Mitchell cited a sprawling offensive rebound by Crystal Fields as she dove to beat two Middlesboro players to the ball after a missed free throw with 39 seconds to play. Harlan kept possession and Misty Noe hit two free throws nine seconds later to make it a 58-53 lead.
The play proved even bigger after Middlesboro's Mary Flanary converted a 3-point play with 20 seconds remaining to trim the lead back to two.
Noe iced the game with two more free throws with one second left, but Downs' rebound gave Harlan the win.
"That was the big difference in the game right there. Her getting that rebound," said Mitchell. "Hustle plays. That makes the difference.
"Crystal Downs is probably the unsung hero of this team. She plays her heart out night in and night out."
Downs finished with six points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in a strong all-around performance.
Green also talked about the little things, such as a potentially game-winning 3-pointer that came up short with six seconds to play and the defense allowing Harlan to get the ball inbounds to Noe on its ensuing possession. Not to mention three missed free throws in the final minute and 23 in the game.
"We had an opportunity," said Green. "We should have knocked that shot down. We should have knocked those free throws down there and we could have been ahead. We should have done a better job defensively late and could have gotten a steal off that inbounds by going to the screen and staying there instead of rolling and helping.
"This year is a learning year. This is their chance to do it. The effort is there and we will get better."
The young Lady Jackets fell behind in the second quarter after trailing 10-8 after the first quarter.
Harlan's lead was just two with 3:30 left in the half before a torrid finish to what had been a slow first half.
Harlan scored nine points in a minute off four Middlesboro turnovers, getting baskets by Crystal Fields Kelly Colinger, Noe and a 3 by Megan White to pushed the lead to 23-15 with two minutes to play.
Noe scored nine of her team-high 19 points in the period, including the Lady Dragons' last seven and the last four of the half to bring the lead to 30-22 at the break.
Noe also recorded team-highs with 13 rebounds and four assists.
"We depend on Misty so much, when she's not on the court we really are struggling. She's our go-to player and she does a lot for us. She played well," said Mitchell.
"We got some offense going and did some good things, but what killed us was that spurt they had on me in the second quarter scoring six or eight points off the press," said Green. "We never recovered from that really. We kinda did at the end, but we should never got in that situation."
Harlan came out hot in the second half, hitting seven of 14 shots from the field, including three of four by senior forward Ashley Howard.
The Lady Jackets stayed close at the free throw line, but missed 11 of 19 as they could never get the lead.
Harlan's frustration with the Lady Dragons' 19-2 free throw advantage in the period was punctuated by the ejection of clock keeper Tim Noe with 1:58 left in the quarter. Harlan athletic director J.B. Donahue manned the clock for the remainder of the game.
Flanary scored 10 of her game-high 24 points in the period, including a basket in the final second to make it 45-41 heading into the fourth quarter.
Howard hit two more jumpers midway through the fourth quarter to keep Middlesboro at bay. Howard scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Lady Dragons.
"I tell you somebody that stepped up tonight was Ashley Howard," said Mitchell. "She had been struggling this year and we got on her pretty hard in practice and got on her pretty hard tonight and she responded.
"I can't emphasize enough about Ashley. She really stepped up big."
Flanary had eight points in the fourth quarter and Hope Hatfield added four.
Harlan (5-16) returns to action Monday, playing host to Knox Central. Middlesboro (2-17) will host Knox Central today in a girls/boys doubleheader.
Kelsey Dean, a seventh grader, scored eight points as Middlesboro edged Harlan 27-25 in the junior varsity game.
Rhonda Curtis led Harlan (3-9) with eight points. Jessica Colinger and Crystal Fields each scored six. Jacqueline Kinnaman and Brittany Jones contributed two points apiece while Charlene McMillian added one point.