By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
WILLIAMSBURG—An eight-point Cardinals’ lead with 4 minutes to play had evaporated and it looked like another hard-luck loss was brewing. When a final shot by Williamsburg’s Corey Shelton rattled in and out, South Laurel could take a deep breath.
“It’s bad coaching. It’s all on me and I am being dead serious,” South Laurel coach Jeff Davis said. “We’ve had to work on so many things with this bunch from rebounding, taking care of the ball, getting offenses in and all of that kind of stuff.”
Davis said end-of-game situations have been on the back burner during practice.
The Cardinals led by as much as 12 points in the fourth quarter and were still up four with one minute to play. The Cardinals lead began to fade when Williamsburg’s leading scorer, Skyler Griffith, got hot. Griffith averages 19 points per game, including 2.6 three-pointers per game. He had been held to nine points and without a three-pointer through three quarters.
“He’s going to get his. We did lose him a couple of times and when you lose him he hits it,” Davis said.
Griffith made a trio of three-pointers in less than three minutes to cut the South Laurel lead to five with 3:50 to play. The lead was still five with 1:47 remaining. A steal on an inbounds play led to a free throw for the Yellow Jackets. Another steal and layup made it a 52-50 game with 37 seconds.
“We’ve got to get better at time and scoring situational stuff. That falls back on me. You can tell them in the huddle as much as you want, but unless you practice it,” Davis said. “I promise we will start practicing it.”
A Blake Sanders’ free throw added a point to the lead. Shelton was fouled on a drive and made both free throws. The South Laurel lead was down to one point with 20 seconds. The Cardinals tried a run out on the inbounds with Sanders missing the layup with 15 seconds and Williamsburg getting the rebound.
The South Laurel defense responded by limiting the Yellow Jackets final shot to a tough three-pointer that Shelton almost made.
“I think our defense allowed us to overcome some of the easy missed shots we had in the first half and the second half. So I think our defense kind of carried us for most of the game,” Davis said. “Second, I think we took great shots. We attacked them in the paint. We made the extra pass and guys were ready to catch and shoot.”
South Laurel trailed by a point after a see-saw first quarter in which they made just 5-of-19 shots. The teams continued to trade punches in the second quarter with the Cardinals holding a 28-26 lead at the break. The third quarter would begin with Williamsburg scoring the first six points to regain a 32-28 lead. But they would go scoreless the final 4:56 of the half.
“I think our zone really helped us overcome some of that stuff and we got them off balance I think for most of the game,” Davis said.
With the win, the Cardinals now know their first round opponent in the 50th District Tournament will be Whitley County. Davis said he wasn’t sure how much knowing the opponent would help.
“I don’t know if it is good or not with this bunch,” Davis said. “With this bunch we have got to focus on tomorrow. That’s the way we have treated this whole year.”
The Cards were at Clinton County Saturday and will host Madison Central Tuesday.
South Laurel 53, Williamsburg 52
South Laurel 12 16 12 13—53
Williamsburg 13 13 6 20—52
SOUTH LAUREL (53)—Slavey 2, Sanders 5, Baxter 20,Miller 5, Vandeventer 11, Jones 10.
WILLIAMSBURG (52)—Shelton 20, Poore 4, Griffith 18, Sizemore 10.