With a roster that features more middle schoolers than upperclassmen, Harlan will likely be a 13th Region contender in the near future. The young Lady Dragons got a glimpse of one of the region’s best this season on Monday as they fell 62-38 to visiting Whitley County.
“I thought the girls competed for 32 minutes. I think they got a little winded early, but I am pretty pleased with the effort,” said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. “They will learn how to execute with experience. With younger players the game lasts about five minutes in their mind. Everything is going so fast.”
Harlan stayed close early in the first quarter. A 3-pointer from eighth-grader Jordan Brock gave the Lady Dragons their largest lead at 8-5, but Whitley County took control from that point. The Lady Colonels closed the opening period on a 15-8 run to take a 12-point lead.
Taylor Dingess had 10 of her game-high 20 points in the opening period, while Brandi Smith added seven of her 18 to power the opening surge.
“Brandi can score on the move, she can score from the free throw line and she is quick. I think she is one of the top players in the 13th Region. We have some other players to go with here too, which helps her make her better,” said Whitley County coach Larry Anderson. “Friday night it could be two others, and that is the way we want it. We don’t want them coming in thinking they have to get a certain number of points. If you do that you become selfish and don’t move the basketball and work as a team.”
Whitley County shot the ball well from the start, with four treys in the opening period and eight in the game.
“When you can knock the three down, it’s hard to help off. We have some guards that can penetrate well and can stand and shoot a little bit,” Anderson said. “We have six or seven kids that can score. That really helps spread it around.”
A basket by Masie Charles cut the deficit to eight midway through the second quarter, but Whitley continued to pull away from that point. The Lady Colonels scored the final nine points of the half to take a 34-17 lead into the break.
Smith had nine points in the third quarter as the lead grew to 48-27. The Lady Dragons turned the ball over nine times in the period, and finished with 24 on the night.
Harlan was unable to get closer in the fourth quarter, as the Lady Colonels coasted to the win.
Sophomore Tori Mitchell paced the Lady Dragons with 10 points. Junior Jourdan Ledford and eighth-grader Emma Bianchi each added nine points. Brock also turned in a solid effort in her first start at the point.
“Some of those girls jumped straight from middle school to having to play varsity. They have to get adjusted to the speed and physicality of the game. Once they get used to that, I think you will see them get a lot better,” Akal said.
Whitley was without starting center Kandace Craig, who is expected to return next week.
“Our big kid was out, so I was concerned about tonight,” Anderson said.
Whitley County (1-0) will visit McCreary Central on Friday, while Harlan (0-1) will travel to North Laurel on Saturday.
Lauren Elliot had 11 points and Emily Vanderpool added eight as Whitley County claimed a 33-10 win in the junior varsity contest.
Shanae Thomas recorded three points to lead Harlan.
Whitley County (62) - Bethany Powers 7, Brandi Smith 18, Taylor Dingess 20, Maria Johnson 6, Sabrina Sizemore 3, Halie Jones 5, Savanna Sizemore 3, Emily Vanderpool 0, Hanna Logan 0, Heather Partin 0, Haley Mahan 0.
Harlan (38) - Jordan Brock 6, Jourdan Ledford 9, Tori Mitchell 10, Masie Charles 2, Emma Bianchi 9, Shanae Thomas 2, Katie King 0, Madelynn Henson 0, Callie Wilson 0, Amber Fee 0.
Whitley County (33) – Johnna Dopel 2, Haley Mahan 3, Heather Partin 2, Savanna Sizemore 2, Emily Vanderpool 8, Lauren Elliot 11, Sierra Feltner 4, Madison Centers 1.
Harlan (10) – Katie King 2, Shanae Thomas 3, Callie Wilson 2, Amber Fee 2, Madelynn Henson 1.