BARBOURVILLE — Anthony Nolan tried a calm approach in the first of two second quarter timeouts as Barbourville began a 14-0 run that put his Lady Bears down by seven and in position for what could have been the biggest upset in girls 13th Region basketball in 2014
In his second timeout three minutes later, Nolan wasn’t nearly so nice.
The Lady Bears seemed to respond with eight straight points to pull within one at halftime, then built off the momentum in the second half on the way to a 63-53 victory.
“We’re glad to get this one in,” Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan said. “We haven’t been able to be in our regular routine, not playing or even practicing in our gym for several days (due to heating problems at the school). We didn’t play well early. We knew we’d be rusty and wouldn’t play well on offense, but I wasn’t pleased with our defense. We finally did a better job at the end. We missed a lot of easy shots early that made it look worse than it was.”
Harlan County (15-4) won despite a 25-point outburst by 5-foot-10 senior forward Kara Erslan, who had four baskets in the second quarter as Barbourville took the lead and three more in the third as the Lady Tigers stayed within three going into the final period. Lauren Lee took over defensive responsibilities of Erslan late in the game and limited her to only one basket in the decisive fourth quarter.
“We did a little switching defensively. The coaches helped me with that,” Nolan said. “(Erslan) was playing outside a lot, and Lauren did a real good job, even when she posted up. Our helpside defense wasn’t good early, and we opened up too many driving lanes. They have a good, veteran team.”
Senior guard Amber Mills added 15 points for the 9-19 Lady Tigers, hitting six of nine shots as she continually broke down the HCHS defense for layups in transition.
“We let them get by us in the gaps and didn’t protect the lanes,” Nolan said. “We work on that every day, containing the ball. We didn’t communicate and let them attack the basket. We’re just glad to get out of here with a win. It wasn’t pretty. I hope we can get back in the gym and get ready for Whitley County.”
With an all-senior starting lineup, Barbourville entered the season as the sixth-ranked team in the 13th Region but had been a disappointment to this point.
“I think we ran out of gas. Our depth got us at the end,” Barbourville coach Andrea Hillard said. “I think finally we’re starting to mesh a little better. I hope that’s a trend coming down the stretch and we’re able to start playing like we’re capable of. I have five kids who can play, and I have some young kids coming along. I got some good minutes from seventh graders, and that’s all I have on my bench.”
The Lady Bears were led by senior guard Kaitlyn Stittums, with 17 points, and junior guard Bella Noe, with 15.
either team could build more than a three-point lead in a first quarter that featured two ties. Lee and Stittums each had two baskets for the Lady Bears, who take a 13-11 lead at the end of the period on two free throws by Massingill.
Baskets by Massingill and Stittums pushed Harlan County’s advantage to six early in the second quarter before Barbourville reeled off 14 straight points. Kara Erslan scored nine points in the run as the Lady Tigers took a 25-21 lead.
The Lady Bears finally woke up after the second timeout and reeled off eight straight point as Lee hit a 3-pointer, Stittums completed a three-point play and Shannon Shackleford scored on a outback. Kara Erslan’s basket put the Lady Tigers back on top, at 27-26, going into the break.
A 3-pointer by Kara Erslan briefly stretched the Barbourville lead to four, but HCHS reeled off six straight points on a basket by Brooklyn Massingill and two by Shannon Shackleford. Noe had two baskets in an 8-2 spurt that put the Lady Bears up by six. Barbourville battled back to within one on three occasions, but sophomore guard Lindsay Branson answered each time with baskets as HCHS took a 46-43 lead into the fourth quarter.
Noe and Stittums took over in the final period, continually working to the basket for short jumpers. The two combined for all five Harlan County baskets in the quarter as the lead grew to as many as 14 points.
Harlan County will face a tough test Friday on the road in a 6 p.m. game at Whitley County, the second ranked team in the 13th Region.
Led by a 14-point performance from eighth-grade guard Rebecca Middleton, Harlan County rolled to a 38-13 win in the junior varsity game. Breann Turner added six for the 7-1 Lady Bears, followed by Lindsay Branson with five, Sara Napier with four, Noah Canady with three and Macie Napier, Hannah Gaw and Kaitlin Evans with two each.
Whitney Brown led Barbourville with six points. Raegan Hubbard, Lucy Robinson and Kaylie Smith scored two each. Anna Daniel added one.
HARLAN COUNTY (15-4)
Kaitlyn Stittums 6-11 5-6 17, Lauren Lee 4-9 0-0 9, Brooklyn Massingill 3-14 3-4 9, Bella Noe 7-12 0-0 15, Shannon Shackleford 3-8 0-0 6, LIndsay Branson 3-11 0-0 6, Kaitlin Evans 0-0 0-0 0, Kaylea Gross 0-1 1-2 1, Bridgett Bennett 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 26-67 9-12 63.
K.K. Liford 2-5 0-0 4, Amber Mills 6-9 3-5 15, Laken Woolum 1-1 0-0 2, Kara Erslan 9-16 4-7 25, Kelsey Erslan 2-14 3-7 7, Anna Daniels 0-0 0-2 0, Whitney Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Raegan Hubbard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-46 10-18 53.
Harlan County 13 13 20 17 — 63
Barbourville 11 16 16 10 — 53
3-point goals: Harlan County 2-14 (Noe 1-1, Lee 1-2, Stittums 0-1, Bennett 0-1, Massingill 0-4, Branson 0-5), Barbourville 3-12 (Kara Erslan 3-5, Liford 0-2, Mills 0-2, Kelsey Erslan 0-3). Rebounds: Harlan County 41 (Lee 9, Shackleford 9, Gross 9, Stittums 6, Massingill 5, Branson 2, Noe 1), Barbourville 23 (Kelsey Erslan 11, Kara Erslan 5, Mills 3, Liford 2, Woolum 1, Daniels 1). Turnovers: Harlan County 8, Barbourville 5. Fouled out: None.