Lady Bears overpower Letcher Central
Stopping Blair Green has been a tough enough task over the past several years, a point driven home late in the third quarter Monday when Harlan County’s all-state senior guard reached the 3,000-point plateau with her final basket in a 28-point performance.
What has helped the Lady Bears go from being a good team to one that is now ranked among the state’s elite is the fact that Blair has found plenty of help on the Harlan County roster, even with standout center Kaylea Gross sidelined by a knee injury.
In a 91-45 win over visiting Letcher Central, the Lady Bears placed three other players in double figures. Junior guard K.K. Johnson was a perfect six-of-six from the field in a 17-point effort. Junior forward Breann Turner hit six of nine shots as she scored 12 points. Junior guard Reanna Middleton continued her progression from a knee injury that sidelined her last year with a 10-point effort off the bench.
“We shot the ball real well. It’s not just Blair and it shows that you better guard everybody,” Harlan County coach Debbie Green said. “We turned our offense over real well and shared the ball. We’re averaging around 17 assists a game, which is good. I thought our athleticism bothered them, plus we moved the ball well and shared it.”
“When you’re good like Harlan County, you have to be able to guard them all,” added Letcher Central coach Keith Baker. “They put more people on the floor than just Blair Green.”
Harlan County (21-2) set the tone for the game with its defense, a theme for the Lady Bears of late. Letcher had 10 turnovers in the opening period as the Lady Bears built a 26-16 lead. Turner hit all four of her shots and Johnson scored twice off turnovers and added a 3-pointer.
“They are long and athletic and we’re young and inexperienced at the guards,” Letcher Central coach Keith Baker said. “That’s been our Achilles heel all year.”
The Lady Bears also struggled to take care of the ball, turning it over eight times. Green picked up a technical late in the quarter when her daughter and a Letcher player were each called for a foul when Green tried to break free from a defender. Harlan County was able to overcome the problems by hitting 10 of 13 shots in the period.
Harlan County continued to shoot well in the second quarter as Johnson and Green pushed the Lady Bears’ lead to 50-27 by halftime.
Green had a basket and two free throws to start a 14-1 run in the third quarter that also featured baskets by Johnson and Phebe McHargue. Green capped the run with a layup and a jumper that gave her 3,000 points for her career, including the two years she played on the varsity at Middlesboro in the seventh and eighth grades. Baskets by Middleton and McHargue extended the HCHS lead to 74-34 after three quarters.
The Napier sisters, Morgan and Macie, each scored four points in an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter that pushed the lead to 44 points. Middleton, Morgan Blakley and Hannah Wood also had baskets for the Lady Bears in the final period.
Harlan County returns to action Thursday at Corbin and closes its regular season schedule on Feb. 16 at home against Knox Central. The Lady Bears, ranked 25th in the state, will enter the 52nd District Tournament at Middlesboro as the top seed for the second straight year.
“We just have two games left, so I think we have to focus on conditioning the next couple of weeks,” Green said.
Eighth-grade forward Courtney Hayes scored 17 points and freshman center Cammie Collins added 12 as Letcher Central won 51-45 in junior varsity action.
Sophomore guard Morgan Blakley led Harlan County (8-2) with 23 points. Kelly Beth Hoskins added seven, followed by Hannah Wood with six, Dixie Ewing with four, Emily Long with three and Kassy Owens with two.
Harlan County 91, Letcher Central 45
LETCHER CENTRAL (11-13)
Brooklyn Collins 2-5 3-3 8, Brooke Bates 1-7 0-0 2, Kenzie Craft 0-3 1-2 1, Camryn Parks 3-5 2-4 8, Emma Maggard 4-12 2-3 10, Loren Boggs 1-1 0-0 3, Jessica Boggs 3-5 1-2 6, Alyssa Franklin 1-3 0-0 2, Beth Holbrook 0-3 1-2 1, Sam Crawford 2-2 0-0 4, Kaylee Banks 0-0 0-0 0, Courtney Hayes 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-48 9-16 45.
HARLAN COUNTY (21-2)
Phebe McHargue 3-4 0-0 7, K.K. Johnson 6-6 2-2 17, Blair Green 10-14 7-9 28, Lainey Cox 0-1 1-2 1, Breann Turner 6-9 0-0 12, Shelby McDaniel 0-0 0-0 0, Morgan Napier 2-3 2-2 6, Reanna Middleton 4-7 0-0 10, Hannah Wood 1-2 0-1 2, Morgan Blakley 1-2 0-0 2, Macie Napier 2-2 0-0 4, Dixie Ewing 0-0 0-0 0, Kelly Beth Hoskins 0-2 0-0 0, Jacey Lewis 1-1 0-0 2, Kassy Owens 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 36-53 12-18 91.
Letcher Central 16 11 7 11 — 45
Harlan County 26 24 24 17 — 91
3-point goals: Letcher Central 2-8 (L. Boggs 1-1, Collins 1-3, Bates 0-2, Craft 0-2), Harlan County 7-12 (Johnson 3-3, Middleton 2-2, McHargue 1-2, Green 1-2, Blakley 0-1, Turner 0-1, Hoskins 0-1). Rebounds: Letcher Central 21 (Maggard 5, Parks 3, J. Boggs 3, Collins 2, L. Boggs 2, Franklin 2, Holbrook 2, Bates 1, Banks 1), Harlan County 24 (Cox 5, Johnson 3, Green 3, Turner 3, Morgan Napier 3, Macie Napier 2, McHargue 1, McDaniel 1, Middleton 1, Wood 1, Blakley 1). Turnovers: Letcher Central 24, Harlan County 12. Technical fouls: Harlan County (Debbie Green).