Marcus Price wasn’t sure if senior guard Deandre Taylor was mentally engaged coming into Thursday night’s third period. Then came the seniors’ first basket of the night - a 3-point shot behind the arch to cut Northeast Jones’ six-point lead to three, 30-27, early in the period.
"Taylor was a big boast," said the Laurel head coach. "He came in the Hattiesburg game and made a couple of three's, so I knew he was able but what I didn't know was if he would be mentally engaged once he got [out on the court]. When he made the first one, I thought to myself how it would be a good situation for us [at the end of the night]."
It turned out as so. Taylor's three-point basket sparked a 14-3 run by Laurel as the Tornadoes cruised to a 66-57 victory over the Tigers.
"In the third quarter we went to a different press, and Northeast Jones never adjusted, so we stayed with it. We had a few guys, like Taylor, come off the bench and contribute. It gave us a lift."
Laurel outscored Northeast Jones 23-11 in the third period after a nearly even first-half. It proved to be the difference in the contest.
Only two players, Antwan Hatten and Abraham McKenzie, have seen significant playing time before this season. Hatten led Laurel Thursday night with 23 points.
"Hatten had 31 points against Callaway and 23 tonight," said Price. "He's one of the best players in the state and probably one of the most under-rated. We're just trying to put him in the best position to be successful. Right now, we have to lean on him because the rest of our guys are playing football."
Laurel trailed at the half, 24-22.
"The biggest thing for this group is to make sure we're paying attention to our details," Price said. "Most these guys have been played [varsity] before, so we're trying to feel things out and improve as we go and get better every day."
Thursday night was Laurel's first win of the season, improving to 1-1 overall after an 82-47 loss to Callaway nearly two weeks ago.
High Praises for NEJ:
After the win, Price’s first words were about the improvement he saw from Northeast Jones.
“Northeast Jones is a vastly improved team,” said Price. “That’s the best I’ve seen them put together in the last four or five years. Hats off to those guys.”
Northeast Jones falls to 1-2 overall after getting its first win of the season last Tuesday night over Heidelberg, 56-55, on a layup as time expired.
Mackenzie Frasier led the Tigers with 23 points.