Harlan County’s Lady Bears moved within one of the 20-victory mark and added a fourth defending regional champion to their list of victims this season with a 54-36 victory Thursday over visiting Letcher Central.
Harlan County had earlier wins over defending 3rd Region champ Muhlenberg County, defending 15th Region champ Johnson Central and defending 13th Region champ Bell County before knocking off the defending 14th Region champions 54-36. Harlan County was in control all the way but wasn’t especially sharp on offense after a week since its last game.
“You could tell we’ve been off a while, because we missed some shots around the basket,” Harlan County coach Debbie Green said. “I thought we moved the ball well. Blair (Green) had eight assists, and Kaylea (Gross) had a big night.
“I thought Letcher did a good job in its zone. They packed it in on us. It was a good win.”
Sophomore center Kaylea Gross led the 19-4 Lady Bears with 18 points, hitting 12 of 14 at the free throw line. Sophomore guard Blair Green added 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
The convincing win over Letcher Central wasn’t unexpected with the Lady Cougars going through a rare rebuilding campaign under coach Dickie Adams.
Junior forward Destiny Hall scored 13 points and junior point guard Shelby Hall added 12 to lead the 7-18 Lady Cougars.
Harlan County scored the game’s first nine points by taking advantage of its superior size. After Breann Turner opened the game with a 15-foot jumper, the Lady Bears found Gross inside several times and she hit five of six at the line.
Shelby Hall broke the drought for Letcher when she banked in a 3-pointer with 4:17 left in the opening quarter.
Baskets by Green, Kate Evans and Reanna Middleton pushed the Lady Bears’ lead to 10. Paige Caudill closed the period with a jumper that cut the deficit to 15-7.
Gross opened the second quarter with a layup on a nice pass from Green, then added two free throws. Another jumper by Turner gave Harlan County a 14-point lead just over two minutes into the second quarter.
The Harlan County offense went stale at that point as the Lady Bears passed the ball around the perimeter and didn’t attack. Letcher got as close as 10 before Green and Middleton each hit shots in the final minute of the half to stretch the HCHS lead to 27-14 at the break.
A pair of 3-pointers by freshman point guard Phebe McHargue, both coming on passes from Green after she drove to the basket, were the highlights of the third quarter for the Lady Bears. Gross, Green and Morgan Napier also had one basket each as Harlan County extended its lead to 42-26 by the end of the period.
A 3-pointer by Napier, a sophomore forward, followed by a basket from Gross gave Harlan County its biggest lead, at 23 points, with three minutes left.
“I thought Morgan Napier played well,” Green said. “Several people came off the bench to give us a lift.”
Harlan County was scheduled to return to action Friday at home against Corbin, but the game was canceled. The Lady Bears will travel to Hazard on Monday and close the regular season at home Friday against Knox Central.
Eighth-grade guard Hannah Wood scored 10 points to lead Harlan County to a 24-9 win in junior varsity action.
Lainey Cox and Dixie Ewing added three points each. Morgan Napier, Macie Napier, Nikki Creech and Morgan Blakley contributed two each.
Emma Maggard and Alyssa Franklin scored four each for Letcher Central. Brooklyn Collins added one.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134