Derrick Akal knew there would be games like this for his young team, the Harlan coach just hopes there aren’t too many. The Lady Dragons followed one heartbreaking loss with another Tuesday, falling 50-49 to Knox Central in overtime.
The Lady Dragons lead for nearly all of the fourth quarter and overtime, but the visiting Lady Panthers found a way to escape with the win in the extra session.
“That is two games in a row that we have lost close games. I have to take some of that blame as a coach,” Akal said. “It is a growing process, but you have to learn from it. It’s not good to lose a bunch of games and not get anything out of it. Hopefully, we will learn from our mistakes.”
Junior Jourdan Ledford opened overtime with a layup off of and assist from Jordan Brock. Brock, then followed with a pair of free throws to give Harlan a 47-43 lead with 1:48 remaining in the contest. Knox hit three of four free throws to close the gap to one before Ledford scored on another layup, this time from Torri Mitchell, to push the lead to three. That is where it remained when Jenna Mills drove to the basket for a layup to close the gap to 49-48 with 28 seconds left.
“I thought the big play was giving up that layup up three instead of taking a foul or stepping in and taking a charge. If we stop that, and make her earn it from the free thrown line, I think we have a better chance,” said Akal.
After a Harlan turnover, Mills banked in a shot in the lane with just 10 seconds remaining to put the Lady Panthers up for good.
The Lady Dragons led for much of the first quarter. Emma Bianchi opened the scoring with a basket underneath. The eighth-grade forward had eight points and two rebounds in the opening period to lift Harlan to the early lead. The Lady Dragons led by three late in the quarter when Bianchi closed the scoring with the final of her four baskets to give Harlan a 16-11 advantage.
Knox responded by outscoring Harlan 16-10 in the second. After a basket from Kendra Hubbard, Cassie Hale tied the game with a 3-pointer just 45 seconds into the quarter. A trey from Mitchell put Harlan back on top 23-19, but the Lady Panthers closed the period on an 8-3 run to take a 1-point lead into the break.
Cassie Shippy opened the second half with a trey to extend Knox’s lead to four, before Brock answered with a basket and Bianchi followed with a pair of free throws to tie it at 30. After back to back baskets from Mills put the Lady Panthers back up by four, Harlan closed the period on a 7-0 run to take a 37-34 advantage into the final period. Ledford had the final five points in the third.
A pair of free throws from Ledford gave Harlan a five point lead in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Panthers battled back. Mills had seven points in the final period to help force overtime. Her final basket put Knox up 43-41 with 11 seconds left, but Brock drained a pair of free throws with two seconds left to tie the game.
Mills led all scorers with 24 points, while Ledford turned in 18 points to pace Harlan.
Harlan (6-9) returns to action Monday at home against Lynn Camp. Knox Central (9-6) will host the Lady Cats on Friday.
Harlan fell 29-21 in the junior varsity contest. Mackenzie King paced the Lady Dragons with seven points. Kaitlin Jenkins and Katie King each contributed four, while Callie Wilson and Shanae Thomas each added three.
Knox Central (50) — Jenna Mills 24, Cassie Shippy 8, Justus Lacefield 0, Kendra Hubbard 2, Megan Carnes 6, Tyran McNeil 7, Cassie Hale 3, Taylor Patterson 0.
Harlan (49) — Jordan Brock 10, Jourdan Ledford 18, Masie Charles 0, Torri Mitchell 5, Emma Bianchi 12, Kelly Cox 0, Shanae Thomas 0, Kaitlin Jenkins 4, Katie King 0.