Angela Thomas is looking for good competition as she tries to rebuild the basketball program at Lee (Va.) High School.
She found it Monday at Harlan County where the Lady Bears put on a display of power basketball that Lee wasn’t quite ready to stop. Blair Green, a 6-foot-1 sophomore guard, scored 29 points and 6-foot sophomore center Kaylea Gross added 16 points on seven-of-nine shooting to lead HCHS to a 70-49 win.
“They’re big, and they’re very physical, and for the lack of a better term, they outweigh us by a lot,” said Thomas, who returned this season as coach of the Lady Generals after 17 years away. “They also have more experience than we do because we have sophomores who just came up to varsity this year. Of course, Blair is a sophomore, too. She’s the one in a million you wish you had. We’re getting there. There are a lot of things we had to build on fundamentally when I got here, and we don’t have a feeder program, which makes it more difficult.
“I like the competition. You know you’re going to get that and we need it because tomorrow we’re playing the defending state champions. They (Ridgeview, Va.) will run us. Tonight, we got pounded and tomorrow we’ll get run to death. Everyone that she brings on the court is well disciplined, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Harlan County (14-6) wasn’t able to pull away until the second half after switching from a 2-3 zone to a man-to-man, taking away the 3-point shot that helped Lee stay close for almost three quarters.
“They had some bigs coming out and hitting 3s, so we decided to go man to man. Our kids can guard when the want to,” Harlan County coach Debbie Green said. “We were able to take the 3-point shots away.”
Green was also pleased with the way the Lady Bears moved the ball as 21 assists led to high-percentage shots for Green and Gross.
“I told Blair the middle was open and the drive was open,” Green said. “I think Kaylea and Blair complement each other real well.”
The Lady Bears also got a lift from their bench, especially late in the third quarter when another Lee run had cut the lead to seven. Junior post players Leah Evans and Kate Evans each had baskets and freshman guard Reanna Middleton forced a turnover to help HCHS push its advantage back to 12 at the end of the period.
“I thought Kate and Leah came in and did a good job and Reanna gave us a lift,” Green said. “Our girls are learning to play their roles, and that’s what I need them to do.”
Harlan County hit seven of nine shots in the fourth quarter, led by three baskets from Green and two from Rebecca Middleton, to blow the game open.
Senior forward Kenzi McPherson and sophomore guard Alexis Tabor each scored 14 points and junior guard Brooke Hammonds added 10 to lead the 7-7 Lady Generals.
Gross and Green each had four baskets in the first quarter as HCHS dominated inside in building a 20-12 lead, hitting nine of 15 shots.
Lee fought back with 3-pointers as McPherson hit two and Tabor added one to help the Lady Generals pull even at 23-all midway through the period. Green and Reanna Middleton each had two baskets in a 10-0 run that helped HCHS take a 35-27 advantage into halftime.
Harlan County returns to action Friday at home against Bell County in the opening game of a girls/boys doubleheader.
Sophomore forwards Morgan Napier and Lainey Cox led the Lady Bears to a 47-14 win in the junior varsity game, scoring 11 and eight points, respectively.
Brooklyn Collins added five points, followed by Macie Napier, Emily Evans and Emily Long with four points each, Hannah Wood and Morgan Blakley with three each, T.C. Somersall and Nikki Creech with two each and Dixie Ewing with one.
Abbey Middleton, Kandace Quillen and Ashley Livesay scored four each to lead Lee. Sydni Smith added two.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134