CORBIN — During a 24-game winning streak that has propelled them into the 13th Region Tournament semifinals, the Harlan County Lady Bears have featured one of the most lethal 1-2 combinations in the state.
The tandem of Blair Green and Kaylea Gross proved too much for the Corbin Lady Hounds on Monday in the opening game of the regional tournament at the Corbin Arena, teaming for 57 points and 22 rebounds. The Lady Bears took control of the game by the end of the first quarter and coasted to a 57-33 victory.
“Those two are really good players,” Corbin coach Jason McDaniel said. “Blair is one of the best players in the state and Kaylea is as good of a post player as I’ve seen in the four years I’ve been coaching. We went into the game knowing we had to keep those two under control, but it’s a lot easier said than done.”
“It’s not brain surgery,” said Harlan County coach Debbie Green of her team’s dependence on their two standout juniors. “Kaylea runs the floor so well and Blair can see over pressure. They play real well together and our other girls get them the ball.”
Harlan County (27-2) also played well on the defensive end as Corbin was limited to 29 percent (16 of 56) shooting from the field. The Lady Bears did a much better job of covering the Corbin shooters than they did in Harlan County’s seven-point win earlier in the month.
“We wanted to be active but also know where (Kameryn) Ashurst and (Sara Beth) Price were. They hit some shots, but did a good job overall of being quick to the ball,” Green said.
Ashurst, a senior guard, scored 24 points to lead the 13-20 Lady Hounds, the 50th District runner-up. Junior forward Madison Hicks added 11 points and eight rebounds.
Sophomore guard Phebe McHargue played well for the Lady Bears, hitting three of four shots from both the field and the line in a 10-point effort.
“Phebe did a good job taking care of the ball,” Green said. “Corbin played hard and never quit. I like the press they put on us, and they played us man to man. I think that will help us.”
After several lead changes in the opening four minutes, a 14-2 run the close the period put the Lady Bears ahead to stay. Sophomore forward Breann Turner helped start the surge as she found Gross for the go-ahead basket, then fed the ball to McHargue after a steal for another layup. Gross scored the next six minutes, then sophomore guards Shelby McDaniel and K.K. Johnson had baskets to give HCHS a 20-10 lead after one period.
Harlan County hit only two of 12 shots in the second quarter but held Corbin to three-of-13 shooting. Green had six straight points as Harlan County’s lead grew to 18. Corbin scored the only four points over the final four minutes and cut the deficit to 30-16 at halftime.
Gross dominated the third quarter, hitting four of six shots from the field and all five free throw attempts as Harlan County extended its advantage to 56-38. McHargue hit a 3-pointer and two free throws to keep HCHS in control after Corbin had pulled within 13 after a basket and three-point play by Hicks.
With Gross in foul trouble, Green took over in the fourth quarter as she hit five of seven shots to help Harlan County outscore the Lady Hounds 21-15 in the period.
Harlan County advances to the semifinals on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and will take on the winner of the North Laurel-Lynn Camp game. South Laurel will play Knox Central at 6 p.m. and defending champ Harlan will take on Clay County in first-round games Tuesday.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134