By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
ONEIDA—North Laurel won its season opener Tuesday against Harlan, but didn’t feel good about it. Friday they felt much better after walloping Oneida Baptist 99-32.
“We know we didn’t play our best game on Tuesday and everybody has been frustrated all week,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said. “We bounced back on Thursday and had a great practice and came out and played a lot better. We played under control.”
North Laurel could do as it pleased against the overmatched Mountaineers. What pleased Sizemore was the way they went about business.
“We were more organized. Everybody looked a lot more comfortable,” Sizemore said.
The comfort came from having more time to practice without Jake Allen. When the season opened against Harlan there had been no time to prepare after losing their big man to a broken finger.
“We are not trying to make any excuses for Tuesday, but when you take Jake out of our lineup and we don’t have a lot of practice time, we were just out of sync from the start,” Sizemore said.
Friday was the opposite with the North Laurel press harassing the Mountaineers into numerous turnovers. Once the Jaguars forced the turnover they quickly found the open man. When they ran a half-court offense, they showed patience and unselfishness.
“It was just a group effort. One thing was we didn’t turn the ball over as much. We got a lot of assists. We made the simple plays. I thought we looked a lot better,” Sizemore said.
The Jaguars opened a 27-10 lead in the first quarter, led by 11 points from Kendrick Henson. Henson would lead all scorers with 21. Henson didn’t score as much in the second quarter, but contributed just as much. The lead peaked at 33 points in the first half during a run of six straight points for Austin Rush. All three baskets came on assist from Henson’s penetration. He would finish the night with nine assists and five steals.
This was also the only time Sizemore seemed upset with something he saw. When Oneida rebounded one of their own missed free throws, he shouted “rebound.” When the Mountaineers turned the rebound into a three-pointer he called a timeout.
“We are undersized out there a lot of times. We are playing four guards sometimes and everybody is going to have to get a body on somebody if we are going to have a chance to compete,” Sizemore said.
The other 31 minutes Sizemore had little to complain about. The lead reached 52 points by the end of the third quarter at 80-28. Henson got hot again with nine points in the third period. Peyton Broughton scored the last seven points of the quarter. Broughton and Marcus Carson each finished with 11. Carson also added 10 assists and six steals. Rush would record a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Everyone got into the game and everyone contributed for the Jaguars. Eighth grader Bryson Asher scored seven points in the fourth quarter as North Laurel seemed destined to top 100. The Jaguars did not attempt a shot on their final possession and dribbled out the final seconds.
North Laurel will get a tougher test Thursday when it will host Jackson County. The Generals already have a big win at Pineville, a team some see as a dark horse in the 13th Region. Thursday’s game will also be for seeding in the 49th District Tournament.
North Laurel 99, Oneida Baptist 32
North Laurel 27 23 30 19—99
Oneida Baptist 10 11 7 4—32
NORTH LAUREL (99)— Carson 11, Henson 21, Rush 18, Thompson 8, Broughton 11, Jervis 6, Asher 7, House 2, Jeffers 4, Hodges 2, Bundy 1, Maggard 1, Miller 6.
ONEIDA BAPTIST (32)— Elendu 6, Osom 3, Waitaka 10, Quarshie 2, Wisdom 1, Garner 6, Waskinski 4.