Harlan made just enough plays to hold off visiting Knox Central 55-49 in a game that was marred by an ugly third-quarter fight.
The scuffle between Harlan senior forward Stephanie Baker and Knox Central sophomore guard Sallie Broughton took place with 1:10 left to play in the third quarter. The two girls ended up tangled on the floor before they were broken up by coaches and officials.
Both players were ejected from the game, and two women and a man were removed from the premises.
A later review of a tape of the game, however, showed Broughton taking the initiative in the fight. Broughton apparently attempted to kick Baker; then seconds later, she charged at Baker and hit her before both players fell to the ground.
Baker was taken to Harlan ARH where she received four staples to close a gash on the back of her neck, according to Harlan coach Chuck Mitchell.
To that point, the Lady Panthers had been on a tear in the third quarter. After Baker opened the period with a 3-pointer that gave the Lady Dragons a 26-19 advantage, Knox Central stormed back. A three-point play by forward Jennifer Hubbard gave the Lady Panthers a 27-26 lead, their first of the game. Broughton followed with a basket that extended Knox Central's lead to three.
Sophomore center Kendra Latham provided the bulk of Harlan's offense in the quarter, including a basket and a free throw to tie the game at 29. The teams exhanged points before sophomore Crystal Fields' layup put Harlan on top 35-33 before the madness ensued.
With order restored, both teams shot free throws for the remainder of the period as Harlan took a 39-25 lead into the fourth quarter.
Latham and Megan White were the Lady Dragons' heroes in the final period. White scored nine points in the quarter and drained two key 3-pointers to keep Harlan in the lead, and Latham calmly sank four free throws down the stretch.
White scored a team-high 18 points, including four of eight 3-pointers. After struggling through much of January, White has reached double figures in six of Harlan's last eight games.
"People are starting to focus on Kendra. We've got to open up the outside to get the inside. They're doubling and tripling down on Kendra, and Stephanie Baker and Megan White are hitting shots big shots," Mitchell said.
Freshman guard Wendi Messer poured in 19 points for Knox Central, including 12 in the second half as the Lady Panthers rallied.
The Lady Panthers, who rode a three-game winning streak into the game, were held to 29 percent (19-for-66) shooting for the game.
Knox Central coach Darren Mills said the Lady Dragons' defensive effort was the key, particularly in the first half.
"Their defense whipped our a**. They came out and played physical, and we didn't match them," he said.
"In the first half, ... we were forcing shots, not getting in our offense. That was their defense."
Turnovers almost proved to be the Lady Dragons' undoing. Harlan turned the ball over 25 times, a figure that did not please Mitchell.
"We went into halftime and talked about unforced errors, not taking care of the basketball, panicking. That's stuff you do in November; we're in February, trying to get ready for the district tournament," he said.
"I'm not satisfied with our turnovers, but we did get a little better in the second half."
Harlan (7-16) returns to action Monday at Red Bird in a 6 p.m. game, while Knox Central (8-16) will play host to Williamsburg on Tuesday.
KNOX CENTRAL (8-16)
Wendi Messer 7-20 3-6 19, Samantha Washam 2-4 0-2 4, Sallie Broughton 1-8 0-2 2, Jennifer Hubbard 6-14 3-5 15, Jennifer Hammons 2-11 1-2 5, Ashley Sizemore 0-1 0-0 0, Lorrie Taylor 1-6 2-2 4, Tosha Brown 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 19-66 9-19 49.
Crystal Fields 2-8 0-0 4, Megan White 6-17 2-6 18, Stephanie Baker 2-12 0-0 6, Rhonda Curtis 3-3 3-5 9, Kendra Latham 4-10 9-13 17, Brittany Jones 0-2 0-0 0, Caroline Huff 0-3 1-2 1, Chassidy Lawson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-55 15-26 55.
Knox Central 7 12 16 14 49
Harlan 11 12 16 16 55
3-point goals: Knox Central 2-11 (Messer 2-9, Broughton 0-1, Taylor 0-1), Harlan 6-17 (White 4-8, Baker 2-7, Fields 0-1, Huff 0-1). Rebounds: Knox Central 42 (Hubbard 10), Harlan 48 (Latham 10). Assists: Knox Central 6 (Washam, Taylor 3), Harlan 11 (Latham, Fields 4). Steals: Knox Central 10 (Messer 4), Harlan 11 (Fields 4). Turnovers: Knox Central 18, Harlan 25. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: Knox Central (bench).