By Chris Parsons
Last year the North Laurel Lady Jaguars (6-25) pulled off the biggest upset of the 13th Region Tournament, knocking off Whitley County in the first round before advancing to the finals.
After the 13th Region pairings had been set this past Saturday, matching the Corbin Lady Redhounds (24-8) up against North Laurel in the opening round of the tournament, Corbin coach Jennifer Parsons said she knew the first thing she would talk to her team about in Sunday’s practice.
“I reminded them that last season this same team came out and beat Whitley County before going to the championship game,” Parsons said. “It’s the same kind of thing that can happen to us if we overlook them.
“What it comes down to is that when you get to this point of the season, everybody is after the same thing,” she added. “North Laurel wants to play for a region championship just like we do and just because they have had a rough season doesn’t mean they won’t fight for it.”
North Laurel comes in to today’s matchup winning two of its last three games after knocking off Oneida Baptist and Jackson County before falling to Clay County in the district finals. The wins over OBI and Jackson County marked the first time all season the Lady Jaguars had won consecutive games.
While he admitted the task in front of his squad will be a tough one, North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said after last year’s win over Whitley County, he knows that anything can happen in postseason play.
“Corbin is the one team in the region that can speed you up and they play at a different pace than most other 13th Region teams,” Mahan said. “They actually do what we would like to be able to in the future with our program as far as being able to push the ball and press a lot, moving toward the up-tempo game.
“That’s the stuff I’ve been preaching to my kids as far as the style we’re trying to develop as a team,” he added. “The only negative to that is we’re going to have to try and do the exact opposite of what we’ve worked on all season and try to slow the game down and keep them from being able to run-and-gun.”
When it comes to offense, the two teams are worlds apart. Corbin comes in averaging 58.4 points per game, while the Lady Jaguars score at a rate of 42.2 ppg. On the defensive side of things, the Lady Redhounds allow 48.2 ppg, while North Laurel has given up 55 ppg on the year.
While Corbin has outscored opponents by an average of 10 ppg, twin sister Miranda and Kayla Wilson have led the charge offensively, averaging 12.8 and 11.1 ppg, respectively, on the season. No other players is close to averaging double figures with Sarah Ashley coming in at 6.8 ppg as the next highest.
North Laurel has gotten the bulk of its offense from senior Kendall Ellington, who averages 17 ppg, while seventh grader Hannah Lawson comes in second at 9.5 ppg. Brooke Carpenter is third with 7.5 ppg.
With the lack of offensive firepower, Mahan said the game plan will be similar to what his team has done all season in trying to limit the shot attempts his team allows Corbin.
While the stats don’t match up on paper, Parsons said at this point, you can’t really look at matchups once the game is underway. She said in the end, the game would come down to who wants it more.
“I told our kids that what we are going to have to do is come out and match their passion and intensity,” Parsons said. “They wanted it more last season when they beat Whitley County and we can’t allow that to happen to us.
“If you want the game more, you have to outplay them, outhustle them and come out and match their emotion for four quarters,” she added. “Not only can you not afford to take a quarter off, when it gets to this point, you can’t even take a possession off. I hope we can do that as a team.”