Derrick Akal isn’t concerning himself with history as he prepares his Harlan Lady Dragons for the state All “A” Classic this week in Frankfort.
Harlan has lost in the first round in its last three trips to state competition, falling 54-31 to Bishop Brossart in 2012, 65-58 to University Heights in 2014 and 63-47 to Owensboro Catholic last year, but Akal doesn’t want the Lady Dragons to worry about what happened in the past.
“I just told the girls try not to think about the last couple of years. We just have to come and do our jobs with no excuses,” Akal said. “If we do that we will give ourselves a chance to win. We are playing a good basketball team with a great player, so we have to compete at a high level.”
The Lady Dragons will be a nine-point favorite, according to the Cantrall Ratings, in their 11:30 a.m. opening-round matchup on Wednesday against Bracken County, the champions of the 10th Region. The Lady Bears defeated Paris 71-35, Augusta 65-39 and Bishop Brossart 48-39 to win the 10th Region title.
Bracken, at 11-5, is led by senior guard Bailey Cummins at 20.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, along with junior forward Madison Kalb (11.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg), sophomore guard Kinley Ruf (7.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg) and junior center Korbin Florer (5.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg).
“Bracken has one of the top players in the state who slashes and shoots the ball well and two post players who rebound and can score in the post,” Akal said.
Harlan (17-3) will feature one of the best backcourt tandems in the tournament with junior Jordan Brock (18.3 points per game) and senior Brooklyn Massingill (17.4 ppg) leading an explosive offense that also features junior forward Emma Bianchi (9.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg), sophomore forward Mackenzie King (6.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and senior center Katie King (2.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg). The Lady Dragons’ depth is also improved from last year with sophomores Taylor Simpson (2.9 ppg) and Brandi Haywood playing key roles and eighth-grader Natalee King continuing to progress.
The Lady Dragons steamrolled to the 13th Region All “A” Classic title, overpowering Red Bird, Middlesboro and Lynn Camp to earn their third straight trip to the small school state tourney and the sixth in seven years.