Corbin, South Laurel advance to finals
CORBIN — A regional semifinal showdown between Corbin and Knox Central on Saturday didn’t quite live up to expectations.
Paced by senior Chandler Stewart’s 28-point scoring effort on 10-of-17 shooting, Corbin cruised into its second straight 13th Region Tournament championship game by defeating the Panthers 75-60.
“We looked like a mature basketball team, and that’s what we were trying to get better at all year long,” Corbin coach Tony Pietrowski said. “I thought our defense was off the charts tonight. We played really, really well defensively to be able to hold them down the way that we did. Our kids just made numerous plays on that side of the ball.
“I thought we rebounded it good enough, and showed a maturity level offensively. I thought we attacked a lot of different defenses, and we never seemed to get fed up, and it seemed like we shot it right at the right time. We did a lot of right things on both sides of the ball.”
The 15-point victory gave Corbin its second win of the season over Knox Central, which also turned out to be the most important.
“This is huge. It is what it is. It’s Knox Central and Corbin, and it’s a huge rivalry, and I’ve been a part of it since I was 14-years old,” Pietrowski said. “I know everything that goes into it, and I’m not going to play it down. We wanted this basketball game. We wanted to get this win tonight. So for us to be able to do it is big.”
After taking a short-lived lead in the first quarter, the Panthers could never get on track despite shooting 13-of-24 in the second half and 23-of-47 for the game. Knox Central also turned the ball over 12 times and was outrebounded 25-19. They were led in scoring by Markelle Turner, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half while Nick Martin finished with 16 points and six rebounds.
“We started out with good intensity and played with them early,” Knox Central coach Tony Patterson said. “We had our chances, and we wanted to establish some things, but then we started to give up easy baskets and let their offense get going. They started knocking down shots and put us on our heels. It’s tough to recover this time of year when you’re playing a really good team. That’s pretty much the gist of it. They just made plays at crucial times, and made big shot, and hats off to them, they’re a good team.”
“You put in a year’s work for this day, then you fall short — it’s tough. We’ve got to get mentally tougher and bigger, stronger and faster and be back next year.”
Knox Central had trouble containing the Redhound trio of Andrew Taylor, Stewart and Chase Sanders the entire game. Taylor finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and four steals while Sanders turned in a 14-point scoring effort, which included a crucial 3-pointer at the end of the first half that gave his team a 36-26 lead.
“I think everyone sees the weapons we have,” Pietrowski said. “Andrew is an unbelievable and unique talent. Chandler, Chase and Matthew (Taylor) also made a lot of big plays that we had to have. I like the way we’re so unselfish. Those kids are moving the ball, and getting it to each other. When a shot presented itself, they knocked it down. It’s plain and simple, when you play like that, we’re a lot better basketball team.”
The North Laurel Jaguars and the South Laurel Cardinals kept their crosstown rivalry alive as they met for only the third time in 13th Region Tournament history on Saturday in the semifinal round. South Laurel claimed the victory 62-57 in a tight battle.
“I’m just really proud of our guys. They never backed down, they never got caught up and they just kept grinding,” South Laurel coach Jeff Davis said.
“I’m really proud of everything they have done. To come into the season ranked seventh and not have a kid ranked in the top 10 rankings, we could have very easily won 10 games this year, but they’ve done everything we have asked them to do and they played really well,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said. “They started believing in themselves the second half of the season, and we just didn’t make a few plays we needed down the stretch. But we got beat by a good team. It’s sad it has to end, but that’s part of it.”
The game started close, staying within three points for most of the first quarter. South kept a lead with shots from Matthew Cromer until Adam Sizemore sunk a corner three for a North Laurel lead.
Cromer added two more points to regain a South lead at 3:33, which the Cardinals were able to keep for the rest of the game.
The Cardinals did not pull away from the Jaguars until JJ Ramey added two back-to-back baskets in the last minute of first-quarter play for a six-point lead.
A three-pointer from Ramey moved South to a nine-point lead in the second quarter at 5:51. North Laurel did not let it turn into double digits though, as Brian Gray scored a basket with the and-1, and Albert Oster added two right after.
At a four-point game, Brett Norvell landed a corner three in to push South ahead. North brought it to a three-point game three times, but South kept the lead and entered the half up 27-24.
“We played well on both ends of the floor. Our defense has been really good this year, and we have some tough kids,” Sizemore added. “I hate seeing them lose how they did with how much they care about each other. They’ve played so hard for each other the entire year.”
A down third quarter for North Laurel had them outscored 16-8. South Laurel found nine of those points on North fouls giving them a 43-32 lead headed into the fourth quarter.
“This bunch is a bunch of scrappers. We are not pretty, we are not ordinary, we do not do anything the easy way. This bunch wants to test my patience and my sanity,” Davis shared. “You can play different styles, that’s the good thing about our bunch. We can get out and run, we can sit halfcourt, we can run zone. It’s not pretty, but we aren’t pretty. Ugly is a good thing sometimes.”
Jack Capobianco and Ramey exchanged shots in the first minute of the fourth until North found a short run with Gray’s three-pointer and Oster’s basket to cut the game to eight.
South Laurel moves on to the championship against Corbin for a 50th District match-up on Monday at 7 p.m.
“We are going to have to come and match their intensity. We’ve got a lot of things to clean up from the district championship and even tonight… and see if we can find a way to stop that running Redhound machine,” Davis said.
“I’m just so proud of them. I love our guys. They don’t back down, they’ve taken everything I’ve given them this year, and here we are. To be back in the regional championship with a chance to win and go to Rupp, that’s all you can ask for. We are one of 32, and if you told me at the beginning of the year this bunch was one of the 32 left teams, I would think you’re crazy.”