By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
WILLIAMSBURG—South Laurel put the pressure on Whitley County and never let up, rolling to a 66-47 win and earning a date with Corbin for the 50th District title.
“We kept the pressure on them and made them work for their shots,” South Laurel coach Jeff Davis said.
This was quite a different performance from the last time these two teams met, a 44-36 Whitley County win, a game that saw Baxter scored 26 of South’s points and the Cards shot 26 percent.
In Tuesday night’s game, South shot 44 percent and had its full roster available, making the most of it as 10 South aurel players scored, led by Matt Slavey and Zac Baxter’s 13 points each, and Blake Sanders added 12.
Davis said that his team didn’t have a good practice on Monday and that he cut practice short due to this. But come Tuesday he saw a different team.
“The kids were loose,” Davis said. “I saw that at school and then before this game.”
The Cardinals wasted no time in taking control of the game. Behind nine points from Slavey, South Laurel held a 14-2 lead with 3:21 left in the first. Threes also helped the Cards in the first, as Slavey, Baxter, Austin Rader and Trevor Grubb all drained treys, and at the end of the first, South led by nine, 19-10. South never trailed, and there was only one tie (2-2).
Two Rader steals led to two baskets from Sanders for a 23-12 lead with 4:58 left in the half. South held a 31-19 lead at the break.
The lead was 14, 35-21, with 6:49 left in the third when Whitley County’s Zack Rutherford hit back-to-back threes to cut the lead to 35-27 at the 5:27 mark. That sparked an 11-3 run to cut the lead down to six, 38-32, with 3:09 left, forcing Davis to call a time out.
Out of the break, Baxter missed his shot, but Austin Schaser tipped the ball back out to Slavey, who passed it back to Baxter. This time his three fell, which sparked a 9-1 South run to end the third and a 47-33 Cardinal lead.
That run took the wind out of the Colonels. The Cards maintained their lead throughout the final quarter for the 66-47 win.
James Sakso led Whitley with 14 points, while Boston Bryant added 12.
“We were aggressive on offense, did a great job of blocking out and creating turnovers,” Davis said. “Our seniors did a great job. You’ve got to win the first one, and now we have punched our ticket to the region.”
The Cards faced Corbin last night for the 50th District title. The Redhounds have won five straight district titles. Both Corbin and South advance to next week’s 13th Region tournament at Harlan County.
Since the 2005-06 season, these two teams have met six times in the finals. Both have won three times. The only time they didn't meet in the finals since South moved into the 50th District was in the 2010-2011 season, when Corbin beat Whitley County, 59-49.
Boys’ 50th District Tournament
South Laurel 66, Whitley County 47
Whitley County 10 9 14 14—47
South Laurel 19 12 16 19—66
WHITLEY COUNTY (47)—Powers 8, Bryant 12, Z. Rutherford 9, Lawson 2, Sasko 14, Smith 2.
SOUTH LAUREL (66)—Slavey 13, Sanders 12, Rader 5, Baxter 13, T. Grubb 3, Jones 8, Schaser 4, Miller 2, Helton 4, Holt 2.