LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
STEARNS—There’s not too many free things in life, so when you find one you’d better take advantage.
North Laurel found that out Monday night in its season-opener at McCreary Central.
The Lady Jaguars hit just 7-of-22 free throws in a 69-65 loss to the Lady Raiders. Had North Laurel hit 50 percent from the line, it would have came away victorious.
“Free throws and our defense killed us,” Coach Eddie Mahan said. “Not to disrespect McCreary, but we gave up 69 points to them. We’ll face much better competition in the 13th Region. We’re not showing the tenacity to play defense. (Cierra) Terry crossed us up 19 or 20 times and we didn’t make adjustments.” Terry would finish 24 points.
While North was struggling at the line in its 22 trips, the Lady Raiders made 48 trips to the charity stripe, converting on 23 of those for 47.9 percent.
North Laurel placed four players in double figures, led by Hannah Gray’s 18 points. Kayla Bruner added 16, Hannah Lawson, 13, and Ashley Raines, 11. McCreary’s Kaylee Cotton led all scorers with 28 points.
North jumped out early and led 6-3 before Cotton drained a three to tie things up at 6-6. That sparked a 16-3 run to end the first quarter and give the Lady Raiders a 19-9 advantage. Cotton had nine in the first quarter while Terry added seven.
A three by Bruner to open the second cut the lead to 19-12. Another three, this one from Gray, and North was within five at 20-15 with 5:46 left. But every time the Lady Jaguars would cut the margin they would either miss a shot or turn the ball over.
“We were our own worst enemy,” Mahan said.
Another Gray three, this time with 1:39 left, brought North back to within five at 27-22. But on the other end, Terry answered with a three of her own to push the lead back to eight, 30-22. McCreary led at the half, 39-26. North hit just 1-of-9 free throws in the first half, while the Lady Raiders were 9-of-19.
The Lady Raiders maintained their lead throughout the third quarter, even pushing it to 14 at one point, 43-29, with 6:33 left. North could never get the lead below double digits and when Lawson nailed a three with 3.2 seconds left in the third, the lead was cut to 10, 54-44.
North trailed 56-46 when it started to battle its way back into the game. Raines hit a three to cut the lead to 56-49. That three started a 13-7 run that saw the lead dwindle to four, 63-59, at the 3:19 mark. North would get as close as three, 68-65, but Terry hit 5-of-10 from the free throw line over the final 2:24 to help seal the 69-65 win.
For the game, North shot 38.7 percent from the field, hitting 24-of-62, while the Lady Raiders were 21-of-66 for 31.8 percent.
“This was not the same team we were in our first scrimmage,” Mahan said. “This was more like the second scrimmage, and that concerns me. You don’t want to be taking a step back.”
The Lady Jaguars are scheduled to host Madison Central tonight.
McCreary Central 69, North Laurel 65
North Laurel 9 17 18 21—65
McCreary Central 19 20 15 15—69
NORTH LAUREL (65)—Bruner 16, Gray 18, Lawson 13, Bridges 2, Sexton 2, Raines 11, Chesnut 3.
McCREARY CENTRAL (69)—Kiser 6, Neal 7, Jones 2, Cotton 28, Terry 24, Stephens 2.