In back-to-back blowouts to start the season, the Harlan County Lady Bears have demonstrated they can make use of their deep and versatile roster to win in a variety of ways.
Harlan County did much of its damage from the perimeter Monday in a 54-32 win at Clay County. The Lady Bears dominated the paint Thursday in a 64-27 rout of visiting Pineville.
“I thought we moved the ball well, and we made the extra pass,” Harlan County coach Debbie Green said. “Everyone got involved, and we did a good job of moving and looking for each other. We got up in our press early and made them turn it over. We also did a great job on the offensive boards early.”
Pineville, with only eight players in uniform, had no answer for Harlan County’s imposing frontline as the Lady Bears owned a 34-15 advantage on the boards. Blair Green, a 6-foot-1 sophomore guard, and Kaylea Gross, a 6-0 sophomore center, had matching 15-point, nine-rebound nights despite sitting for almost half the game as HCHS started a running clock early in the third quarter.
“They are one of the best teams in the region, and when you have an inside-outside game like they do, it’s tough to stop,” Pineville coach Jamie Mills said.
Rebecca Middleton added 11 points for the Lady Bears, who shot 52 percent (30 of 58) from the field while forcing 22 turnovers.
“We made the extra pass. We’ve been working on reversing the ball and getting a better shot,” Green said. “When you shoot well, you get in the flow of the game, and I thought we did tonight. It’s good to have a game like this every once in a while.”
Pineville (1-1) was led by 5-8 senior forward Sophia Knuckles with eight points. Shayne Raftery, a 6-3 senior center had seven points, as did junior guard Morgan Thompson.
The Lady Lions played without their leading scorer, junior guard Jill Enix, who was out with a hamstring injury. Senior forward Makayla Keys and sophomore forward Mackenzie Fuson, both key reserves, also missed the game.
“I have three out and that hurts,” Mills said. “We don’t have much size, and they played hard against a good team. We knew what was coming, but we didn’t meet all our assignments. They are physical, and you have to match that, which is hard to do.”
Green, Gross and Breann Turner each had three rebounds in the first quarter as HCHS won 11-1 on the boards in building a 22-6 lead by converting numerous offensive rebounds into points. Gross hit four of five shots in the period, while Green and Turner added two baskets each.
Middleton took over in the second quarter with three baskets as HCHS outscored the Lady Lions 17-2. Pineville turned the ball over 10 times and missed all four shots from the field.
Despite the big deficit, Pineville continued to battle after the running clock started and outscored the Lady Bears 12-10 in the third quarter, led by two baskets each from Raftery and Thompson.
“I think our girls were nervous to start the game,” Mills said. “I think they got a little settled down toward the end.”
Harlan County reclaimed control in the fourth quarter, hitting seven of eight shots from the field with the reserves playing most of the way. Lainey Cox had a pair of baskets for the Lady Bears, while Kate Evans converted a three-point play and Noah Canady and Morgan Napier each added one basket.
Harlan County returns to action Saturday in Lexington, taking on 5th Region power Glasgow at 4 p.m. at Henry Clay High School.
In what should be a season-long trend with several major college programs recruiting Green, last night’s game was attended by Tennessee coach Holly Warlick, who stayed several minutes after the final horn to talk to the HCHS coach, who is also Green’s mother.
“She wants Blair to know they are interested and are thinking about her,” said the HCHS coach. “For coach Warlick to come down here after they had a game last night is great. UT is a dream program. It’s great for all our kids. She was really impressed with our girls and our team.”
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134