Dec. 29—It was a heavyweight battle when the North Laurel Jaguars clashed with the George Rogers Clark Cardinals in Tuesday night's semifinal game of the White, Greer, and Maggard Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.
Both teams entered the night as two of the top ranked teams in the state, with North Laurel coming in at No. 6, and George Rogers Clark just ahead of them at No. 4.
The Jaguars entered the game after an exciting 100-94 win in overtime against Pleasure Ridge Park on Tuesday, but could not pull off the same magic against the Cardinals one night later, with George Rogers Clark taking the 77-64 win.
But it was not just a big time matchup between teams, but also between star players. On one side was Kentucky commit Reed Sheppard, who has become the most popular high school basketball player in the state. On the opposing bench was 6-foot-5 guard Jerone Morton, whose stock may be rising after this one.
Sheppard had his usual night, despite the loss. The star junior finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three blocked shots, and two steals. Not to be outdone, Morton scored 27 points to go with four assists and five steals.
Unlike their previous two games in which North Laurel was able to take an early lead, the Cardinals came out firing from the opening tip and held a 21-13 advantage after the first quarter.
Coach Nate Valentine said it was tough for his squad to climb back out of that early deficit, even though they made a couple of runs throughout the night.
"George Rogers Clark made things very tough on us," said Valentine. "We dug ourselves in a hole early and fought our way back out to take the lead."
North Laurel came out strong to start the second quarter. A three-pointer from Clay Sizemore tied the game at 21-21 with 5:18 remaining in the first half. Sizmeore finished with 16 points on the night.
The Cardinals got going again after the Jaguars tied the game, outscoring North Laurel 15-12 to finish the quarter and take a 36-33 lead into the half.
The third quarter was all George Rogers Clark. The Cardinals outscored North Laurel 23-16 in the quarter to take a 59-49 lead into the fourth. The Jaguars trailed by as many as 15 in the finals minutes of the game, before finally falling 77-64.
Valentine gave all the credit to the Cardinals in the loss.
"They have a lot of weapons and we did not do what we needed to do on the defensive end to give ourselves a chance to win. George Rogers Clark exposes every weakness," said Valentine. "This stretch has been great for us. It's definitely been challenging, but we will grow from it."
With the loss, the Jaguars are now 9-3, while taking on some of the best competition in the state. They will have a shot at another highly ranked team on Wednesday, playing host Lexington Catholic in the consolation round.
North Laurel 64, George Rogers Clark 77
North Laurel 13 20 16 15 — 64
George Rogers Clark 21 15 23 18 — 77
North Laurel (64) — Sheppard 25, Sizemore 16, Ryan Davidson 14, Colton Rawlings 5, Kole Jervis 2, Brayden Caudill 2
George Rogers Clark (77) — Morton 27, Sam Parrish 19, Tanner Walton 15, Aden Slone 6, Trent Edwards 8, Stanley Smothers 2