By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
BEREA—If a team hit just 10-of-27 from the free throw line, you wouldn’t expect them to win.
On top of that add 34 percent shooting from the field and double-digit turnovers and there’s no way they could win, right?
South Laurel did all those things Saturday in the Berea Food Bank Classic against Garrard County yet still came away with a 49-46 win.
“I’ve don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where we missed so many free throw and still won,” South coach Jeff Davis said. “But we kept fighting through the adversity and found a way to win.”
Of course it helped that Garrard County (0-4) also struggled in those same three categories. The Golden Lions were 9-of-19 from the free throw line, shot 37 percent from the field, and had 18 turnovers. The biggest turnover probably coming with 2.6 seconds left and trailing, 49-46. The Golden Lions turned the ball over before they could get a shot off and South (2-3) escaped with the win.
Matthew Slavey’s seven first quarter points helped South to an 11-10 lead after one. Next it was Brennan Miller’s five points in the second quarter to lead the Cardinals, along with a three by Ethan Anders and a nifty baseline lay-up by Jarred Grubb, and the game was tied at the half, 21-21.
It seemed like both teams were trading turnovers in the first half and not converting. The South defense was very active with steals and forcing the Garrard miscues.
“I thought our defense played well when we weren’t fouling,” Davis said.
Zac Baxter, who had been held scoreless in the first half, picked things up in the third quarter with seven points including a three that tied the game at 30-30 with 2:26 left.
South opened the quarter with a 6-2 run, and with 4:48 left, the Cards held a four point lead, 27-23. Garrard answered with a 7-0 run, highlighted by a three from Billy Abney, and led 30-27 before the Baxter three. The Golden Lions ended the quarter scoring the last four points for a 34-30 lead. The Cards were just 3-of-16 from the field in the third and 2-of-6 from the free throw line.
A big offensive rebound and put back by Austin Schaser to open the fourth, then a steal and basket by Austin Rader, and the game was tied, 34-34. After a Clayton Ray bucket gave Garrard the lead back, Baxter drained a three, and with 5:35 left, South again led, 37-36. The two teams would battle back and forth over the final four minutes.
Garrard took the lead with an Austin Sebastian basket at the 4:50 mark, and held it until there was 2:58 left, when Slavey lobbed in an inbound pass under the basket to Baxter, who skied above the Garrard defense and scored to tie the game, 40-40.
A baseline drive and basket by Miller with 1:47 left again tied the game at 42-42. He would finish with 17 points and be named the Player of the Game.
“Brennan worked his butt off tonight,” Davis said “He played great and is getting better, as is Jared (Grubb). Grubb is just an eighth-grader but he keeps learning and improving.”
An offensive foul on Sebastian gave South the ball back with 1:39 left. Slavey, who had not scored since the first quarter, drove to the bucket to give the Cards a 44-42 lead with 1:06 left. They would hold onto that lead for the remainder of the game, though there were some tense moments, especially at the free throw line. The Cards could have sealed the game away at the line, but were just 4-of-10 over the last minute of action.
South was up 48-46 when Abney took it to the basket but missed the lay-up. There was a tie up on the rebound with the possession arrow pointing in South’s favor with 6.6 seconds left. Abney led Garrard with 16 points.
Baxter was fouled and sent to the line. He missed the first, but made the second to give South a 49-46 lead and Garrard a chance to get off a tying three-pointer that never came thanks to the turnover. Baxter finished with 14 points.
The Cards will now travel to take on Corbin Tuesday night.
“I’ve told people not to overlook Corbin,” Davis said. “They are athletic and have size. It will be a tough game.”
Berea Food Bank Classic
South Laurel 49, Garrard County 46
Garrard County 10 11 13 12—46
South Laurel 11 10 9 19—49
GARRARD COUNTY (46)—McCullom 5, McPherson 1, Teague 2, C. Ray 8, Abney 16, Sebastian 8, Smith 1, J. Ray 5.
SOUTH LAUREL (49)—Slavey 9, Schaser 2, Miller 17, Baxter 14, Rader 2, Grubb 2, Anders 3.