By John Stepp / The Times-Tribune
SOUTH LAUREL — South Laurel's Zac Baxter proved why he is one of the best sophomores in the 13th Region Friday night when he led his Cardinals to a 62-53 win over the cross-town rival North Laurel Jaguars. Baxter scored 24 points on the night, with 19 coming in the second half.
South Laurel coach Jeff Davis credited Baxter, but said many others stepped up in order to take down North Laurel.
"That's a credit to North Laurel. They did a great job taking Baxter away in the first half, but then we had people step up. Austin Schaser hit two or three jump shots. Trevor Grubb hit some big shots. It changed the way they had to play," said Davis.
North Laurel started the game off hot. Jaguar big man Jake Allen scored nine straight points midway through the opening quarter to give his team an early 9-5 lead. South Laurel bounced back with a three-point basket by Grubb and a putback by guard Matt Slavey to keep the Cardinals afloat, tying the game at 13 after one.
Early foul trouble hampered the Jaguars in the second quarter, as Allen picked up his second foul and sat out the remainder of the first half. South Laurel outscored the Jaguars 20-9 after Allen left the game, limiting them to just three field goals in the second quarter. At halftime, the Cardinals held a 28-19 advantage.
“We started off really hot and were doing exactly what we were wanting to and Allen misses a shot and picks up a couple fouls and it completely changed the course of the game,” said North Laurel Coach Brad Sizemore.
The Jaguars looked to battle back to open the third quarter. A quick basket by Allen and back-to-back scores by guard Kendrick Henson helped cut the South Laurel lead to 30-27 just two minutes into the second half. That's when the duo of the Cardinals 2-2-1 press and the scoring of Baxter took the game over.
Baxter scored 10 points in the third quarter and South Laurel forced several bad shots and turnovers from the Jaguars, resulting in a 47-36 lead after three.
The Cardinals didn't let up in the final quarter. Baxter scored nine points in the quarter, including seven from the free throw line. North Laurel could not cut into the South Laurel lead as the Cardinals defensive pressure was just too much, leading to a 62-53 win.
Despite the victory over the rival Jaguars, Davis said his team's biggest accomplishment of the night was playing up to their capabilities for four quarters, which was something the Cardinals had struggled with thus far this season.
“It’s a big win for us, not because of who we beat, but because of what we did. We’ve played some tough competition this year, and we have played two good quarters or three good quarters, but we haven’t finished a game,” said Davis. “To come in here and finish the game with the lead, that is what our kids needed. They needed the confidence to finish and to learn how to finish the game. That was huge for us.”
South Laurel 62, North Laurel 53
South Laurel 13 15 19 15 - 62
North Laurel 13 6 17 17 - 53
South Laurel (62) - Baxter 24, Grubb 12, Slavey 9, Schaser 5, Austin Rader 5, Brennan Miller 3, Zach Jones 2, John Helton 2
North Laurel (53) - Allen 18, Henson 10, Marcus Carson 6, Peyton Broughton 6, Austin Rush 5, Austin Thompson 5, Elijah Jervis 3