By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
WILLIAMSBURG—Forget the fact that South Laurel cut a 17-point Corbin lead down to one heading into the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s 50th District finals.
It was the first six minutes of the game that told the whole story.
Corbin raced out to a 13-0 lead before the Cardinals scored their first point. South Laurel missed all 15 field goals in the first quarter, and shot just 13.7 percent in the first half. In the end, that was too much to overcome, as Corbin claimed its fifth straight district title with a 73-66 win.
“You can’t do that,” South Laurel coach Jeff Davis said, referring to his team’s dismal first half performance. “You can’t come not ready to play. You can’t be shell-shocked.”
But that’s exactly what the Cardinals (13-16) were in the first half, and the first quarter, especially. They missed shot after shot, good ones at that, while committing five turnovers. The Redhounds (24-6) took full advantage for a 16-7 lead after one. Zach Farley scored seven of his 15 points in the first quarter, while Robbie Igo added six. All seven South Laurel points came via the free throw line.
South finally scored from the field when Zac Baxter’s jumper fell at the 7:40 mark of the second quarter. After that, Corbin went on a 12-2 run for a 29-11 lead with 3:04 left. The lead was 34-17 at the half. Corbin shot 43 percent in the first half and looked poised to blow the Cardinals out of the gym.
“We just weren’t aggressive on defense,” Davis said. “We weren’t playing hard or moving. Corbin took it to us in the first half. They wanted it more than us.”
While South didn’t come out ready to play in the first half, that changed in the second half. Baxter scored nine of South’s first 11 points, and when his second three of the quarter fell with 4:51 left, the lead was down to nine, 37-28.
Seven straight points from Blake Sanders, who finished with 25, got the Cards to within seven, 42-35, with 3:32 left. South continued to chip away at the lead, ending the quarter with a 13-5 run, and the once 17-point lead was down to one, 47-46.
“We really didn’t make any adjustments at the half,” Davis said. “We just woke up and came out and played hard.”
Now it was time for Corbin’s sixth man, Kevin Goins, to spark the Redhounds. He would start the fourth quarter with six straight points to give Corbin a 53-46 lead. The Cardinals defense lost track of him several times in the fourth, as he drained three three-pointers, while Hunter Grubb contributed with two treys of his own.
Two free throws by Baxter with 6:48 left ended the 6-0 run and brought South back to within five, 53-48. But those would be the last points the South Laurel sophomore would score in the game.
An Austin Schaser basket, followed by a three from Matt Slavey, and the Cards were back to within two, 55-52, with 4:20 left. A floater in the lane by Sanders kept South within two with 3:52 left.
But that would be as close as the Cardinals would get.
The threes started raining down on South Laurel, as Corbin scored its next 12 points from beyond the arc as Goins and Grubb hit two treys each, the final one from Grubb coming with 1:39 left to give his team a 69-61 lead. From there, Corbin held on for the 73-66 win.
“You gotta give Corbin credit, they took us out of our game,” Davis said. “Especially in the first half, where we got frustrated when our shots weren’t falling. We’ve got to learn to overcome that.”
For the game, South Laurel shot 32.8 percent, hitting 22-of-67, while Corbin was 24-of-49 for 48.9 percent. South visited the free throw line 23 times, hitting 16 for 69.5 percent, while Corbin was 18-of-24 for 75 percent. The Cards made six three pointers while the Redhounds made seven, five in the fourth quarter.
Both teams advance to this week’s 13th Region Tournament in Harlan County, along with Clay County, North Laurel, Barbourville, Knox Central, Harlan County and Middlesboro. The region draw was held Saturday morning.
Boys’ 50th District Tournament
Corbin 73, South Laurel 66
South Laurel 7 10 29 20—66
Corbin 16 18 13 26—73
SOUTH LAUREL (66)—Sanders 25, Baxter 21, Schaser 4, Miller 5, Rader 4, Slavey 7.
CORBIN (73)—Farley 15, Igo 9, Maguet 9, Hill 12, Goins 19, Grubb 9.