By Les Dixon For the Times-Tribune
SOUTH LAUREL — On a night that saw former South Laurel coach Steve Wright receive a banner to be hung in the rafters of The Cardinals' Nest, there wasn't much left to celebrate after the ceremony if you were a Cardinal fan.
Crosstown rival North Laurel jumped out to an early double-digit lead before rallying from a second half deficit to knock off South Laurel, 81-74.
It was a night that saw Brad Sizemore's team miss 18 free throws, but still manage to grab the seven-point victory.
"I thought we played a good first quarter," Sizemore said. "But South is South, and Zac Baxter took the game over in the second quarter.
"I was proud of our guys, though," he added. "We weren't scared of the press in the second half, and that's a sign of growing up and maturing. I thought we played great Tuesday against Bell County. We led by 12 points, but lost."
A balanced scoring attack allowed North Laurel to come back from a two-point deficit at halftime, as Chris Miller led the way with 23 points while Peyton Broughton had 17. Bryce Asher followed with a 15-point effort and Austin Thompson added 10 points.
Asher took over in the fourth quarter, and scored nine points, allowing the Jaguars to pull away.
"We were able to get them spread out a bit (in the fourth quarter), and they came out of the zone," Sizemore said. "We just need to quit worrying about stuff and continue to play. This was a great win for us."
Despite the loss, the Cardinals showed they were a team to keep an eye on once postseason play begins.
South Laurel fell behind 19-9 in the first quarter before outscoring the Jaguars 28-16 in the second period to take a 37-35 lead at halftime.
Baxter played a big role in the Cardinal comeback attempt by scoring 14 of his game-high 24 points during the period.
But just as soon as it looked as if South Laurel might begin to pull away from North Laurel, the Jaguars answered the Cardinals' run, and used a 13-3 run to close out the third quarter, while taking a commanding 57-48 lead into the fourth quarter.
Jeff Davis' squad got as close as six points (70-64) late in the game before seeing the Jaguars pull away and win.
"Give North Laurel credit," Davis said. "They did a great job handling the press. Coach (Sizemore) did a great job and the players did a great job. We just came up short. We've got to do a better job attacking.
"We can take this as a good thing and learn from it, or we can down our head because we lost to our rival, and it could be a bad thing for us," he added. "We were on a roll, and I believe our guys got caught up in it, and we got a reality check."
Jared Grubb also scored in double figures for the Cardinals, finishing with 14 points while Trevor Grubb added 12.
North Laurel will be back in action Saturday at home against 49th District rival Jackson County while South Laurel will host Bell County Monday before having a chance to clinch the 50th District's top seed Thursday with a win at home against Williamsburg.
North Laurel 81, South Laurel 74
No. Laurel 19 16 22 24—81
So. Laurel 9 28 11 26—74
North Laurel (81) — Broughton 17, Miller 23, Thompson 10, Asher 15, Jeffers 9, Griebel 6, Hodges 1.
South Laurel (74) — T. Grubb 12, J. Grubb 14, Baxter 24, Halcomb 6, Helton 2, E. Anders 2, R. Anders 2, Bre. Miller 5, Bra. Miller 7.