Clay County coach James Burchell had seen Harlan guard Jordan Brock beat him enough, including the last two years in the 13th Region Tournament semifinals, that he hoped to make someone else do it Monday.
A man-to-man defense focused on keeping Brock from driving in the lane worked for a while. Brock took only six shots in the first half and the Lady Dragons shot only 30 percent (nine of 30), but Clay still trailed by nine at the break.
Harlan ran away in the second half on the way to a 64-38 victory as four Lady Dragons combined to hit 12 3-pointers and all four reached double figures in scoring.
“You have to keep Brock out the lane. We came out and played hard and did some good things early, but they finally cut loose. We just don’t have the athletes to stay with them right now,” Clay County coach James Burchell said. “I thought we played well early and were ready to play.”
“We didn’t do a good job early of running our offense, and we took some quick shots. We didn’t make them play any defense,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said.
Brock led the Lady Dragons with 17 points, but she was even more valuable on defense. Standout Clay eighth-grade guard Kaylee Mathis, the Lady Tigers’ top player with senior guard Kelli Roberts out with an ankle injury, was held scoreless on zero-of-four shooting as Brock chased her most of the night.
“This is the first night we put her on someone like Mathis because Emma (Bianchi) was hobbling a little,” Akal said. “She took it upon herself and asked to guard her, and I thought she did a good job tonight.”
“Our ball handling wasn’t good enough, especially with Roberts not out there. We can play through her usually,” Burchell said. “We’re just not physically strong enough right now against man to man. I think we’ll get better.”
Harlan had several other stars, led by senior center Katie King, who took only one shot and scored three points but spearheaded the Lady Dragons’ defense as she drew five charges and tied Bianchi for the team-high in rebounds with nine.
“I thought defensively we did an excellent job,” Akal said. “I told Katie that five charges may be a state record. I think that kind of discouraged their penetration.”
Sophomore guard Taylor Simpson had the biggest game of her young career as she hit four 3-pointers in a 16-point performance. Brooklyn Massingill and Bianchi added 12 points each.
Junior guard Whitney Sizemore came off the bench to lead the 1-3 Lady Tigers, hitting four 3-pointers in a 12-point effort.
Simpson and Brock hit back-to-back 3-pointers to break a 5-5 tie early and help Harlan take a 14-7 lead after one quarter.
After missing her first four shots in the second quarter, Simpson heated up late in the period for consecutive 3-pointers to put the Lady Dragons up 25-16 at the break. Sizemore supplied all of the Clay offense as she hit three of four 3-point attempts.
Massingill hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter as the Lady Dragons extended their lead to 20, at 42-22.
Both teams shot the ball well with the pressure off in the fourth quarter as Harlan connected on four 3-pointers and Clay hit three. Bianchi had three baskets and Simpson added two as the Lady Dragons led by as many as 30 points.
Harlan (2-0) returns to action Tuesday in the first game of a girls/boys doubleheader against visiting Middlesboro.
Clay County held Harlan scoreless in the second half as the Lady Tigers rallied for a 29-20 win in junior varsity action.
Lexie Lewis led the Lady Tigers with eight points. Taylor Ashder and Whitney Sizemore scored six each. Chasity Sizemore added four. Edwina Hacker scored three. Chandler Rice contributed two.
Natalee King paced Harlan (0-1) with seven points. Katelyn Burkhart scored four. Payeton Charles, Amber King and Courtney Cozart added three each.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134