By Mitch Howard
For the Times-Tribune
MCKEE — Clay County made it 10 straight 49th District titles with a 64-58 win over North Laurel Friday. Although the game was still in doubt until the final minutes, the Tigers did not trail again after a pull-up jumper by Tyler McDaniel gave them a 4-2 lead.
“When you’re playing a team like Clay, they have a really nice team; it comes down to possessions at the end. You’ve got to make free throws and get stops, complete big plays when you need them. We couldn’t get the ones we needed,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said.
With 1:41 to play, the Jaguars were within 54-51 on a three-pointer by Marcus Carson. Clay County’s Stephon Lyttle drew a foul on the inbounds play. He made one free throw to make it a four-point game. Carson then missed on another three-point attempt. A Marty Bowling free throw added a point to the lead. Two free throws from Elijah Jervis had the Jaguars back within three points with 1:09 to play. Clay County hit their final eight free throws to ice the game.
“I thought we were right there. We played really hard. We tried to come up with some steals, but we couldn’t turn them over as much as we wanted to,” Sizemore said.
Clay County turned the ball over eight times on the night and just once in the fourth quarter. They also out rebounded North Laurel. But possibly the Tigers biggest strength was an active, aggressive zone that forced North Laurel to take 20 three-point shots. They made only four.
“Them and Harlan County are the most physical teams that we’ve played all year as far as guarding the inside,” Sizemore said. “They’ve got some veterans out there, big strong kids that know how to play.”
The Jaguars were still able to get 15 points from Jake Allen, but it may have been his toughest 15 points this season.
“I thought the guys worked really hard for the ball. Again, everybody is playing us zone. They are basically putting four guys down there and just clogging the lane up. We did the best we could trying to get it in there,” Sizemore said.
49th District Tournament
at Jackson County High School
Clay County 64, North Laurel 58
Clay County 14 17 14 19 64
North Laurel 13 11 18 16 58
Clay County (64) — McDaniel 19, Reed 8, Rice 10, Lyttle 6, Bowling 15, Wolf 6.
North Laurel (58) — Carson 18, Thompson 11, Henson 5, Allen 15, Rush 4, Jervis 5.