MIDDLESBORO — With a slow tempo on offense and a 2-3 zone packed in around the basket, the Middlesboro Lady Jackets succeeded in slowing down the Harlan County offense in a district matchup Tuesday.
But while the Middlesboro defense was effective, the Harlan County defense was better. Middlesboro shot only 19 percent (seven of 36) from the field in falling 52-29.
“We played pretty decent defensively, even though we didn’t play that well overall. We did what we needed to do,” Harlan County coach Debbie Green said. “Our defense was pretty good. We just had a hard time getting in the flow. I didn’t think our energy level was very good. We couldn’t get any momentum going.”
“We wanted to slow the tempo down and try to shorten the length of the game, which we did,” Middlesboro coach Ron Edwards said. “We had some good looks, but they weren’t falling. We were down seven at halftime, then played about two minutes of bad basketball and they were able to extend the lead. They are a good ballclub. We executed the gameplan pretty well, except for two or three minutes in the third quarter.”
Sophomore guard Blair Green scored 19 points and sophomore center Kaylea Gross added 15 as the Lady Bears improved to 18-6 overall and 4-1 in district action.
“We tried to cover Green and Gross inside and encourage their guards to shoot,” Edwards said. “We took a few chances on defense later in the game, and that’s when they hurt us in the paint.”
Senior guard Bailey Hensley scored nine points to lead the 12-11 Lady Jackets, despite having to leave the game at least a half dozen times due to a leg injury.
Harlan County built a lead it would never relinquish in the opening four minutes as Green scored the first six points of the game on two baskets and two free throws and Gross added a three-point play for a 9-0 lead. Hensley finally broke the drought for the Lady Jackets with a basket off a drive, but baskets by Breann Turner and Kate Evans restored a nine-point advantage for the Lady Bears before Baylee Woody closed the period with a 3-pointer that made the score 13-7.
The Lady Bears’ lead was at eight before Hensley reeled off five straight points on a trey and two free throws. Two baskets by Green to close the half pushed Harlan County back out to a seven-point advantage at 23-16.
“We were sloppy on offense in the first half and didn’t move very well,” Green said. “We just kind of stood on offense. We didn’t have people moving. Every time we’d get a little momentum the clock would stop for a minute or two with an injury or something.”
Each team had only one basket in the opening four minutes of the third quarter before HCHS pulled away late on baskets by Gross, Rebecca Middleton, Reanna Middleton and Green for a 33-18 lead going into the final period.
Gross scored the first six points of the fourth quarter as the late grew to 20 points. Harlan County led by as many as 26 points before Sarah Slusher closed the game with a 3-pointer.
Harlan County travels to Harlan on Thursday for a girls/boys doubleheader. Middlesboro plays host to Bell County on Friday in a girls/boys doubleheader.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134