By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
BENHAM—Although North Laurel won the 13th Region last year, it is Harlan County that earned the preseason nod from coaches as the team to beat. One reason might be where the 13th Region Tournament will be played this season, at Harlan County.
Wednesday night the Jaguars got a preview of the Harlan County the team and the gym. It didn’t go well with the Black Bears rolling to a 72-46 win.
“I knew we were going to have a tough stretch. We played last night and then get on a bus and come over here,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said.
The stretch also included a trip to Letcher County Central Saturday to face East Ridge on the heels of a triple overtime affair with Jackson County Thursday. But Sizemore did not want his team to accept excuses. Thursday’s result also had a lot to do with who the Jaguars were playing.
The Black Bears points generally came one of two ways, point guard Tyler Brewer setting up teammates for layups in transition or the Harlan County big men imposing their will inside.
“I thought we played OK the first half. Then we just kind of quit. Then again when you’re a step slow with them, Brewer just picks you apart,” Sizemore said. “Every time we tried to speed them up in a press or trap them in a half court, he just throws the ball to the basket.”
One of the more telling statistics would be the 35-17 edge Harlan County held in rebounding. Twice in the fourth quarter the Black Bears’ Chad Massengill rebounded a teammate’s missed free throw and scored.
“If you are going to win this region or compete any other time, if you can’t be ready to get physical in the lane, get a body on somebody and got get it with two hands, we’re kidding ourselves,” Sizemore said. “They did whatever they wanted to with us.”
The Harlan County game was a chance for the Jaguars to judge where they stand. It wasn’t as big when you consider the same thing happened last year at North Laurel during the regular season. North Laurel rallied in that game but fell 63-59. The Jaguars are also still a couple of weeks away from the return of their big man, Jake Allen.
“We’ve got to get healthy. We’ve got to get fresh,” Sizemore said. “We’ve got a really good team. I’m not worried about that, but you would expect with us playing who we are playing tonight that we would come out and compete a little harder.”
The Jaguars never led and were trailing by nine points midway through the first quarter. Harlan County led 16-6 after one quarter with all of the field goals coming on layups except one foul line jumper. The Black Bears scored twice on inbounds plays. The lead grew to as much as 15 points in the second quarter.
“Right now we just make excuses. ‘Well we don’t have everybody there or we’re tired, we played last night.’ We’ve just got to compete,” Sizemore said.
Harlan County controlled the inside even more in the third quarter. When they did miss, they usually grabbed the rebound.
“They’ve got three guys that can handle it. Brewer is as good as anybody in this region. He just picks you apart,” Sizemore said. “Their big kids are good too. They’re just physical and strong. They sealed us and got a lot of lay ups.”
It didn’t help when Marcus Carson went to the bench with 4:18 in the third quarter with his fourth foul. A 10-0 run early in the fourth quarter opened the lead to 22 points. The final score was the biggest lead for Harlan County.
North Laurel 48, Rockcastle County 46
MT. VERNON—North Laurel broke a two-game losing streak with a two-point win over the Rockets.
“It was a good game for us obviously to get a win on the road. Their schedule probably doesn’t tell you how good they are. They’ve played a lot of teams close,” Sizemore said.
The one-win Rockets led by as much as seven points in the third quarter before North Laurel rallied in the final period.
“They have five guys out there really physically strong. They shot the ball real well from the perimeter,” Sizemore said.
The Jaguars play winless Riverside Christian Saturday before getting another big test Monday at Clay County. The Tigers are undefeated and are responsible for the only losses for both Corbin and Boyle County this season.
Harlan County 72, North Laurel 46
North Laurel 6 16 12 12—46
Harlan County 16 18 14 24—72
NORTH LAUREL (46)—Carson 14, Henson 8, Broughton 1, Thompson 5, Rush 8, Jervis 3, Asher 6, Hodges 1.
HARLAN COUNTY (72)—Brewer 9, Sergent 7, Massengill 23, A. Caldwell 15, Miller 6, Bond 2, Z. Caldwell 8, Wilson 2.
North Laurel 48, Rockcastle County 46
North Laurel 11 12 8 17—48
Rockcastle County 11 11 16 8—46
NORTH LAUREL (48)—Carson 8, Henson 11, Broughton 6, Thompson 11, Rush 4, Jervis 8.
ROCKCASTLE COUNTY (46)—Wilson 7, Pensol 3, McPhetridge 6, Manson 14, Hasty 3, Amyx 4, Arvin 9.