Harlan falls to Pikeville in opener

Offensive execution in the fourth quarter is very often the the difference between winning and losing, so Pikeville coach Kristy Orem was more than a little pleased to see her Lady Panthers’ stats for the final period of Tuesday’s game at Harlan. Pikeville hit six of seven shots from the field and 11 of 13 from the line to pull away for a 75-64 victory.

“This early in the year, you don’t know how well kids will handle possessions,” Orem said. “They have to have that trust in me to run what I tell them to run. I was proud of the way they handled it.”

Pikeville (1-0) featured a balanced offensive attack, led by sophomore guard Alivia Gearheart with 18 points and junior forward Kaitlyn Keathley with 17. Leslie Stewart and Kristen Cole Williams added 10 points each.

Harlan (1-0) got almost two thirds of its points from the King sisters as Mackenzie, a senior who has started for five years, scored 28 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and Natalee, a sophomore, added 17 points off the bench.

Playing their first game without all-state guard Jordan Brock, who is now at Tennessee Tech, the Lady Dragons struggled at times to take care of the basketball as 21 turnovers proved costly. But despite the mistakes, first-year coach Tiffany Hamm was pleased with the Lady Dragons’ offensive output.

“You always want to win, but I did see a lot of positive things. I saw a lot of kids grow up and take on some new roles,” Hamm said. “We had a lot of mistakes and turnovers and missed assignments, but those are things we can fix. We scored 64 points after losing somebody who scored 30 points a game last year. We have a lot of kids who can play, and we’re trying to play a fun style where they can all be complete players and do all facets of the game. I want to be in the hunt and win some games in February, but I’m not going to go crazy over this loss.”

Harlan started strong, racing to an 11-2 lead behind six points from Mackenzie King and baskets by Payeton Charles and Taylor Simpson. The lead was still at seven after a basket by Natalee King to make it 13-6 before Pikeville reeled off eight straight points as turnovers and fouls began to mount for Harlan.

Two free throws by Mackenie King put the Lady Dragons up 15-14 at the end of the period, but the Lady Dragons’ offensive struggles continued into the second period as Pikeville built a 25-20 lead as Harlan went over five minutes with only one basket. Natalee King provided a spark off the bench late in the quarter as she hit three of four shots, including a 3-pointer that gave HHS a 32-31 lead.

Gearhart answered with a 3 for Pikeville as the Lady Panthers took a 36-34 lead into the break.

The Lady Panthers gave Harlan problems after moving to a press.

“When we went to our 2-2-1 we were able to force some turnovers,” Orem said. “We really feel we have eight players who could play for most teams. Their role off the bench is to make us better, and I felt they did in the second quarter.”

Grace Bartley, Gearheart and Williams each had two baskets in the third quarter as the Lady Panthers stretched their lead to eight late in the period and took a 52-46 advantage into the final quarter.

The Pikeville lead grew to 10 points midway through the fourth period on consecutive baskets by Stewart, but Harlan continued to battle and got as close as four with 2:10 left when Mackenzie King scored inside. Gearheart, Kelsey Jo Tackett and Lexi Wilkerson each hit two free throws as Pikeville connected on 10 of 11 at the line over the final 90 seconds.

Harlan returns to action Monday at home against Clay County. Pikeville plays at Paintsville on Friday.

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Eighth-grader Emma Ratliff poured in 21 points as Pikeville grabbed an early lead on the way to a 46-28 junior varsity win. Madison Thacker added 10 for the Lady Panthers.

Freshman guard Ella Morton paced Harlan with 13 points. Kaylee Leslie scored six. Makayla Sizemore tossed in four. Alyssa Gibson and Peighton Jones scored two each. Angel Wynn chipped in with one.

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Pikeville 75, Harlan 64

PIKEVILLE (1-0)

Jaden Edmonds 2-3 3-6 7, Alivia Gearheart 6-11 5-6 18, Kaitlyn Keathley 4-10 8-10 17, Grace Bartley 2-5 0-0 6, Leslie Stewart 5-6 0-0 10, Kristen Cole Williams 4-7 2-2 10, Lexi WIlkerson 0-1 2-2 2, Kelsey Jo Tackett 0-6 5-7 5. Totals: 23-50 25-33 75.

HARLAN (0-1)

Payeton Charles 1-6 3-4 5, Noah Canady 4-4 0-0 8, Taylor Simpson 2-8 1-2 6, Mackenzie King 11-19 5-6 28, Brandi Haywood 0-2 0-0 0, Natalee King 5-8 6-6 17, Whitney WIlson 0-0 0-0 0, Katelyn Burkhart 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 23-48 15-18 64.

Pikeville 14 22 16 23 — 75

Harlan 15 19 12 18 — 64

3-point goals: Pikeville 4-9 (Bartley 2-3, Gearheart 1-2, Keathley 1-3, Tackett 0-1), Harlan 3-13 (N. King 1-1, M. King 1-4, Simpson 1-6, Charles 0-2). Rebounds: Pikeville 25 (Gearheart 7, Bartley 4, Tackett 4, Williams 4, Keathley 2, Stewart 2, Edmonds 1, Wilkerson 1), Harlan 25 (M. King 7, Haywood 6, Simpson 5, N. King 5, Canady 2). Turnovers: Pikeville 16, Harlan 21. Fouled out: Harlan (Canady).