LONDON – One good quarter wasn’t enough to lift Harlan to an upset of South Laurel in the Candy Cane Classic on Friday. The Lady Dragons turned a seven-point deficit into a three-point lead with an impressive third quarter, but the lady Cards pulled away in the fourth for a 46-36 win.
South went inside to Taylor Arthur early in the first quarter. The senior center had her team’s first five points to put the Lady Cards up 5-2. Harlan’s Jourdan Ledford put the Lady Dragons on top with an old-fashioned three-point play with 3:11. Both teams struggled to score in the opening period, and the score remained there until South’s Brittany Vandeventer banked in a 3-pointer from half-court at the buzzer to put South up by two.
Harlan’s offensive woes continued in the second quarter. The Lady Dragons were just 1-for-11 from the field and turned the ball over the ball over nine times in the period. Harlan’s only field goal came early as Ledford grabbed a rebound and hit a layup while getting fouled. Ledford hit the free throw to tie the game at nine. South began to pull away from that point. The Lady Cards outscored Harlan 8-1 the rest of the way to take a 17-10 lead into the half.
“The 2-2-1 press bothered us a little bit, but the girls are going to learn. They beat us by about 30 this summer, so I am happy with the progress. But, we still have a long way to go,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. “We get in a hurry sometimes and turn the ball over, but with the inexperience that is going to happen. You have got live with those.”
The Lady Dragons were much improved offensively to open the second half. Harlan quickly erased the deficit with 11 straight points to open the third quarter. Kelly Cox capped the run with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Lady Dragons up 21-17 with 3:17 left in the period. The teams traded baskets from that point, with Harlan taking a 28-25 lead into the fourth.
Arthur had all eight of South Laurel’s points in the third to keep the Lady Cards close. She finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds to lead South in both categories.
“I think she is one of the better players. I don’t know why she isn’t ranked as high as some of the other post players in the region,” Akal said. “She is difficult to guard, she works hard, makes free throws and rebounds the ball well.”
Harlan’s struggles returned in the final period – this time on the defensive end. South went seven-of-12 from the field for 21 points in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win. Katie Reynolds hit a layup to tie the game at 29 with 6:10 left. The Lady Cards outscored Harlan 17-7 the rest of the way.
“We took care of the basketball, attacked the rim and passed it a lot better in the third quarter. That got us back in the game, but they changed defenses and we had a tough time adjusting and getting good looks,” Akal said. “They are an experienced team. They executed down the stretch and we didn’t.”
Harlan (6-5) returns to action in the Candy Cane Classic today against Harlan County at 4 p.m., while South Laurel (6-7) will face Upperman (Tenn.) at 2 p.m.
South Laurel (46) – Karli Parker 2, Madyson Morris 3, Emily Clonce 4, Katie Reynolds 9, Taylor Arthur 17, Preslie Baker 1, Bailey Miller 0, Brittany Vandeventer 3, Cassandra Johnson 6, Morgan Madden 0, Shelby Davis 1.
Harlan (36) – Jordan Brock 10, Jourdan Ledford 6, Torri Mitchell 6, Masie Charles 5, Emma Bianchi 2, Katie King 1, Kelly Cox 3, Shanae Thomas 0, Kaitlin Jenkins 1.