South Laurel slayed some Dragons Friday night, defeating South Oldham 71-42 in the quarterfinals of the 99th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena.
The Cardinals reached the semifinals for the first time since 2005, the same year they defeated Warren Central to bring home the school’s first basketball championship. They’ll play Doss in the Saturday’s nightcap following the conclusion of the Paul Laurence Dunbar-Newport Central Catholic game.
Caleb Taylor, a 6-foot-8 senior, had 26 points (12-for-16 shooting), 14 rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes for South Laurel. Jared Grubb added 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting in 19 minutes. He’s 16-for-29 through two games this tournament.
“I feel really comfortable out there shooting because we’ve got a feel for it at Corbin Arena,” Grubb said. “… It’s not any different from shooting at South or wherever I’m playing. I just try to shoot the same every time and let it go.”
The Cardinals stifled a Dragons team that entered having made a state-record 364 triples and averaged 10 three-point makes a game. South Oldham went 3-for-23 from long range, well below its 41-percent mark from distance on the season.
Grubb opened the scoring for South Laurel, which took an 8-2 lead and had four players on the scoreboard less than three minutes into the contest. Grant Williams scored five straight points to pull the Dragons to within 8-7, but South Laurel responded with a 7-2 run to end the quarter with a 16-9 lead.
South Oldham missed 10 of its first 11 shots and finished 3-for-16 in the first quarter. The sharpshooting Dragons attempted only four three-pointers in the opening period, missing all of them. The Dragons blanked on their first 10 tries from long range, their first connection coming on a Dyllon Hoover attempt with 28 seconds left in the first half.
It took a while for either team to get going in the second quarter. Hoover went backdoor and took a dish from Williams to score the period’s first points at the 3:57 mark. Taylor responded with South Laurel’s first basket 24 seconds later and hit two more shots in the quarter to finish with a double-double — 11 points, 11 rebounds — at halftime. The Cardinals made 40 percent of their first-half shots to just 19 percent for the Dragons, who had shot 50 percent on the season.
South Laurel used a 12-0 run over a two-minute span in the third quarter to go up 40-19 and put the game out of reach. It scored eight of those points without Taylor, who left the game after taking a hit to the head. He re-entered at the 1:49 mark of the third period and quickly scored two buckets over the South Oldham’s undersized interior.
“It was just a little poke in the eye,” Taylor said. “It just took me a second to get my vision back, it wasn’t much.
The Cardinals finished at 61.1-percent shooting in the quarter and outshot the Dragons 52 percent to 24 percent for the game.