North rolls into finals with victory over Corbin


Les Nicholson

North Laurel guard Reed Sheppard scored 31 points as the Jaguars advanced to the 13th Region Tournament finals with a win over Corbin on Friday.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

CORBIN — Slowing down the state’s most potent offense has been a task that North Laurel opponents have faced all through the 2021 season. The Jaguars entered the 13th Region Tournament averaging a state best 87.2 points per game and had topped the 80-point mark 21 times already.
Corbin succeeded in holding the Jaguars below 80 in the regional semifinals Friday night, but the Hounds couldn’t hold up their end on offense as they went through two long scoreless stretches in the second half on the way to a 74-65 loss.
“There were too many stretches of mediocre play. You can’t do that when you get to the semifinals of the regional tournament,” Corbin coach Tony Pietrowski said. “You have to play well to advance in most seasons, but hats off to them, They were the better team tonight.”
While North led for all but a few seconds, they had a hard time getting away from the Hounds as Corbin spent much of the night cutting eight- or nine-point deficits to three or four before the Jaguars took control again.
“We just couldn’t get any separation from them tonight. We’d get it to 10 or 11 but just couldn’t get the separation,” North Laurel coach Nate Valentine said. “But it’s a credit to them. They had guys who made big shots. Hayden Llewellyn is tough. Carter Stewart is tough. Then Brody Wells comes off the bench and gets 21 on you. They are a really good team. That’s why they won nine out of the last 10 and why they are in the regional semifinals.”
Standout sophomore guard Reed Sheppard again led the Jaguars with 31 points and nine assists. Ryan Davidson, a sophomore forward, added 21 points and 10 rebounds. Brody Brock contributed 11 points.
Sophomore guard Hayden Llewellyn led Corbin with 24 points. Brody Wells had 21 points and Carter Stewart scored 16.
“I just didn’t feel we played that well. North does that to a lot of people,” Pietrowski said. “I wasn’t happy with how we handled their pressure. I felt we were rushed offensively. If you start doing that and don’t make them defend, they are so potent offensively. I thought we battled, but I didn’t think we played up to the level we could have.”
Sheppard had 10 points in the opening quarter as North pulled out to a 23-15 lead even though Corbin got as close as three twice in the final two minutes.
The Jaguars’ lead alternated between seven and five points through much of the second quarter, but Wells and Josh Hibbits led a late surge as Corbin cut the deficit to 38-34 at halftime.
Baskets by Davidson and Brock stretched North’s lead to nine early in the third quarter, but Corbin battled back again. Stewart and Llewellyn each hit 3-pointers and Wells connected on two free throws to pull the Hounds within one, at 45-44, with 4:49 left in the period.
Corbin missed an opportunity to take the lead, going over three minutes before scoring again as North built a 48-41 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Bruner had five straight points early in the fourth period as North’s lead grew to 10. Corbin had only one basket in the first six minutes of period.
“We had to guard. We talked the last two weeks about being better defensively,” Valentine said. “We did a lot of pressing early in the season and created a lot of turnovers in fullcourt, but you add 10 feet here on a college floor and it’s hard to do. We really had to work on sitting down and guarding defensively. They missed some shots they had been making, and sometimes the ball just bounces your way.”
After a slow start this season, Corbin (14-8) was the region’s hottest team in the final month and will be among regional favorites next season with three starters returning, led by Llewellyn and Carter, along with Dakota Patterson and Wells.
“I’m really proud of my team. I had such an enjoyable season with these kids,” Pietrowski said. “I think we have a bright future.”
North Laurel 75, Corbin 64
CORBIN (14-8)
Hayden Llewellyn 24, Carter Stewart 16, Josh Hibbits 4, Isaac McVey 0, Dakota Patterson 0, Brody Wells 21, Seth Mills 0, Jonathan Jackson 0.
Reed Sheppard 31, Clay Sizemore 0, Brody Brock 11, Ryan Davidson 21, Caden Harris 0, Chase Dotson 6, Nathaniel Bruner 5, Ashton Reynolds 0, Kyler Elza 0, Cole Messer 0.

Corbin 15 19 17 14 — 65
North Laurel 23 15 20 16 — 74