Williamsburg —The Harlan County Lady Bears led for more than three quarters Friday but were unable to close out Whitley County in showdown of 13th Region powers. The Lady Colonels outscored Harlan County by 10 points in the final six minutes to rally for a 51-46 win.
“We led the whole game. We have not had any consistent practices or games because of the weather. I think that shows how competitive the region really is,” said Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan. “I think there are five or six teams right in this thing together and it is just who makes the plays at the end. We could very easily have been sitting here at 20-0 right now, but we have to find a way to close some of these games out.”
Harlan County took control early with a dominant first quarter. The Lady Bears outscored Whitley 18-8 in the opening period. A basket from junior Bella Noe gave Harlan County an 8-7 lead with 2:50 left in the quarter. Sophomore Lindsay Brandon drained a 3-pointer on the next trip to continue a run that saw Harlan County outscore Whitley 12-1 the rest of the way. Noe had eight of her team-high 19 points in the first quarter, while sophomore Brooklyn Massingill turned in seven of her 15 points.
Whitley County chipped away at the lead in the second quarter. Senior standout Brandi Smith recorded five of her game-high 17 points in the period to pull Whitley to within four points at the half.
Smith tied the game at 30 with a pair of free throws just over four minutes into the second half. The Lady Bears didn’t relinquish the lead in the period. Massingill put Harlan County back on top with a free throw on Harlan County’s next possession. Massingill later closed the period with a drive and score to keep the Lady Bears in front 37-33 after three.
The Lady Colonels took the lead and maintained the advantage at the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Whitley County went to the charity stripe 14 times in the final eight minutes, hitting 12 attempts. Harlan County didn’t make its first trip to the line until Noe hit a pair with 25 seconds left in the contest. The Lady Bears led by two midway through the period, but Smith converted an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Lady Colonels up 43-42 with 3:07 left. Whitley never trailed again down the stretch.
“The free throw differential was the biggest thing. We weren’t even in the bonus with 1:40 on the clock. The rest of it is just toughness. We missed a block out assignment, some free throws and a couple of little things. I told them whoever did the little things most consistently would determine the game,” Nolan said.
Harlan County (15-5) returns to action Monday at Middlesboro in a 52nd District contest. Whitley County (18-4) will travel to Knox Central on Thursday.
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Whitley County (51) — Hallie Jones 3, Brandi Smith 17, Taylor Dingess 5, Maria Johnson 6, Kandace Craig 13, Abby Estes 7, Taryn Hickey 0, Savanna Sizemore 0, Emily Vanderpool 0, Seirra Feltner 0.
Harlan County (46) — Kaitlyn Stittums 4, Brooklyn Massingill 15, Lauren Lee 0, Bella Noe 19, Shannon Shackleford 2, Lindsay Branson 4, Kaylea Gross 2, Kaitlin Evans 0, Bridgett Bennett 0.