By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
WINCHESTER—After turning in two sub-par performances in losses to Knox Central and Whitley County, the South Laurel Cardinals played one of their best games of the season in a 71-70 double overtime loss to Harrison County Saturday in the Martin Luther King Classic at George Rogers Clark High School.
Even though his team lost, Coach Jeff Davis was pleased with the way his team played, especially coming off a 44-36 loss less than 24 hours earlier at Whitley County.
“I’m just happy with our guys effort,” Davis said. “It showed what grit and heart this team has. We don’t always play perfect or pretty, but they showed they can bounce back.”
In reality, it was a game the Cardinals should have won. South held a 54-35 lead with 4:52 left in the third quarter before Harrison County (13-5) went on a 26-7 run, tying the game at 61-61 and sending it into overtime.
“We can’t give up a 19-point lead to a good team like that,” Davis said. “We can’t got 8 minutes without scoring.”
But that’s what they did.
Zack Jones drained a three with 2:19 left in the third to give his team a 57-42 lead. The Cards (7-11) would not score again until Zac Baxter’s lay-up at the 2:18 mark of the fourth quarter which gave the Cards a 59-58 lead.
Blake Sanders then found Austin Rader underneath for a basket and a 61-58 lead setting up a hectic final 1:32 of regulation.
The Thorobreds’ Jordan Martin and Jordan Stubbs both missed threes. Following a Harrison County time out, the Cards couldn’t inbound the ball and was whistled for five seconds with 59.5 left. Harrison took advantage of that turnover when Stubbs hit a three to tie the game at 61-61. He would finished with 19 points.
The Cards called time out with 6.7 seconds left to set up a final play. Sanders inbounded the ball to Matthew Slavey, but he was tied up by Scott Kendall, and the possession arrow was in the Thorobreds favor with 3.7 seconds left. But Harrison couldn’t get off a final shot following a time out as Slavey stopped Dillion Pullman as time ran out in regulation.
The first overtime saw both teams score two points, two free throws by Tyler Wagner, then a lay-up by Brennan Miller, keeping the game tied, 63-63, and forcing a second overtime. There were also several non-calls throughout the game and in both overtimes. In fact, South didn’t make it into the bonus until there was 1:40 left in the second overtime. For the game, Harrison County shot 28 free throws while South only 15.
Harrison County opened the second overtime by making three of its first four shots to hold a 69-63 lead with 1:35 left. But the Cards refused to give up, going on a 7-2 run to cut the lead to one, 71-70, with 11.8 seconds left. Jones had six of those points, including the three that brought South to within one.
Stubbs then missed two free throws with 9.8 seconds left. On the second miss, no Cardinal blocked out Wagner, who got the rebound and was quickly tied up by Baxter, but the possession arrow gave the ball back to the Thorobreds.
South then amped up its defense, forcing Kendall to throw his inbounds pass over the lead of Pullman and out of bounds with 6.9 seconds left. After a time out, Slavey inbounded to Sanders, who drove to the basket, but his lay-up wouldn’t fall, and Harrison escaped, 71-70.
Baxter led South Laurel with 21 points, one of four Cardinals in double figures. Quite a contrast from the night before, where he scored all but 10 of South’s points.
“We can’t put all the pressure on Zac to score,” Davis said. “We’ve got to have other guys attack the basket.” Slavey had 14, Jones, 14, and Jared Grubb, 10.
Early on it looked like Harrison County would run away with the game, holding an 18-8 lead with 2:41 left in the first. But a three by Slavey sparked a 14-0 run to end the quarter and give South a 22-18 lead. Sanders and Grubb also drained threes during that run.
Both teams struggled to start the second quarter, and the game was tied, 23-23, with 4:10 left before halftime. Just like in the first quarter, South ended the second with another big run, this time 17-5, to hold a 40-28 lead at the half. Threes once again played a role in the run, as Baxter had two and Slavey one. For the game, South Laurel made 11 threes.
The Cards would build on their lead at the start of the third quarter, opening the third with a 14-7 run, including two threes by Slavey, to make it a 19-point game, 54-35, with 4:52 left in the quarter before Harrison County started its comeback.
“We had that big lead, let it get away, then went into two overtimes,” Davis said. “That shows character, being able to bounce back after a bad performance the night before then come out strong tonight.”
It was South Laurel’s third straight loss after winning three in a row. The Cards have nine games left in the regular season, with five of those against teams with winning records.
The Cardinals played host to Corbin Tuesday, then will host another district rival in Williamsburg Friday. South will then host Barbourville on Saturday.
Martin Luther King Classic
at George Rogers Clark
Harrison County 71, South Laurel 70 (2 OT)
South Laurel 22 18 17 4 2 9—70
Harrison County 18 10 13 10 2 10—71
SOUTH LAUREL (70)—Baxter 21, Schaser 2, J. Grubb 10, Slavey 14, Sanders 4, Jones 13, Helton 2, Rader 2, Miller 2.
HARRISON COUNTY—(71)—Kendall 14, Martin 5, Stubbs 19, Wagner 16, Hicks 8, Pullman 6, Cross 1, Carr 2.