With their offense struggling, the Harlan County Lady Bears relied on what they do best Thursday’s to pull out a win at district rival Harlan. The Lady Bears’ trademark defense limited Harlan to just 22 percent from the field on their way to a 39-25 victory over the Lady Dragons.
“They played hard and guarded hard. We did a good job of rebounding and forced some turnovers. It was a double-digit win, but it was an ugly win,” said Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan.
Harlan didn’t trail in the first quarter. Eighth-grader Jordan Brock opened the scoring with a layup just over two minutes into the contest. The teams exchanged baskets with three ties in the opening period. Kelly Cox broke a 6-6 tie and with a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in the first to give the Lady Dragons a three-point advantage.
Jourdan Ledford gave Harlan its biggest lead at 12-6 with three free throws to open the second quarter. The Lady Bears responded from that point. Harlan County outscored the Lady Dragons 15-0 the rest of the half. Sarah Evans powered the Lady Bears’ run.
Evans had five points and six rebounds in the period, and finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds to pace Harlan County in both categories.
“She is an underrated post players in the region. She gets in there and she is a difference maker,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. “She may not get 25 points, but she will end up with six or eight offensive rebounds and putbacks that break your back.”
Harlan County grabbed eight offensive rebounds, while forcing Harlan into seven turnovers in the second quarter to take a 21-12 lead into the break.
“We were pretty consistent defensively. We just have to finish those possessions with a rebound. Harlan County beat us on the boards. We just have to do a better job of rebounding,” said Akal.
The Lady Dragons hung around early in the third quarter, but Harlan County began to take control. Emma Bianchi opened the half with five straight points to reduce the deficit to 21-17, before Evans, again, took control of the game. The senior center drained a pair of free throws and converted an old-fashioned three-point play to quickly push the lead back to seven. Bella Noe closed the period with a basket to give Harlan County a 29-18 lead.
The Lady Bears maintained the lead throughout the fourth quarter. A trey from Ledford closed the gap to 12 with 1:22 left, but Bella Noe hit a pair of free throws on the other end to close the scoring.
Both teams struggled to shoot the ball throughout the contest. Harlan County hit 10-of-39 shots from the field, while Harlan was just 8-for-36 on the night.
“I don’t know what we were shooting at, but it wasn’t the inside of the cylinder tonight. We got good looks, but we didn’t finish the baskets off. I think we got caught up a little in the atmosphere and rushed the shots,” Nolan said.
Harlan County (16-1) returns to action Saturday at home against Clay County, while Harlan (6-7) will face Middlesboro in the 13th Region All ‘A’ Classic.
Harlan County (39) – Kaitlyn Stittums 0, Bella Noe 4, Brooklyn Massingill 10, Keisha Mimes 2, Sarah Evans 14, Lauren Lee 7, Madison Cornett 2, Shauntae Lewis 0.
Harlan (25) – Jordan Brock 2, Jourdan Ledford 10, Masie Charles 2, Torri Mitchell 0, Emma Bianchi 7, Kelly Cox 4, Shanae Thomas 0, Kaitlin Jenkins 0, Katie King 0.