LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
MCKEE—After three quarters, North Laurel found itself in a place it didn’t want to be. The Lady Jaguars were all square with Jackson County. It wasn’t really what coach Eddie Mahan expected, although his team had gotten only one game in since facing Corbin 13 days earlier.
“We’ve had two of our better practices maybe of the year just recently,” Mahan said. “We have lit it up shooting, but that’s the difference in practice and game pressure.”
The Lady Jaguars would score the first 10 points of the fourth quarter to win 51-40, their third win in four games.
“After that it was almost like some of the pressure was off,” Mahan said. “We were able to score a little bit easier for about a two-minute period.”
Although practices had gone well, Mahan said it is difficult to mimic everything in practice. It is especially hard to remain in game shape when not playing games.
“There is a different level in intensity in a ballgame. Jackson County plays harder than most people probably give them credit for. They make you play hard and our conditioning showed tonight,” Mahan said.
After an early 3-3 tie, North Laurel seemed to be ready to make a charge. Kayla Bruner broke the tie with a three-pointer. Free throws from Madison Sheppard and Hannah Lawson made it an 8-3 game. But the Lady Jaguars would struggle to sustain any momentum in the first half.
By the end of the first quarter, Jackson County was within a point at 8-7.
“It was a rough game. They are a very physical team. I think that affected us some,” Mahan said. “I think they are also an improving team just like they were last year.”
The second quarter began with Bruner making a strong effort to get to the basket. Twice she went to the foul line, but made just 2-of-4 shots. Foul shooting would be an issue for North Laurel the rest of the half with just 8-of-20 attempts made and 11-of-27 for the game.
“Free throws were an Achilles heel for us tonight. It could have cost us the game,” Mahan said.
North Laurel would still continue to pull away with an 8-0 run. Bruner went coast-to-coast for a layup. Hannah Gray drilled a three-pointer from the baseline. A free throw from Makayla Sexton gave the Lady Jaguars a 16-7 lead. But again the spurt sputtered.
“I was impressed with a lot of things about our team tonight, but one of the things I was disappointed in was that we did not look like a very confident bunch. Every time there was a run made it was like we got very tight,” Mahan said.
North Laurel would go almost five minutes without a field goal to end the half. Combine that with the poor foul shooting and Jackson County ended on a 9-2 run. Twice they scored off offensive rebounds on free throws. One of those rebounds led to a foul line jumper for Alexis Creech that had the Lady Generals within 17-16 with 25 seconds. North Laurel took an 18-16 lead into the half.
It was Jackson County with the hot start in the third quarter as it jumped on top 22-18 with the help of a pair of offensive rebounds. The four-point lead would be their largest of the game and would come again at 28-24 with 3:30 in the third.
Sheppard tied the score twice in the closing minutes of the third quarter. The first came on an assist from Bruner to even the score 28-28. After a Jackson County basket, Sheppard scored off a turnover for a 30-30 tie to end the quarter. It would be the final tie of the game.
Sexton scored on an offensive rebound to open the fourth quarter and give North Laurel the lead. Sexton finished with 11 rebounds and 11 points.
“Sexton did a much better job on the boards tonight than what she had been and that was a key for us,” Mahan said.
Sexton’s put back meant the fourth and final lead change of the game. It also started a 10-0 run to open the quarter and give the Lady Jaguars room to breathe. Jackson County trimmed the lead to seven point three different times. The first two times Bruner drove to the basket for a layup. The final seven-point lead became 10 when Gray buried a three-pointer with 1:14 to play.
North Laurel was scheduled to play at Estill County Tuesday and will host Wayne County Friday.
North Laurel 51, Jackson County 40
North Laurel 8 10 12 21—51
Jackson County 7 9 14 10—40
NORTH LAUREL (51)—Sheppard 11, Gray 6, Bruner 18, Lawson 5, Sexton 11.
JACKSON COUNTY (40)—Belt 7, Ball 4, Crowe 5, Adkins 2, Mulligan 8, A. Creech 11, Wagner 3.