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North, South advance to 13th Region showdown

CORBIN —North Laurel wasted little time wrapping up its third straight trip to the 13th Region Tournament title game.

The Lady Jaguars opened Friday’s semifinal matchup with Bell County by scoring the game’s first 20 points and never looked back during their 68-37 victory.

The win sets up an much-anticipated matchup with crosstown rival South Laurel in today’s championship game, which is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.

”They have a tremendous amount of talent and I’m glad that we finally get to play,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said of his team’s game against South Laurel. “You’re going to have two tremendous teams playing. It’s either going to be a knock-down-drag-out, or it’s going to be a blowout. Both teams have that ability — that’s what you have. Whoever shoots the ball well will come out on top tomorrow.”

The Lady Jaguars were led by seventh-grader Halle Collins, who scored 18 points, while Hailee Valentine added 11 points. Emily Sizemore and Chloe McKnight each scored 10 points.

“ I thought our kids came out focused and ready to go,” Mahan said. “They’ve got more energy right now and they’re trying to get back to Rupp.

“I was surprised to hold them as well as we did early on and rebounding-wise, we did a great job. They have two to three girls that can really rebound well, and I thought we did a great job tonight.”

Collins let her presence be known early in the first quarter. She tallied 11 points while Hailee Valentine added seven points to help North Laurel to a dominating 33-6 lead.

”She’s a special player,” Mahan said of Collins. “Some times, I forget that she’s only a seventh-grader. She set the tone early and came out focused and hit the 3-pointer and then scored some quick baskets.”

North Laurel (28-4) continued to dominate in the second quarter, outscoring Bell County 13-8 while building an insurmountable 46-14 advantage at halftime.

An early 3-pointer to begin the third quarter put the running clock into effect for North Laurel, which allowed Mahan to rest his starters.

The Lady Bobcats (25-5) outscored the Lady Jaguars 23-22 in the second half but dug too big of a hole during the game’s first 16 minutes.

Mataya Ausmus led Bell County with eight points, while Abby Harris and Nadine Johnson each scored six.

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North Laurel 68, Bell County 37

Bell County (37) — Kidwell 2, McQueen 4, Harris 6, Myers 5, Cornett 2, McGeorge 4, Johnson 6, Ausmus 8.

North Laurel (68) — Collins 21, Valentine 11, Gray 8, Jervis 3, Sizemore 10, Black 2, McClure 3, McKnight 10.

Bell County 6 8 11 12 37

North Laurel 33 13 12 10 68

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South Laurel punched its ticket into the 13th Region Tournament title game for the first time since 2011 after hitting a 13th Region Tournament-record 20 3-pointers during Friday’s 86-58 rout of Clay County.

The Lady Cardinals (25-6) dominated from start to finish, using a 31-12 run in the third quarter to put James Burchell’s Lady Tigers away.

South Laurel hit 30-of-53 shot attempts, including a 20-of-34 effort from 3-point range. The Lady Cardinals were one 3-pointer shy of tying Louisville Moore’s record of 21 3-pointers.

Brianna Howard led the way with 21 points and seven 3-pointers while Clara Collins came off the bench and scored 20 points while connecting with six 3-pointers. Senior Amerah Steele added 19 points and hit five 3-pointers while Rachel Presley added 10 points and seven rebounds.

“We came out and did what we set out to do tonight,” South Laurel coach Chris Souder said. “Coach Burchell is a great coach and he did exactly what we thought he was going to do. It’s hard to get the kids to understand that it’s not going to be like it was the first time we played them.

“We hit 20 3-pointers and on a lot of those, we were wide open,” he added. “They decided to leave Bri and Clara open and they knocked down the shots. Amerah, Ally (Collett) and Sydnie (Hall) didn’t score a lot and some of the other girls stepped up and it showed the progression of the program.”

The 28-point win advances South Laurel to a championship game matchup today with crosstown rival North Laurel at 7 p.m. The two teams didn’t play during the regular season and routinely traded spots at the top of the weekly Fear ‘Les’ 13th Region Girls Basketball Rankings.

“North Laurel has a great ball club,” Souder said. “We’re not going to make 20 3-pointers tomorrow. We just need to go out and play our best basketball, have fun and see what happens.

“This is my second year here, and we are trying to enjoy this,” he added. “I know in year’s past, they’ve had trouble getting past this point. I know the girls probably had in the back of their heads that this is where we get beat every year, but they came out and played well. We tell them to do the best you can and whatever happens, happens.”

South Laurel’s Howard set the tone early by connecting with three 3-pointers in the first quarter. The Lady Cardinals were clinging to a 19-18 advantage until Steele’s 3-pointer at the buzzer gave South Laurel a 22-18 advantage.

The Lady Cardinals knocked down six 3-pointers in the first eight minutes while Howard scored nine points and Steele totaled six points.

Souder’s squad turned things up a notch in the second quarter as Steele’s 3-pointer to open the period pushed her team’s lead to 25-18. Collins’ shooting behind the arc allowed South Laurel to stretch its advantage to 37-22 with 2:50 remaining.

Collins connected with three 3-pointers during the period while scoring nine points. Steele added five more points during the period while Howard delivered her fourth 3-pointer.

The Lady Cardinals took a 39-27 lead into the locker room at halftime with Howard’s 12 points leading the way. Steele delivered 11 first-half points while Collins had nine points.

South Laurel hit 14-of-24 shot attempts in the first half, including an 11-of-19 effort from 3-point range.

Clay County shot 10-of-16 from the floor while Kaylee Mathis led the way with nine of her 23 points during the first 16 minutes.

Souder’s squad continued where it left off in the first half by opening the third quarter with a 16-1 run.

Six points by Presley combined with three more 3-pointers by Howard and two 3-pointers by Steele allowed South Laurel to take a commanding 62-30 lead.

The Lady Cardinals hit six 3-pointers during the period with Howard adding nine more points while Steele added eight points, Presley followed with six points and Collins scored five points.

Clay County outscored the Lady Tigers 19-16 during the fourth quarter.

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South Laurel 86, Clay County 58

South Laurel (86) — Presley 10, Collett 1, Steele 19, Hall 3, Howard 21, E. Cox 3, Collins 20, Turner 2, Clem 4, Smith 1, Wolfe 2.

Clay County (58) — Lewis 6, Asher 15, Mathis 23, Jones 2, Combs 8, Napier 2.

South Laurel 22 17 31 16 86

Clay County 18 9 12 19 58