TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Mitch Howard For the Times-Tribune
MANCHESTER — North Laurel started the season slow, but is finishing strong. A 60-37 win over Jackson County in the semifinals of the 49th District Tournament Thursday earned them a spot in the championship game against Clay County and in the 13th Region Tournament.
“It’s really our kids just learning how to win. They really didn’t know how to win,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said.
The Lady Jaguars lost their first eight games of the season, but are one win away from getting to the .500 mark. North Laurel has gone 12-4 since losing to Corbin on Jan. 14. Only Corbin with 12 straight wins has a better record during that stretch.
“To get kids ready for a game like this, which is a win-or-go-home game, you have to give them all the bad news. You lose and you go home. That’s what we’ve been feeding to them all week, but at the same time that also kind of builds in some nerves,” Mahan said.
There may have been some nerves early as the Lady Jaguars led by just one point with 3:10 in the first quarter. Mahan liked what he saw from the offense, which found open shots that just did not fall.
“In the first quarter we were playing a half court game,” Mahan said. “Our half court sets were working decently, but when we did get shots we were shot-arming them. I think a lot of it was nerves.”
They would shake off the jitters and open a double-figure lead on Hannah Lawson’s steal and layup early in the second quarter. The lead only dropped below double figures for a matter of seconds from there.
Kayla Bruner led North Laurel with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Ashley Raines scored 12 points with three three-pointers. Hannah Gray was also in double figures with 10 points and three three-pointers.
“It’s honestly just style of play from here on out,” Mahan said. “You will have some teams that want to slow it down and some teams that want to speed it up. Then it’s about whose style wins out. Everybody is good from here on out.”
North Laurel 60, Jackson County 37
Jackson County 6 13 8 10 – 37
North Laurel 13 19 14 14 – 60
Jackson County (37) – Belt 3, Ball 2, Crowe 7, Madden 9, Ford 3, Adkins 2, Mulligan 6, A. Creech 4, R. Creech 1.
North Laurel (60) – Shepherd 2, Chestnut 1, Gray 10, Bruner 22, Lawson 4, Raines 13, Bridges 2, Sexton 6.