The turnover bug got the best of the Middlesboro Lady Jackets on Tuesday in a 77-58 loss to North Laurel.
“As a total team I just didn’t think the effort was there. You have two or three kids playing hard, then two not playing hard,” MHS coach Elgie Green said. “In order for us to beat people we’re going to have to have six or seven kids, all of them on the same page and all of them playing with intensity when they step on the floor.”
After falling into a 15-point hole in the first quarter, the Lady Jackets fought back. They were within six by halftime and took a 48-47 lead after three quarters on a three-point play from Morgan Thompson.
But Middlesboro would turn the ball over on four straight possessions early in the fourth quarter as the Lady Jags went on a 10-0 run and never looked back. Kayla Bruner scored 14 of her 34 points in the final period as North went on to win it by 19.
Hannah Gray hit six 3-pointers and finished with 20 points while Hannah Lawson added eight points and Makayla Sexton six for North Laurel.
“The Bruner kid up top, we couldn’t stop her penetration. There were a few times I felt like we could have took charges off her, but no one wanted to step up and take a charge,” Green said. “We just wanted to step out of the way and let her go to the hole. (Gray) is a good outside shooter but we just didn’t guard her and she made us pay with those threes.”
Middlesboro was led by eighth-grade forward Blair Green’s 25 points. Bailey Hensley added 16 and Amanda Biscardi hit three treys and scored ten points.
Bruner scored ten points in the first quarter and back-to-back 3s from Gray put North Laurel up 20-5 with about a minute left in the period.
Biscardi hit a 3 and Hensley added a basket as the Lady Jackets trailed 22-10 after one.
Biscardi, Middlesboro’s only senior, added two more treys in the second quarter and Hensley scored nine points. A three-point play from Green brought the Lady Jackets within 34-30 with 1:24 to go in quarter. A basket from Bruner made it 36-30 at halftime.
Green converted on another and-one and then hit a 3 to tie the game at 43 midway through the third quarter. Hensley registered three steals over the next minute, but the Lady Jackets turned the ball over several times with chances to go in front.
Anther Hensley steal led to a Thompson layup and the sophomore converted the three-point play to give Middlesboro their only lead of the night at 48-47.
“Defensively we played in spurts. We got it to six at halftime, then tied it in the third quarter and made about five straight turnovers with a chance to go up. It was layups we could have had, but we just threw the ball away due to miscommunication. Sometimes you just can’t explain it,” Green said.
The turnover problems continued into the fourth quarter and North took advantage to pull away. Some of the issues may have related to fatigue. North had a big edge in depth and subbed players in and out from the first quarter on. Eleven different Lady Jags appeared in the game while Middlesboro only played six for most of the game with a seventh entering in the fourth quarter.
“Malorie Carter hurt her ankle in the JV game and I didn’t want to take a chance on playing her so we really only played six kids most of the game. They were pushing the basketball the whole game and I know we were tired, but still yet some of the things we did were just not being focused,” Green said. “You can still play the game tired and be focused. We were throwing the ball to people who weren’t looking or throwing it to people and having it go through their hands — and it became contagious.
“If we turn the ball over 30 times against North, then against Bell County it’s going to be 60 times.”
Middlesboro (8-17) hosts Oneida Baptist on Thursday and closes out the regular season at Clay County on Friday. They’ll take on Bell County at home in the first round of the 52nd District Tournament on Monday.
North Laurel (14-15) plays at Lynn Camp on Thursday. They’ll meet Jackson County in the 49th District semifinals on Feb. 27 at Clay County.
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NORTH LAUREL (77) — Kayla Bruner 34, Hannah Gray 20, Hannah Lawson 8, Makayla Sexton 6, Ashton Bridges 0, Madison Shepherd 5, Ashley Raines 2, Teddy Jervis 2, Kelsey Chesnut 0, Tonya Brummett 0, Makayla Allen 0.
MIDDLESBORO (58) — Blair Green 25, Bailey Hensley 16, Amanda Biscardi 10, Morgan Thompson 3, Lauren Spurlock 2, Hannah Warren 2, Jamayha Poe 0.