Harlan County overcome a slow start, using a 12-3 run late in the third quarter to finally take control on the way to a 63-55 win Thursday over Bell County in a district clash that likely sets up a showdown next week between the Lady Bears and Harlan for the top seed in the 52nd District Tournament.
Sophomore guards Rebecca Middleton and Blair Green led the Lady Bears with 19 and 17 points, respectively.
Zoe Taylor, a senior center, led Bell County with 12 points. Sarah Collins and Caleigh Collett each added 10.
Bell scored the game’s first five points as the Lady Bears struggled early, turning the ball over five times in the opening quarter. Green took only one shot in the period as HCHS often settled for jumpers.
Consecutive baskets by Breann Turner, Rebecca Middleton and Kaylea Gross broke the drought and put Harlan County up by one. The lead changed hands four times after that as Turner’s second jumper gave the Lady Bears a one-point lead, at 10-9, by the end of the period.
Harlan County led by four early in the second quarter when Bell responded with a 6-0 run of its own sparked by two jumpers from Bethany Miracle. Bell led by four when Reanna Middleton and Rebecca Middleton each hit 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds to put Harlan County up 24-23 at the break.
The Lady Bears had 12 turnovers in the first half, but only four after the break.
“We turned the ball over after we got steals. We just threw it away. We did a better job the second half,” Harlan County coach Debbie Green said. “We still had some rust from the layoff.We were out of rhythm, but I was glad to get this game in an get the win. I think our girls are gaining confidence.
“Bell has a good team, and they had a good gameplan against Blair and Kaylea. We had some other girls step up. Reanna (Middleton) hit some big shots, and Becca (Middleton) had a big game.”
The five-minute scoring drought in the third quarter looked all too familiar to Bell County coach David Teague.
“That’s been a problem all year, scoring the basketball,” Teague said. “I thought we played well defensively. We did some good things defensively, When you get behind against a good team like them it’s tough. When we got down in the third quarter we had to play from behind and it made it tough on us.”
Harlan County (16-6 overall, 3-1 district) returns to action Friday at Whitley County. Bell County (12-6 overall, 1-3 district) travels to Corbin on Saturday.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134