Mar. 19—MANCHESTER — Trailing 51-47 with five minutes remaining in regulation and the 49th District championship slipping away, Nate Valentine's North Laurel Jaguars had one final run in them.
And in the end, Chase Dotson came off the bench and turned out to be the spark the Jaguars needed.
Dotson connected with two crucial 3-pointers down the stretch, including one with 2:13 remaining that gave North Laurel the lead for good, allowing the Jaguars to escape with a 63-61 win over Clay County.
"He didn't make the All-Tournament team but after the game, I told him he was the MVP of the tournament," North Laurel coach Nate Valentine said. "If he didn't come in and bail us out, we wouldn't have won.
"Credit to him, he remained positive throughout the season," he added. "The season has a lot of peaks and valleys and he was able to come out on the other side. I'm really happy for him. There's no question he completely bailed us out tonight."
Dotson finished the game shooting a red-hot 4-of-6 from 3-point range while scoring 12 points. Sophomore Reed Sheppard added 23 points while Brody Brock scored 15 points and Ryan Davidson, who battled foul trouble for most of the game, finished with 13 points.
"Ryan is a huge part of what we do," Valentine said. "We had to sit him for a while after he picked up his second foul in the first quarter. We then put him back in. He gets a steal and then is called for his third foul.
"It's hard to win those games when a lot of things go wrong like that when you're playing a quality opponent," he added. "Credit to them defensively, though. They were able to slow things down and we had no flow at all for us offensively."
Connor Robinson turned in a game-high 28 points in the loss while Connor Farmer added 12 points. Tate Farmer and Ryan Abner each turned in nine points efforts.
North Laurel (23-2) finished the game connecting on 22-of-41 shot attempts from the floor, including a 12-of-25 effort from 3-point range. The Jaguars turned the ball over 12 times and were outrebounded, 23-21.
Glenn Gray's Tigers (14-8) hit 14-of-21 shot attempts in the first half but cooled down in the second half, misfiring on 10-of-27 shot attempts.
North Laurel built an early 12-5 advantage behind 3-pointers from Sheppard and Davidson.
Clay County took advantage of Davidson receiving his second foul late in the first quarter and answered with an 11-5 run to cut its deficit to 17-16 entering the second quarter.
The Jaguars were able to extend their lead to 19-16 after a jumper from Brody Brock but Robinson caught fire and Tate Farmer's 3-pointer at the buzzer capped off a 20-8 run, allowing the Tigers to take a 36-27 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
Valentine's squad trailed 39-30 before putting together a 12-6 run to cut its deficit to 45-42 entering the fourth quarter.
Clay County held a 53-50 advantage with 4;45 remaining before Dotson's 3-pointer toes the game at 53 apiece. After seeing the Tigers take a 54-53 edge, Brock's 3-pointer at the 3:47 mark gave his team a short-lived 56-54 advantage.
Robinson tied the game at 57 apiece on Clay County's ensuing possession before Dotson's 3-pointer with 2:13 left gave North Laurel the lead for good.
Sheppard wrapped up the win by knocking down a jumper and four free throws during the game's final minutes. The win marked the first time the Jaguars had beaten Clay County in a district title game in Manchester.
"We knew it was going to be a challenging game," Valentine admitted. "I'm happy for our guys. Our guys needed a game like this. It was a good environment, and it's something we hadn't seen much this season. Our guys did what they needed to do to win.
"It was big for our guys to go up the ladder and cut the net down," he added. "These guys needed to see some success, and that's what I'm so happy about. You've got to win games like this to advance in the tournament and that's what it is about now."
49th District Tournament
At Clay County
North Laurel 63, Clay County 61
North Laurel 17 10 15 21 63
Clay County 16 20 9 16 61
North Laurel (63) — Sheppard 23, Brock 15, Davidson 13, Dotson 12.
Clay County (61) — Robinson 28, C. Farmer 12, T. Farmer 9, Abner 9, Garrison 2, Hensley 1.