By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
NORTH LAUREL — North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore knew his team would have their hands full Monday against Harlan with last year’s leading scorer Jake Allen on the shelf with an injury to his hand — and he was right.
The upstart Green Dragons led by as much as 15 points in the first half before the defending 13th Region champs rallied to pick up a hard-fought 66-62 win.
“It was a dogfight,” Sizemore said. “Harlan has a lot of good, young talent and they showed that tonight. They had one guy that had two dunks — they looked good.”
Harlan caught North Laurel’s attention early by taking an early 14-10 first quarter lead before building a 15-point edge in the second quarter.
“They were up on us by 15 points and then we began to pressure them and that got us back in the game,” Sizemore said. “We went on a little run and only trailed by eight at halftime.”
Trailing 32-24 at halftime, the Jaguars continued to pressure the Green Dragons into turnovers, which resulted in North Laurel going on a 25-9 run that saw the Jaguars take a 49-41 lead into the fourth quarter.
“That was big for us,” Sizemore said. “I played a lot of young guys tonight and they stepped up. The third quarter was huge because we were able to get back in the game and get the lead.”
Even though North Laurel looked as if it would put the game away, Harlan never folded. The Green Dragons got as close as two points on several occasions and a three-pointer by Drew Parks with less than a minute left cut Harlan’s deficit to 64-62.
“We were able to hit a pair of free throws in the end to wrap-up the win,” Sizemore said. “You have to give credit to Harlan, but we just played bad in the first half. Not having Jake hurt and we looked nervous and out of sync. We knew it would be different without Jake there, but we managed to play better in the second half.”
Marcus Carson led the Jaguars with 16 points while Austin Rush followed with 14 points and eighth grader Peyton Broughton finished with 12 points.
Isaiah Johnson led Harlan with 17 points.
North Laurel 66, Harlan 62
North Laurel 10 14 25 17 66
Harlan 14 18 9 21 62
Harlan (62) — Johnson 17, N. Young 13, Parks 8, McNeil 7, Allen 5, E. Young 4, Simpson 4, Piper 4.
North Laurel (66) — Carson 16, Rush 14, Broughton 12, Thompson 6, Henson 7, Miller 10, Jervis 1.