The visiting Jaguars closed the first half with a 16-3 run that essentially propelled them to an 86-73 win.
Harlan rallied from an earlier deficit and cut North Laurel's lead to 22-18 with 4:23 remaining in the second quarter. But the Jaguars responded with five straight points on a three-point play by Dustin Baker and a pair of free throws by Luke Dalton. After Harlan's Derek Sheffield nailed a 3-pointer, the Jags rattled off another 11 points to take a 38-21 halftime lead. Sophomore forward Josh Seidel scored five of his team-high 26 points in the run.
"We needed every bit of it," North Laurel coach Jim Conway said. "We knew coming in it would be a hard-fought game, and I'm just glad my kids came out and responded."
"It was sort of a repeat of (Tuesday's) Pineville game," Harlan coach Casey Lester said. "We came out flat, then played better in the second half, but it was too late."
North Laurel (9-15) pushed its lead as high as 22 in the third quarter before Harlan began to chip away again. The Dragons outscored the Jaguars 16-6 over the final three minutes of the period to cut the deficit to 60-48.
The Jaguars contributed to Harlan's cause, committing eight turnovers in the quarter against the Dragons' press.
"I think sometimes you've got guys who aren't very comfortable handling the ball, and that happens," Conway said. "We're a very young team, and they're going to have to learn to take care of the basketball."
Harlan senior point guard John Smith exploded in the period, pouring in 17 points. He finished the game with 44, including 31 in the second half.
"I respect him - he's a great kid," Conway said. "I got to coach him in the junior all-star game last summer, and I told our kids, 'I don't care what kind of lead we have - we've got to keep playing. You get comfortable one time, and he'll come down and start going crazy on the 3s.'"
The teams combined for 29 free throws and just 11 field goals in the fourth quarter as the game got physical. North Laurel forward Adrian Wardrup drew a technical foul after he and Smith scuffled over a loose ball. Wardrup appeared to throw two punches at Smith.
Later in the quarter, Harlan senior center Robbie Curtis was assessed a technical foul after a North Laurel player was knocked to the floor while battling for a rebound.
Both calls drew the ire of Lester.
"Robbie went up for the ball and the kid was underneath him. When he came down, the kid fell to the floor and they called a technical," he said. "And I thought (Wardrup) should have been thrown out of the game. He threw two punches, and they just called a technical and let him stay in the game."
The Dragons sliced their deficit to single digits, pulling within nine on a three-point play by Curtis with 6:52 remaining.
Dalton and Smith traded baskets before the Jags got four straight free throws by Dalton and Josh Tiller to push their lead to 70-57 at the 6:01 mark.
Harlan made one final run, scoring eight straight points from 2:01 to the 1:32 mark to pull back within 10. The Jaguars called timeout and closed the game out with free throws. North Laurel hit 28 of 36 from the line in the game.
"That's a first," Conway said. "All season long, that's been our Achilles' heel, and it's kept us from winning some games. I'm glad we were able to hit those down the stretch."
Harlan lost three starters to fouls. Senior guard Derek Sheffield played just four seconds of the second half, drawing his fourth foul three seconds into the third quarter. He returned in the fourth and immediately picked up his fifth.
Senior forward Ronnie Curtis was called for his fourth foul with 5:57 left in the third quarter and quickly drew a technical for his fifth. His brother later fouled out as well.
"I had three starters sitting over there," Lester said. "You go to the bench, and you're not that deep right now. That killed us."
Travis Harrison and Robbie Curtis each added 11 points for Harlan (10-12). Harrison also grabbed 12 rebounds.
Dalton scored 18 points for the Jaguars, including 16 in the second half. Wardrup and Nick Shannon added 17 and 13, respectively.
The Dragons recently added a win to their total after West Oaks, Fla., a team Harlan faced in a Christmas tournament, was forced to forfeit due to the use of an ineligible player.
Harlan returns to action Tuesday at home against Lynn Camp. North Laurel will play host to Leslie County today.
The Jaguars claimed a 46-36 win in the junior varsity game.
Raymond Shears paced North Laurel with 13 points. Zack Eversole and Dustin Baker each added 11.
Andrew Link (2-9) led Harlan with 11 points. Allen Hensley and Chad Creech each added seven. Jecorey Fields and Tyler Frazier rounded out the scoring with six and five points, respectively.
NORTH LAUREL (9-15)
Nick Shannon 3-11 6-10 13, Josh Tiller 1-5 6-6 9, Josh Seidel 9-17 6-7 26, Adrian Wardrup 6-12 5-5 17, Luke Dalton 7-12 4-5 18, Zack Eversole 0-0 0-0 0, Phillip Cottongim 0-0 0-0 0, Dustin Baker 1-1 1-3 3, Raymond Shears 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 27-58 28-36 86.
John Smith 14-32 12-20 44, Derek Sheffield 1-2 0-0 3, Travis Harrison 2-5 7-8 11, Ronnie Curtis 0-0 0-0 0, Robbie Curtis 5-13 1-2 11, Jecorey Fields 1-2 0-0 2, Allen Hensley 0-1 0-2 0, Tyler Frazier 0-0 0-0 0, Andrew Link 0-2 2-4 2, Chad Creech 0-4 0-0 0. Totals: 23-61 22-36 73.
North Laurel 17 21 22 26 - 86
Harlan 7 14 27 25 - 73
3-point goals: North Laurel 4-13 (Seidel 2-4, Shannon 1-4, Tiller 1-5), Harlan 5-15 (Smith 4-9, Sheffield 1-2, Fields 0-1, Creech 0-3). Rebounds: North Laurel 45 (Seidel, Dalton 12), Harlan 33 (Harrison 12). Assists: North Laurel 12 (Shannon 4), Harlan 4 (Link 2). Turnovers: North Laurel 15, Harlan 10. Fouled out: North Laurel (Wardrup, Shannon), Harlan (Ron. Curtis, Sheffield, Rob. Curtis). Technical fouls: North Laurel (Wardrup), Harlan (Ron. Curtis, Rob. Curtis).