March 7, 2014

Looking forward

Lady Jags optimistic as season ends

By Mitch Howard
Sports Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — CORBIN—North Laurel’s season ended Tuesday with a 59-40 loss to Corbin in the first round of the 13th Region Tournament. It might not seem like an ending with everyone is coming back next season.

“It’s one of those things where we have talked about the future so much you really don’t want to talk about it anymore, but I do believe our future is here,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said.

The Lady Jaguars do not have a senior on their roster. Hannah Gray is the team’s only junior. Compare those numbers to the other top teams in the region. Corbin loses five seniors and Whitley County three. Clay County loses a key player in Sara Robinson.

“We have almost everyone back for almost the next two years. That makes me as a coach pretty happy,” Mahan said.

North Laurel can also point to the way the regular season ended as reason for optimism. The Lady Jaguars won 11 of their last 15 regular season games. They lost by 19 in the region tournament, but to a team that had beaten them by 38 in January. North Laurel only trailed the Lady Redhounds by four points at halftime. How they would come out against Corbin was a fair question after being hammered by Clay County 68-37 in the finals of the 49th District Tournament.

“I’m proud of us showing up. We didn’t show up against Clay County. Some young teams would have just given up and called the season a wrap,” Mahan said. “That is probably what I am most proud of. They rebounded from a horrible no-show.”

Not only were they close with Corbin at halftime, North Laurel could have easily been ahead. After a see-saw first quarter, the Lady Jaguars were on top 11-9 despite making five turnovers. North Laurel also missed six shots in the first quarter, including three layups.

“We haven’t shot well for some reason in about two weeks. I don’t understand why. It’s just part of our confidence level. I’m sick of saying that, but it’s the honest truth. We are just so young,” Mahan said.

North Laurel kept doing what they were doing well. The ball was placed in the hands of Hannah Lawson and Kayla Bruner to get into the heart of the Corbin defense. The second quarter started with layups from Lawson and Bruner for a 15-9 lead.

“It was a good start. We weren’t even shooting very well. We were playing hard. We were attacking the basket. That’s something we knew we should be able to do against Corbin,” Mahan said.

After taking a six-point lead, it would be over three minutes before the Lady Jaguars managed another field goal. Corbin reeled off 10 straight points to take a 19-15 lead.

“We got tired. When we get tired we make mistakes,” Mahan said.

North Laurel would close out the half strong. When Gray stroked two free throws with 1:20 in the half, North Laurel was within 25-23. A put back by Sarah Ashley would close out the first half scoring and give the Lady Redhounds a 27-23 advantage. The Lady Jaguars would not be that close again.

Miranda Wilson scored the first six points for Corbin in the third quarter on her way to a team-high 16. The lead peaked at nine points in the third quarter, but was down to six when Madison Sheppard’s three-pointer made it a 37-31 game. Natalye Gallagher found an open shot with four seconds to give Corbin a 39-31 lead going into the fourth.

Bruner scored on an offensive rebound to open the fourth quarter and cut the Corbin lead to six for the final time. The Lady Redhounds controlled the tempo in the fourth quarter and controlled the game.

“Their (press) got us into a running game,” Mahan said. “You can’t run with Corbin.”

The Lady Jaguars were outscored 20-9 in the fourth quarter and were held without a field goal for almost four minutes to end the game.

Corbin will now face Bell County, in the semifinals as the Lady Bobcats defeated Lynn Camp, 63-47, in the other first round game.

In Wednesday night action, Clay County beat Whitley County, 52-45, while Harlan downed Barbourville, 53-51.

Girls’ 13th Region Tournament

at The Arena in Corbin

Corbin 59, North Laurel 40

Corbin                 9    18   12  20—59

North Laurel       11   12     8    9—40

CORBIN (59)—Ashley 10, Gallagher 12, Ashurst 5, M. Wilson 16, K. Wilson 9, Blackburn 4, Jewell 1, Waddle 2.

NORTH LAUREL (40)—Sexton 8, Gray 8, Bruner 8, Lawson 3, Sheppard 10, Brummett 2, Bridges 1.