jags, behind six points from Bradshaw, held a 14-8 lead with 2:29 left in the first before Elijah Jervis drained one of his two threes to cut the lead to three, 14-11. North would battle back to tie the score at 14-14 before Bradshaw hit a three of his own to give his team a 17-14 lead after one. They would never trail again.
North came out cold in the second quarter, missing its first eight shots. Meanwhile, Hayden Smith had drained two threes, and Kameren Reed added a basket to give East Jessamine a 25-14 lead with 5:56 left.
The lead was 10, 29-19, before North ended the half on a 9-3 run, including another three from Jervis, to pull within four at the break, 32-28.
North would continue to stay within four midway through the third before Smith hit his third three, followed by a Carson lay-up, to give East Jessamine a 43-34 advantage. Still North wouldn’t go away, ending the quarter with a 6-0 run to once again pull to within three, 43-40.
Then came the cold start for the Jags in the fourth quarter, with their lone point in the first four minutes coming from an Allen free throw.
Now it was Carson’s turn to come alive, scoring nine straight points for North Laurel. But it seemed like every time the Jags would get close, they would not take advantage of situations that could have given them the lead.
“The game was right there for us,” Sizemore said. “A couple of times we could have cut into the lead or taken the lead. We just couldn’t get over the hump. They would make a basket and break our heart.”
Sizemore again used a lot of different players in the game, several times subbing out his five for a new five.
“It’s hard to coach like that, but we have to get into the flow of the game,” Sizemore said. “The guys who came off the bench played hard. But we didn’t start Allen, and that gets you out of the flow. I thought we played well.”
The Jaguars will travel to take on Pineville Tuesday.
East Jessamine 60, North Laurel 54
East Jessamine 17 15 11 17—60
North Laurel 14 14 12 14—54
EAST JESSAMINE (60)—Carson 13, Bradshaw 15, Jones 13, Smith 9, Reed 7, Harper 3.
NORTH LAUREL (54)—Broughton 6, Carson 13, Thompson 6, Jervis 6, Allen 11, Asher 3, Henson 1, Rush 6, House 2.