Harlan will travel a long way Thursday to face a familiar opponent as the 13th Region champion Lady Dragons will get a second shot at 3rd champion Owensboro Catholic in the first round of the girls Sweet Sixteen on Thursday at Northern Kentucky University.
The Lady Dragons’ run to an All “A” Classic state championship game ended one game short of the finals when they fell 52-32 to Owensboro Catholic in the semifinals on Jan. 30
“They are big, strong and athletic at every position,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “In the previous game, we got outrebounded really bad and turned the ball over too much. I felt if we took care of the basketball better and rebounded better we might have been in that game.”
Led by 5-foot-9 senior guard Annabel Moore and 5-10 senior forwards Mikayla Berry and Caroline Hayden, the Lady Aces outrebounded Harlan 39-22 and limited the Lady Dragons to 31 percent (11 of 35) shooting.
“There are some things the girls have to execute when they get out there,” Akal said. “I don’t know how much you can accomplish in two days of practice. We know what they do. They know what we do. I think it’s about being strong with the basketball. I think a lot of times you turn it over when you aren’t confident.”
Berry leads the Lady Aces, averaging 15.2 points per game and 5.4 rebounds. Moore averages 13.5 points and 2.8 rebounds. Hayden averages 10.9 points and 9.0 rebounds.
“We’ll change some things against their 1-2-2 press, but for the most part we just have to rebound the basketball and handle it,” Akal said. “We haven’t really had good practices the last couple of weeks. It’s been a long season for the girls. They’ve made it to the regional finals three years in a row, then we had the spring and summer and played in all these tournaments. I don’t base how they act in practice on how they’ll play. We try to get up a lot of shots and stay healthy. When I walked in practice Monday, it was normal.”
Guards Jordan Brock and Brooklyn Massingill have led the Lady Dragons with Brock scoring 19.6 points per game and Massingill averaging 15.5 per game. Emma Bianchi has averaged 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Mackenzie King has averaged 7.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Neither team has lost since the All “A” state tournament. Owensboro Catholic fell 45-28 in the All “A” state finals, but have since won 10 straight. Harlan (27-4) has won seven straight since losing to the Lady Aces.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134