CORBIN - Travis Smith took a rebound the length of the floor for a lay up with 1:21 to play to give the Corbin its first lead. The Redhounds held on from there for a, 72-67, win over North Laurel in the semifinals of the Cumberland Falls Invitational Tournament.
After Smith’s basket gave the Redhounds a, 66-65, lead, the Jaguars went back on top on a quick basket by Ryan Shears. Matthew Taylor answered with a backdoor cut with 55 seconds. The Jaguars would not get off another shot at the lead despite three more possession. In the end, coach Jim Conway turned to his assistants and said, “This one is on me.”
“I take full responsibility. I told my guys they played extremely hard and when it got down to the end, press offense-wise we should have had some things to go to. In special situations where you need a two or a three there needs to be a call instead of me trying to draw stuff up,” Conway said.
Wednesday night’s thriller made it consecutive games the Jaguars have been in a postseason atmosphere against a team they could see in the postseason. Corbin has won back-to-back 13th Region titles including last year’s final against North Laurel.
“It’s got to make us better,” Conway said. “Getting in tight situations and playing all of these teams that are ranked above you in the region.”
While North Laurel did much right in building a 13-point first half lead, they now must focus on the things that made the lead disappear.
“It gives us an opportunity to see where we stack up and what we need to work on. We are well aware of the things we need to work on,”Conway said. Obviously taking care of the ball and when it comes down to special situations being prepared.”
The Jaguars were nearly flawless in the first quarter as they opened a 19-6 lead. Ethan Eversole started hot, just as he had a two nights earlier with five three-pointers against Whitley County. Eversole made three more in the first quarter against Corbin.
“He’s a good player. He’s just got to have confidence,” Conway said. “Right now he’s playing with a lot of confidence and that’s what we need out of him.”
After going the first seven minutes without a turnover, the Jaguars committed two in the final minute of the first quarter. That allowed Corbin to cut the lead to four.
“(Corbin) is not going to lay down and quit, but at the same time if you are able to make some stops right there and take care of the basketball on your end of it you never know,” Conway said.
There would be six more turnovers in the second quarter as Corbin went to a smaller, quicker lineup. It helped Corbin in the press, but made Lee Spencer unstoppable. Spencer scored 10 points in the second quarter, making all five of his shots. Spencer finished with 18 points, but just four in the second half.
“He’s a hard guard. I think he got a little tired on us. He’s logging a lot of minutes. He might have come out just a little bit. Our starting five logs a lot of minutes and they are going to get fatigued. I’ve got to find a way to get some guys in that can spell them,” Conway said.
The Jaguars as a team made 7-of-10 shots in the second quarter and led 36-31 at the break.
With Marcus Carson slashing to the goal and Eversole hitting another three, the lead reached 10 points at 49-39. The game almost turned in the next minute beginning with a Taylor three-pointer. After a North Laurel miss, Taylor Jones drove for a layup. Contact led to a slight push by Cody Likins and a technical foul. If Corbin made the free throws and scored on the resulting possession, they could have tied the game. Instead they missed two free throws. Carson then made a steal and a three-point play to keep the Jaguars in front.
The lead would hold up until the final two minutes when turnovers would again play a key role.
“You look at how teams are ranked and so forth, I think we have moved up a little,” Conway said. “We still have some things we have to improve on in order to contend. If we keep improving and fix some of the things we’re doing wrong right now, we’re going to be a tough out at the end.”
Mitch Howard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cumberland Falls Invitational
Corbin 72, North Laurel 67
North Laurel 19 17 16 15-67
Corbin 13 18 16 25-72
NORTH LAUREL (67) – Eversole 12, Carson 16, Shears 11, Spencer 18, Likins 10.
CORBIN (72) – Freeman 19, Jones 6, Sizemore 13, Smith 13, Taylor 15, Farley 2, West 4.