By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
CLAY COUNTY — Brad Sizemore’s North Laurel Jaguars took Clay County’s best punch in the first half and answered with a made three-point basket by eighth grader Peyton Broughton to take a 34-31 lead at halftime.
But it was the Tigers’ third quarter punch that delivered the game-changing blow.
With Clay County (6-1 overall 1-0 vs. 49th District opponents) trailing 38-37 at the 5:34 mark of the third quarter, Tiger coach Bobby Marcum decided to go with a bit more defensive pressure and it worked. The Jaguars turned the ball over eight times as the Tigers closed the period with a 13-2 run and never looked back during their 68-53 win over North Laurel.
“Seems like we are notorious for — we quit attacking,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said. “In the first half, we got behind and started putting the ball on the floor and going to the basket and got fouls and it opened up our shooters.
“In the third quarter, we came out and started being stationary passers,” he added. “Just trying to move it around the perimeter and not hitting the gaps. When you do that and not try to attack the basket, you end up turning the ball over. Hopefully we will learn from that and go on to the next one.”
The Jaguars (4-4), who are now 1-2 against 49th District opponents, were outscored 37-19 during the second half while turning the ball over nine times and connecting on only seven-of-23 shot attempts.
“Like I told the guys in the locker room, we’re obviously 0-2 (in the district), but maybe we can go and beat Jackson County on the road and win this next one at home,” Sizemore said. “We’ll play whoever we have to play in the first game (of the district).”
It didn’t help much that both Marcus Carson and Austin Rush were both battling foul trouble throughout the game’s final 16 minutes.
“I thought it was really hard, especially when Rush got in foul trouble,” Sizemore said. “That’s part of the third quarter, he didn’t play maybe a minute and a half. We had to play small and it’s hard to do that against them.”
The Tigers jumped on North Laurel early and led 15-11 after forcing the Jaguars into six turnovers while Clay County connected on seven-of-16 shot attempts.
Marcum’s squad led by as many as eight points (26-18) in the second quarter before consecutive baskets by Rush triggered a 16-5 run for North Laurel.
The game was tied at 31 apiece when Broughton crossed his defender over and nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer.
“We took their first punch,” Sizemore said. “We told them before the game to take that first punch and if we get down six or eight just keep plugging along and I thought we did that.”
North Laurel’s momentum didn’t last long, though.
Clay County came out in the third quarter and hit seven-of-12 shot attempts and used an 11-0 run to take a commanding 50-40 edge into the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars went more than five minutes with a basket before Carson scored with :25 remaining in the period.
Sizemore’s squad got as close as 10 points (60-50) with 3:18 left in the game after a three-pointer by Broughton, but the Tigers wrapped up the win by answering with an 8-3 run as Tyler McDaniel scored seven points during the stretch.
The sophomore guard led all scorers with 23 points while Marty Bowling followed with a 14-point effort. Broughton and Rush each scored 10 points for North Laurel.
The Jaguars finished the game with 16 turnovers and hit 21-of-53 shot attempts, including a two-of-10 effort from three-point range.
The Tigers connected on 24-of-52 shot attempts and turned the ball over only 11 times.
Clay County 68, North Laurel 53
North Laurel 11 23 6 13 53
Clay County 15 16 19 18 68
North Laurel (53) — Carson 9, Henson 9, Broughton 10, Thompson 4, Rush 10, Jervis 9, Asher 2.
Clay County (68) — McDaniel 23, Reed 6, Rice 8, Lyttle 8, Bowling 14, T. Smith 4, B. Smith 2, Wolfe 3.
By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
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