By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
PINEVILLE—If you ask North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan the score of Monday’s game at Bell County, he might not know the answer.
“That’s the least of my concerns. For me, it’s about getting better and improving on what I think is the foundations of our program,” Mahan said.
He did see improvement and also lack of the same in the 84-45 loss to the Lady Bobcats, who were ranked No. 16 in the latest Bluegrass Preps poll. The Lady Bobcats (6-0) have already won the Cumberland Falls Invitational and only Perry Central has played them closer than 11 points.
“Tonight we took a step forward and took two steps back in the same game. You see things you like. You see progress that you know they can do and compete at a certain level, and then they take it away from you,” Mahan said.
An example of the conflict between good and bad came early. The Lady Jaguars did some things well offensively in the first quarter, but they also did some poorly. The result was a 28-10 hole after one quarter that they could not make up.
“If we could take away our stupidity the first half, that score wouldn’t have been anywhere close to what it was,” Mahan said.
Stupidity would be an all-inclusive term for bad passes or dropping good passes. There were too many times the Lady Jaguars allowed themselves to be trapped with the ball instead of passing before the defense arrived.
“When we moved it quickly, we scored or got a good look at the basket,” Mahan said.
The 28 points allowed by North Laurel in the first quarter were well above what they can allow if they expect to win. A lot of the reasons behind the Lady Bobcats outburst can be tracked to who they were playing. Bell County’s Maci Morris, a sophomore, averages 22 points per game and ranks among the state’s best players. The supporting cast isn’t too shabby either with three different players hitting three-pointers in the first quarter. Katrina Johnson and Jessica Sanders are both hitting better than 50 percent behind the three-point line this season.
“When we are focused, I think we can compete with anybody. The problem is can we get focused for four quarters?” Mahan said.
Defense is one area that Mahan thinks his team has regressed since opening the season. So he plans to go back to what was working early.
“We were better defensively at the beginning of the year when I only had one defense than we are now with three. I told them until we can get better at one we’re not going back to the three,” Mahan said.
After trailing by 17 points in the first quarter, the Lady Jaguars never got closer. The 50-21 hole at halftime was the Lady Bobcats largest lead of the first half. The lead reached 37 points in the third quarter and peaked at 41 in the fourth period. The bad news for North Laurel is that the schedule doesn’t get much easier.
“We’ve got a tough road trip ahead of us and we’ve got to get better from it,” Mahan said.
After a Tuesday night game at Pineville, the Lady Jaguars were looking at trips to Clay County, Louisville Waggener, Russell County, and Knoxville Catholic before Christmas break.
“They have to understand that the schedule does not get any easier,” Mahan said. “We are on the road the rest of this month pretty much.”
North Laurel started 1-9 last season, but did show improvement. Mahan doesn’t expect to sweep through the December road trips without taking some lumps; he does want to see a team in January that has improved.
“They show me fool’s gold right now. They show me the things they can do then they just stop doing them. Whether they or tired, or they lose focus which I think is the biggest problem for us right now. They put their heads down because something is wrong,” Mahan said.
Bell County 84, North Laurel 45
North Laurel 11 10 13 11—45
Bell County 28 22 20 14—84
NORTH LAUREL (45)—Wyatt 7, Gray 7, Lawson 7, Carpenter 6, Ellington 10, Raines 4, Chestnut 3, Bridges 1.
BELL COUNTY (84)—Sanders 12, Garbett 6, Robbins 9, Collins 7, Norris 18, Johnson 8, Boatright 6, Taylor 7, Collett 6, Miracle 3, Brock 2.