North Laurel, Cumberlands celebrate championships
Congratulations to the North Laurel Jaguars! The Jaguars will be making their first-ever trip to the KHSAA State Basketball Tournament after beating their district rivals, Clay County Monday night at The Arena in Corbin.
Clay County jumped out to the lead in the first quarter and led the entire first half, but let the Jaguars hang around. I’ve said all year that North Laurel is a dangerous team if you let them hang around.
Kendrick Henson turned out to be the spark plug as the junior scored 15 points after coming off the bench to play 26 minutes. He hit two 3-pointers in the win.
The game went down to the wire and North Laurel won in overtime, 54-52.
Brad Sizemore, a former player and assistant coach at South Laurel, will take North Laurel to its first state tournament in his second year as a varsity coach. Sizemore broke away from Steve Wright’s coaching staff two years ago to become the head coach at Garrard County. He did an excellent job at Garrard County with a very young team.
When the North Laurel job opened last year he applied and got the top spot. He got long-time assistant coach Roscoe Denny to come with him and the pair have successfully marched the Jaguars to the “Sweet Sixteen” where they will play Rowan County in the first-round of the state tournament next Wednesday at Rupp Arena.
Rowan County coach Shawn Thacker is a former South Laurel assistant coach as well, who guided the Vikings to a state runner-up spot last year.
If Southwestern wins the 12th region, three former coaches at South Laurel will be taking their teams to the 2012 KHSAA State Tournament.
I have to give Sizemore credit for playing an outstanding schedule as well. According to the national Massey Ratings, the North Laurel scheduled was the second toughest in the 13th region this season. The Jaguars played Clinton County, Buckhorn, Hazard, Anderson County, Clark County, Madison Southern and East Jessamine outside the 13th region. They also took on Bell County, Harlan County, Clay County, Barbourville, Knox Central and Corbin within the region. That is a competitive schedule to say the least.
Nine of 16 not too bad
I didn’t do to bad in my 13th region picks. I was 5-2 in the boys and 6-1 in the girls. Of course I had Corbin to beat Pineville and I did pick Clay County to beat North Laurel in the boy’s championship game. In the girl’s I thought Whitley County would beat North Laurel, but got the rest of the games on the nose for a combined 11-3 record.
Statewide, Trevor Sherman and I are going head-to-head. I was 78-34, picking nine of the 16 championship games. I picked Rowan County, Hopkinsville, Trinity, Clark Co., Oldham Co., Bowling Green, Knott Central, Marshall County and Scott County.
Trevor is 68-44 and was 7-of-9 in championship games. He did picked North Laurel to win the 13th Region.
Congratulations also go out to the University of the Cumberlands and coaches Donnie Butcher and Melissa Irvin. Both, the men’s and women’s team won the Mid-South Conference Basketball Tournaments.
The Lady Patriots finished the season 28-3 and tied for the regular season championship with Shawnee State and were headed to the NAIA Tournament anyway. Winning the conference championship should secure a higher seed for coach Irvin’s team.
Cumberlands beat UVA-Wise, 73-59 and rolled past Campbellsville, 77-64 before edging Shawnee State in the finals, 73-70.
Mid-South Conference Player of the Year, Lauren Wombles of London, had 56 points in three games while teammate Jade Howard may have been the surprise of the week, scoring 44 points. She had 25 points in the championship game as Shawnee State tried to shut down Wombles.
The men’s championship was a pleasant surprise. Cumberlands got past defending national champion, Pikeville, in the first-round, 68-50. The Patriots defeated No. 1 seed, Lindsey Wilson 56-45 in the semifinals and beat archrival Georgetown College in the championship game, 60-54.
Matt Daniel, who played at Rowan County, led the Patriots with 17 points in the championship game. He was four-of-six from three-point range in the win. Zavion Neely was the leading scorer over the three games with 47 points. Neely is a 6-1 guard from Chicago.
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