By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
NORTH LAUREL — North Laurel’s hopes of capturing the top seed in the upcoming 49th District Tournament came to an end Friday with Clay County picking up a 58-52 win over the struggling defending 13th Region champions.
The loss turned out to be the Jaguars’ third in a row while they are now under .500 on the season at 10-11.
“It’s a tough loss for us,” North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore said. “I think now we’ll have to end up playing Jackson County in the district tournament.
“We just started off slow,” he added. “We didn’t score a basket until three minutes left in the first quarter. They packed the zone in on us and we didn’t know what to do. I think we’re tired with all of the games and traveling we had to do last week. We’ve not had any easy games and it’s going to be tough again next week, too, with games at Somerset and Clark County.”
The Tigers (12-6) were led in scoring by Tyler McDaniel, who connected with four three-pointers while finishing the game with 16 points. Kody Reed added 14 points in the win while teammate Marty Bowling chipped in 12.
Clay County jumped out to a 15-7 edge in the first quarter while holding a 25-19 edge at halftime.
It looked as if Robert Marcum’s squad had put the game out of reach in the third quarter thanks to a 17-9 run. Two three-pointers by McDaniel allowed the Tigers to take a 42-28 lead into the fourth quarter.
But that’s when the Jaguars rallied.
Senior guard Marcus Carson caught fire and scored 10 of his team-best 15 points during the quarter while Jake Allen added six, but in the end, the Tigers held on and picked up the six-point victory, while moving one step closer to the 49th District’s top seed at 3-0.
Clay County 58, North Laurel 52
Clay County 15 10 17 16 58
North Laurel 7 12 9 24 52
Clay County (58) — McDaniel 16, Reed 14, Rice 9, Lyttle 5, Bowling 12, Smith 2.
North Laurel (52) — Carson 15, Rush 4, Allen 11, Henson 12, Jervis 7, Miller 3.