BABOURVILLE — Even on nights their offense isn’t clicking, the Harlan County Lady Bears have learned they can with defense.
Harlan County struggled offensively through much of the first half Tuesday at Barbourville but held the Lady Tigers without a field goal for over 13 minutes to start the game on the way to a 72-30 win.
“I thought our defense was pretty good,” Harlan County coach Debbie Green said. “They played hard. Our girls hadn’t played in over a week, so it was good just to be in the gym and get after it. I wanted to play full court just for conditioning. We moved the ball pretty well, and Kaylea (Gross) and Blair (Green) did the best they could with people hanging all over them.”
Barbourville coach Brandon Simpson said the game provided a good barometer for his young team, one of the region’s most improved with nine wins after going 2-25 last season.
“We looked forward to the challenge of playing them. They are one of the elite teams in the region,” he said. “We’re still building. I thought we played very well defensively, at least in the first half, but we had trouble scoring. We made some mistakes against their pressure in the second quarter and it kind of got away from us, but we came back and battled in the third quarter. I think we kind of ran out of gas.”
Sophomore guard Blair Green led the Harlan County offense with 25 points. Reanna Middleton came off the bench to score 10. Breann Turner and Kaylea Gross added nine and eight points, respectively, as both battled foul problems most of the night.
Sophomore forward Anna Daniels led the 9-13 Lady Tigers with 14 points.
“We’ve beaten some decent teams. It’s hard work and dedication on the part of these girls,” Simpson said. “We’ve exceeded my expectations. The sky is the limit if they keep working.”
Turner and Green each had four points in the first quarter as the Lady Bears started slow, building a 10-4 lead going into the second period.
The Harlan County offense finally started to heat up in the second quarter with transition baskets off its press. Turner, Rebecca Middleton and Phebe McHargue each had baskets in a 14-0 run, capped by three baskets from Green, as the lead grew to 24-4.
A three-point play by Shelbie Jones with 2:27 left in the first half was the first basket of the game for Barbourville. Tasha Helton followed with a basket as the deficit was cut to 15 before McHargue and Reanna Middleton each scored to make it 35-15 at halftime.
Harlan County’s lead was 25 when Whitney Brown and Jordyn Smith each hit 3-pointers to get the Lady Tigers within 19 late in the third quarter. Baskets by Reanna Middleton and Leah Evans gave HCHS a 53-30 cushion going into the final period.
Harlan County finally turned the game into a rout in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Lady Tigers 19-0. Kate Evans started the run with a basket, then found Green for a layup after she picked off a Barbourville pass. Green and Reanna Middleton took turns scoring as the Lady Bears started a running clock midway through the period. Turner and Morgan Napier closed the game with field goals as Harlan County ended the game with a 23-0 run.
Harlan County returns to action Thursday at home against Bell County in a girls/boys doubleheader.
Led by sophomore forward Lainey Cox with 10 points and eighth-grade guard Hannah Wood with eight, Harlan County coasted to a 48-9 win in the junior varsity game.
Nikki Creech, Morgan Napier, Emily Long and Morgan Blakley scored six points each. Maci Napier, Dixie Ewing and T.C. Somersall scored two each.
Kamille Burton scored four to lead Barbourville. Grace Jones contributed three. Hooda Al-Duraji added two.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134