A 7-0 run in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference as Harlan County held off an upset bid Saturday at South Laurel.
“Those few final minutes got away from us,” South Laurel coach Troy Lee Thomas said. “We’ve got to learn how to win, and I’ve got to do a better job coaching us how to win.”
“We had a good fourth quarter with some big offensive rebounds by Breann (Turner) and big plays by Kaylea (Gross) and Blair (Green),” said Harlan County coach Debbie Green said. “We had some clutch free throws by Blair the last minute and half. We showed some maturity, but still have a lot to work on. I was proud of how they finished strong.”
The game saw eight ties and 20 lead changes as the Lady Cardinals gave one of the top teams in the region a battle. Harlan County (5-1) led 14-10 after one quarter, and South Laurel (2-3) held a 32-31 lead at the half.
“Our kids battled back,” Thomas said. “I thought for the most part we did a good job defensively. There were a couple of 50-50 balls we didn’t get to. They (Harlan County) are long and big. I thought we did a good job on one of the best players in the region in Blair Green. She finished with 21, but they were a hard 21.”
Green scored 10 of her team’s 14 first-quarter points while South countered with five from Taylor Cromer. The Lady Bears’ lead grew to 18-10 with 7:24 left in the half before South went on a 12-4 run to tie the game at 22-22. Ally Collett had a 3 during that run and Shelby Davis, who finished with 17 to lead South, had four. Collett, who scored 11, sank another 3 with 2:42 left to give her team a 25-23 advantage.A steal and bucket by Davis gave South the 32-31 lead at the break.
Another Davis bucket to open the third quarter upped South’s lead to 34-31. The two teams continued to battle back and forth. A bucket byGross with 3:01 left gave Harlan County a 40-38 lead. A Collett steal got the ball to Emily Royster who was fouled. On the play, Harlan County’s bench was given a technical foul. Royster made one of two free throws, then Davis sank both of the technical free throws to give South a 41-40 lead with 2:21 left. A jumper by Breann Turner and a free throw from Green gave the Lady Black Bears a 43-41 lead after three quarters
After Harlan County took a 52-46 lead, Davis was fouled and she sank both of her free throws. The Lady Cards were 10-of-14 from the free throw line in the game. Phelps then forced a turnover and Collett scored to cut the lead to two, 52-50, with 1:56 remaining.
On Harlan County’s next possession, Green was fouled, sending her to the line for one and a bonus. She missed the front end, and on the rebound a shot was put back up that went over the back board. Instead of calling the play dead, the officials let play continue and the ball ended up in Green’s hands, and she scored for the 54-50 lead.
Green hit four free throws over the final 18.2 seconds to seal the 58-52 win.
“I thought we did a better job getting back on transition,” Thomas said, “and keeping the ball out of the paint on the dribble. We’ll get there. Harlan County is one of the best teams in the region and the game was closer than six points. We battled. I thought we played good defense and made it hard on Green.”
Harlan County returns to action Tuesday at Lee, Va.
South Laurel handed Harlan County its first junior varsity loss as freshman center Dianna Morgan scored 16 and sophomore guard Mariah Riley added 11 in the Lady Cardinals’ 51-46 win.
Freshman guards K.K. Johnson and Reanna Middleton scored 16 and 14 points, respectively, to lead the Lady Bears. Morgan Napier scored nine. Lainey Cox added five. Nikki Creech contributed two.