RICHMOND—It looked like a game when Jeff Hale scored just ahead of the first quarter horn. It looked more like a game when Hale connected again from the baseline to open the second period. The South Laurel Cardinals trailed Madison Central by a single point at 17-16. But this was Madison Central and it was their home court.
“I thought we did some good things in the first half, especially in the first quarter,” South Laurel coach Jeff Davis said.
The highlights for South Laurel almost ended when Hale pulled them within a point. It would be over six minutes before the Cardinals scored again. When Matthew Slavey pulled up for a jumper in the lane, it only cut the Indians’ lead to 31-18. Madison Central scored the first 10 points of the second half on the way to an 86-55 win.
“When we were patient and had our legs under us, we played with them. They are just relentless pressure,” Davis said. “They are by far the best team we have played this year.”
The Indians were ranked as the best team in the state before losing at Henry Clay on Jan. 31. It remains their only loss of the season. If South Laurel was to stay in this game, it needed a lot to go its way. One of the things that did not go their way was the 16 free throws the Indians shot in the first half. The Cardinals did not shoot a free throw until midway through the third period.
“It’s frustrating when you don’t get the calls on the road, but that’s the road and you don’t expect to get them,” Davis said.
More damaging than free throws was the speed and athleticism of Madison Central that caused havoc when turned loose in a press defense. During the six minute scoreless stretch in the second quarter, the Cardinals turned the ball over six times. They managed only three shots for six minutes with two of those long three-pointers.
“There are just times when we forget what we are supposed to do or we get caught up in that pressure and lose sight of what we are trying to accomplish,” Davis said.
Once Madison Central sensed blood in the water, it did not pull back. Not only did they play much of the game above the rim with dunks and alley oops, they also made 10 three-pointers. And when they did miss, someone was there to clean it up.
“It’s their second chance points and their points off of our turnovers that really hurt us,” Davis said.
Madison Central led by as much as 36 points in the third period. They would keep their main rotation in the game late. Leading scorer Hunter Allen closed out his 20-point night with a three-pointer with 3:03 to play. Davis still said his team continued to play when the game was well out of reach.
“I was proud of our guys effort. We came in and battled. We didn’t back down,” Davis said.
The Cardinals had another tough test Tuesday night against a 20-win Clinton County team. Their final game is on the road, at Rockcastle County Friday before facing Whitley County Tuesday in the district tournament.
Madison Central 86, South Laurel 55
South Laurel 14 4 14 23—55
Madison Central 17 18 30 21—86
SOUTH LAUREL (55)—Grubb 6, Jones 3, Miller 6, Rader 5, Slavey 7, Baxter 6, Mitchell 2, J. Hale 16, L. Hale 4.
MADISON CENTRAL (86)—Hawkins 7, Bosely 10, O’Bryan 13, Taylor 16, Allen 20, Stocker 2, Walker 3, Congleton 7, Parks 3, Conner 3, George 2.