By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
Coming into the 2012-13 season, the North Laurel Jaguars were pegged by many as one of the teams to beat in the 13th Region.
The preseason hype was easy to understand, considering the Jaguars returned every player from last year's surprising 13th Region Championship team, including plenty of experience in three seniors (Marcus Carson, Austin Rush and Kendrick Henson).
As of today, the Jaguars sit at 10-11 on the season and are just 4-7 against 13th Region opponents. Granted, North Laurel has lost several close games and injuries have slowed some of the Jaguars' progress this season.
Despite the losing record, head coach Brad Sizemore says he thinks his team is sitting in a good position with eight games to play in the regular season.
“Our record is obviously not as good as we would like it to be at this point, but I think we have played a lot of tough teams really close,” Sizemore said. “I don't think we are as far away as our record makes it look and we've got eight games to kind of get things going in the right direction.
“I expect us to get better and the kids are trying really hard to improve,” he added. “We've had some really good practices here the last couple of weeks and that's really all I can ask for.”
One of the problems this season has been a lack of consistency for the Jaguars. Other than the first two games of the season, North Laurel has only won consecutive games on one other occasion when they won three straight and brought home the championship in their own tournament, the Legacy Nissan Shootout.
Adding to their troubles, the Jaguars are currently on a three-game slide against 13th Region competition, during which they've lost to Harlan County, Corbin and Clay County by an average of 10 points per loss.
And, if that wasn't enough to keep Sizemore awake at night, his team will face stiff competition as the season winds down with five of the final eight games to be played against region foes (the other three are against George Rogers Clark, Leslie County and East Jessamine). The eight opponents remaining for North Laurel have a combined record of 85-81.
“I really expect us to get things going toward the end of the season and I think we're very capable of turning it on,” Sizemore said. “The toughest thing is going to be that first round in the district where we're going to have to get past either Clay or Jackson County.
“That's going to be a tall task whichever team we have to play, but the most important thing to me is the fact that despite our record, our kids are still hungry and focused on the task at hand,” he added. “Once you get to the postseason, your record doesn't matter and we expect to be a hard out as well when we face someone in the tournament.”