By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
With rivalry games, it doesn’t always matter who is favored. The underdog can make their season by putting together one inspired performance.
“This is a rivalry game and I told the kids it doesn’t matter who has got what record in this game,” South Laurel coach Konnie Snyder said.
The Lady Cardinal made sure there were no surprises by jumping on North Laurel early and cruising to a 77-42 win Monday.
“I’m not happy with the way we competed. We came out from the get-go and acted scared,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said. “We were not very confident coming in against a South Laurel team that is a rival, obviously, for these girls.”
South Laurel busted out to 16-3 lead in the first five minutes. The only points for North Laurel came on a banked three-pointer by Brooke Carpenter. Meanwhile the Lady Cardinals made scoring look easy simply by getting the ball to senior center Taylor Arthur.
“Arthur is the most improved player in the 13th Region in my opinion. I thought she was a good player last year and I think she is a great player this year,” Mahan said.
Arthur scored the first 10 points for the Lady Cardinals to go along with five first quarter rebounds. When Arthur’s scoring run ended, Cassandra Johnson took over with six straight points for a 16-3 lead.
The second goal for North Laurel would be a three-pointer from Kendall Ellington. Mahan said it was not his plan to attack from the outside.
“Apparently whatever I say it’s the opposite. I wanted them to penetrate and they shoot threes,” Mahan said. “Maybe next time I will start by saying let’s shoot threes.”
Of the 12 shots North Laurel took in the first quarter, half were three-pointers. The Lady Cardinals did not attempt a three-pointer in the first period, which ended with a 24-6 lead. It was the same margin at halftime, 36-18.
“We kind of got out of kilter and started taking some shots we didn’t want to take and pressing the issue a little bit,” Snyder said. “The second quarter was really the only quarter we got out of character.”
The Lady Cardinals tried five three-pointers in the second quarter and missed on all five. Meanwhile the plan that had built the early lead was scrapped. Arthur attempted only two shots in the quarter, both on offensive rebounds.
“Part of it was taking perimeter shots on the first pass down the floor. We don’t want to do that,” Snyder said.
North Laurel actually had a chance to cut into the lead in the second quarter, but missed on all six free throw attempts. Mahan was not satisfied with the short rallies his team made.
“That’s what average players, average teams do. That’s what we are right now, an average team. We are a team that will give you spurts and give you glimpses of what you can be, but we are not at the point to be able to do it on a day to day basis,” Mahan said.
The closest North Laurel came to a rally was when it sank four three-pointers in the first 3:30 of the third quarter. Carpenter hit the first three, followed by two from Kendall Ellington. When Hannah Gray connected with 4:30 the lead was down to 44-30.
“That’s the thing with our team. We can shoot, but it’s streaky right now,” Mahan said.
Snyder said she understands when a team gets hot and just shoots over the defense, but that wasn’t the case here.
“We got lost a couple of times where we were trying to help on some cutters. We don’t want to do that. We have a certain defensive philosophy. We kind of got out of that philosophy,” Snyder said.
When the lead fell to 14, Johnson put and brakes on the North Laurel comeback.
“I think the last three games she has played much, much better. She has played under control and helped our team a lot. She gives us a certain toughness,” Snyder said.
Johnson made a pair of three-pointers in less than a minute as the Lady Cardinals ended the third quarter with a 14-2 run.
“I think C.J. is the scariest player out there with her athleticism, her size, and with her motor. She has one of the highest motors in the 13th Region. She just goes,” Mahan said.
There would be no drama in the fourth quarter as the Lady Cardinals maintained their lead, then added to it with a 9-0 run to end the game
“I’m happy with the way we played. I’ve actually been happy with the last two games. The last game (Bell County) we didn’t come out with a win, but I feel better about the way we played,” Snyder said.
Mahan said he did not see the effort he expected against his team’s arch rival.
“It’s a do-or-die situation. You saw it in South Laurel’s eyes. You didn’t see it tonight in ours,” Mahan said. “It comes down to a point our coaching staff and players have to have the hunger to outweigh any lack of experience we have right now.”
North Laurel will be at Corbin on Friday, while South Laurel is at Whitley County.
South Laurel 77, North Laurel 42
North Laurel 6 12 14 20—42
South Laurel 24 12 22 19—77
NORTH LAUREL (42)—Wyatt 10, Carpenter 9, Ellington 11, Gray 5, Sexton 2, Raines 3, Chestnut 2.
SOUTH LAUREL (77)—Arthur 19, Johnson 17, Clonce 19, Baker 6, Parker 8, Reynolds 8.