The 50th District saw their first match-up Tuesday night as the South Laurel Cardinals and the Whitley County Colonels took on one another. South Laurel ended the night with the win, 79-59, slimly.
"They're in our district, they got pride, they always play us tough. Jerry does a great job with those kids," South Laurel coach Jeff Davis said. "They played harder than we did, and they wanted it harder than us.
"We were just fortunate enough to take advantage of some of their inexperience and their youth. And they're only going to get better."
Whitley County (2-2) kept the game within a single-digit reach for the majority of the game until the end of the third quarter.
"You're never satisfied with a loss, but I think the three quarters we played, being where we're at, being where everybody had us ranked, I think that was a good statement for us," Whitley County coach Jerry Overbey said. "We just got to continue to get better."
The first quarter ended at only a two-point lead for South Laurel (2-1), 15-13. Midway through the second, South began to shake off Whitley as they took an eight-point lead on baskets from JJ Ramey and Matthew Dalton.
It did not last long as Whitley chipped the lead away with a three-pointer and three-point play from Dakota Lawson for a 27-23 game.
Matthew Cromer put up his own three-point play for South, and Alex Hostettler topped off the quarter with a last-second shot, but Hunter Hollingsworth made a basket to keep South's lead from extending far. The Cardinals were able to enter halftime up 32-25.
"Hollingsworth is a heck of a player. He's hard to defend, he passes the ball well, and he can shoot. He can get to the lane anytime he wants to, especially tonight," Davis commented. "When you don't practice hard, and you aren't mentally focused...that's how things happen. We don't have anybody who will guard, no one wants to sit and defend."
Overbey added on his senior player, "It took him a little bit last year, but I think the past two ball games he played exceptionally. He's just got to continue there. We've moved him position-wise, and he's a little more comfortable in that area. Hopefully, he will continue to grow and lead this team."
Devin Bowling opened up the third quarter for the Colonels with back-to-back baskets, bringing the game within three points, 32-29. Ramey and Matthew Cromer responded for South with shots inside, but Bowling came back with a three-pointer to keep South's lead down at four.
The Cardinals finally stretched their lead to double digits at 3:47 with back-to-back dunks from Ramey at 44-33. South then held on to that lead, despite Whitley's shots.
"We played three solid quarters and had positions there. I think early in the third quarter, we had the ball, down three and could have tied it up," Overbey added. "We got a lot of things to work on, a lot of turnovers there late, a lot of easy bucket turnovers for them and a lot of offensive rebounds. That's two things we got to correct and hopefully change the game the next time we play them."
The fourth quarter put up many points for both teams as South shot 29-20 over Whitley to earn the win at 79-59.
"Very disappointed defensively. We didn't follow the rotation, didn't follow scout report, nobody wanted to sit down and grind," Davis said. "We talked about it at the beginning of the year, we miss those 'dirty birds'. Nobody wants to take that role... instead of just sitting down and doing what winning teams need to do.
"Energy wasn't there, communication wasn't there. This team has a long ways to go."
Matthew Cromer led South Laurel's scoring with 31 points and JJ Ramey scored 29 points. Whitley County's Dakota Lawson led at 17 points, while Hunter Hollingsworth put up 16 points.
South Laurel plays on Saturday in the PRTC Classic at Jackson County against Cordia, while Whitley County plays Campbell County, Tn. on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.