By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
North Laurel burned the Jackson County zone defense with nine three pointers to pick up their first win. Over half of the Lady Jaguars points came from behind the three-point line in the 53-28 victory.
“We do know we like to shoot the three. That is a great thing and I love to be able to shoot the three. I think that always opens things up for you,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said.
What Mahan doesn’t want is a team that “lives by the three and dies by three,” a team that doesn’t win when those shots are not falling. There have been games when the three-point shot was not as friendly.
“I don’t really know what we do well right now. Sometimes we look good against a zone, sometimes we look good against man,” Mahan said, and on the flip side they have also struggled against both defenses. The same goes for the press, which North Laurel sometimes solves and sometime struggles against.
It is all part of growing pains from a young team that the coach is still learning and the players are still learning each other.
“It’s only been three practices since we lost our starting point guard. We have played that many ballgames. Unfortunately we haven’t done as well in those ballgames as we would like, so our mentality isn’t really formed as a team and a unit,” Mahan said.
One mentality Mahan hopes will still develop is a killer instinct. The Lady Jaguars had chances to put Jackson County away early with 12-point leads in each of the first two quarters. Both times they let up in the closing minutes. North Laurel didn’t score the final two minutes of the first quarter and went without a field goal the final 3:23 of the first half.
“In the first half, I wasn’t pleased with our defensive effort and I wasn’t pleased with our rebounding,” Mahan said. “It picked up some in the second half, I felt like we started playing looser when we felt like we had the game.”
One thing that was working early was the shooting touch. Hannah Gray, Ashley Wyatt, and Brooke Carpenter all nailed three-pointers against the Jackson County zone. Gray and Carpenter each made three three-pointers on the night. Carpenter’s first three gave North Laurel a 15-3 lead before Jackson County ended the first quarter on a 7-0 run.
North Laurel also got a pair of three-pointers Thursday from Ashley Wyatt, who led the Lady Jaguars with 13 points.
“This is the best Ashley Wyatt has looked all year long. She looked aggressive. She looked calm with the ball and she wanted it in her hands,” Mahan said. “We have to have her act like that more often. We have to have her be a go-to type player for us.”
It was a three-pointer by Wyatt that gave the Lady Jaguars a 24-12 lead with 3:23 in the half. Although the Lady Jaguars ended the half cold, Jackson County didn’t have much success either as the North Laurel led 26-15 at the break.
North Laurel ended the third quarter with a buzzer beater from Gray. Hannah Lawson penetrated and found Gray open on the baseline for a 44-25 lead. North Laurel’s largest lead was 26 points as they removed the pressure of wondering when the first win would come.
“There has to be some weight lifted off my shoulders, the girls’ shoulders. We have to feel like it is a relief to get that first win,” Mahan said.
The Lady Jaguars lost their first five games, one more than they lost to start last year. After last year’s team won their first game, they would drop four more to start the season 1-9. It was also an important game for the Lady Jaguars since the 49th District tournament will be seeded this year.
“A win in district is the most important thing right now with seeds, but at the same time there is so much we could have worked on,” Mahan said.
Mahan planned hard practices on Friday and Sunday to prepare for a tough test tonight at Bell County.
“We’re going to get ready for Bell County, who is playing as good as anybody,” Mahan said.
Bell County won the Cumberland Falls Invitation Tournament and has two easy wins over Corbin this season.
North Laurel 53, Jackson County 28
Jackson County 9 6 10 3—28
North Laurel 15 11 18 9—53
JACKSON COUNTY (28)—Belt 7, Rose 9, Madden 2, Crowe 3, Ward 6, Mulligan 1.
NORTH LAUREL (53)—Wyatt 13, Gray 12, Lawson 9, Carpenter 9, Ellington 4, Sexton 6.