North Laurel opens regional by coasting past Barbourville


Les Nicholson

North Laurel guard Reed Sheppard worked through the Barbourville defense in 13th Region Tournament action Monday.

By Les Dixon, Corbin Times Tribune

CORBIN — Barbourville coach Cody Messer knew the best chance his team had to win during the opening-round play of the 13th Region Tournament was to slow down North Laurel’s offensive attack.

Barbourville’s deliberate style of play kept the Tigers in the game for a quarter and a half, but once the Jaguars heated up they were able to put the game away quickly.

Paced by Ryan Davidson’s 25 points and Reed Sheppard’s 22 points, North Laurel (24-2) used an 18-5 run to begin the second half, and never looked back during its 86-50 win over the outmanned Tigers. Davidson, who connected on 11-of-15 shot attempts, also finished with seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals while Sheppard led the way with nine assists, three rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

The Jaguars shot a red-hot 36-of-61 from the floor, including a 9-of-20 effort from behind the arc. They outrebounded Barbourville, 26-21, and forced the Tigers into 21 turnovers which led to 29 points for North Laurel. Matthew Warren led Barbourville (12-14) with 20 points while Matthew Gray added 15 points.

“It was good to get the first one tonight,” North Laurel coach Nate Valentine said. “This was the first time several of our guys have played meaningful minutes in a regional tournament. Credit Barbourville for making things very tough on us early. They were very patient and played very hard.

“We had a very good start to the third quarter and were able to get some separation. We had 25 assists and shared the ball very well. We’ll have to beat a very good team on Friday to advance.”

Cody Messer’s squad hung tough during the first quarter, thanks to the play of Gray and David Collett. The duo combined to score nine points during the period with Collett’s 3-pointer at the 17-second mark, cutting the Jaguars’ lead to 14-13.

North Laurel used a 9-3 run to begin the second quarter to build a 23-16 advantage with 6:04 remaining in the first half, but Barbourville continued to hang around before a dunk by Sheppard combined with a 3-pointer by Clay Sizemore gave the Jaguars a 38-26 cushion at halftime.

North hit 16 of 32 from the floor in the first half while the Tigers connected on 11-of-19 shot attempts.

North Laurel was able to put the game away during the first three minutes of the second half.

A basket by Caden Harris triggered an 11-0 run that saw the Jaguars’ lead grow to 49-26 with 5:05 remaining in the third quarter. Brody Brock connected with a 3-pointer during the stretch while Harris, Davidson, and Sheppard also scored.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Gray and Warren cut the Jaguars’ lead to 59-41 going into the fourth quarter but a 13-2 run by North Laurel during the first two minutes of the fourth quarter erased any home of a Barbourville comeback.
Monday’s First Round Notebook:
—North Laurel has scored 80 or more points in 21 of 26 contests this season.
—Barbourville has lost their last four opening-round regional tournament contests, all to 49th District squads. The Tigers fell to North Laurel in 2019 and 2021 and Clay County in 2016 and 2020.
—North Laurel’s 86-point explosion is the most scored by the Jags in a 13th Region Tournament game. The previous school record was established in a 74-71 opening-round win over Knox Central during the 2009 tournament.
Barbourville (50) — Warren 20, Gray 15, Smith 6, Collett 5, Collins 4.

North Laurel (86) — Davidson 25, Sheppard 22, Sizemore 14, Harris 8, Brock 7, Bruner 3, Dotson 3, Elza 2, Keen 2.

Barbourville 13 13 15 9 50

North Laurel 14 24 21 27 86