MIDDLESBORO — The Harlan Lady Dragons used a strong defensive effort early on and some excellent free throw shooting late to hold on for a 64-50 win over the Lady Jackets on Thursday in 52nd District action.
Middlesboro’s Blair Green was held to just seven points through three quarters as the Lady Jackets fell behind by 20, but the eighth-grader exploded for 18 fourth quarter points during a late run that cut the deficit to 12. Harlan’s Jordan Brock went 10-for-10 from the free throw line in the final period as the Lady Dragons went on to the 14-point win.
“They were just keeping a body on her. I thought she should have got a few calls that she didn’t get, but that’s part of it and you’ve got to play through that,” Lady Jacket coach Elgie Green said. “They were just physical — she’s still a tall, lanky kid and once she gets stronger things like that won’t bother her as much. They wanted to keep a body on her, make her touches difficult and they did a good job of that.”
Brock, a freshman point guard, finished with 23 points to lead Harlan and her ability to drive into the lane and either score or find an open teammate was key for the Lady Dragons.
“She can actually make a game go a lot longer than it should because it’s hard to stay in front of her without touching her. With the new enforcement of the rules, you know, you almost have to touch her or put a body on her to keep her from getting to the bucket,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “She’s moved up.”
Middlesboro was held to just one basket each from Green and Hannah Warren along with two free throws from Morgan Thompson in the first quarter as Harlan built a 13-6 lead. The Lady Dragons got four points apiece from Brock and Emma Bianchi along with 3-pointer from senior Jourdan Brock in the period.
The lead grew to 20-6 by the 5:40 mark of the second quarter after a putback from Bianchi, another 3 from Ledford and then a steal and layup by the senior.
Lady Jacket senior Amanda Bisardi hit two 3-pointers and added a steal and a layup to score all of Middlesboro’s points during an 8-2 run that got them back into the game. Harlan got a 3-pointer from Kaitlyn Jenkins late in the half to take a 29-18 lead into the break.
It was just a ten-point game after two free throws by Green made the score 35-25 with 3:37 remaining in the third quarter. But Brock converted a three-point play and Ledford had a couple of steals to go along with two free throws and a 3-pointer as Harlan scored the final ten points of the quarter to take a 45-25 lead.
“Jourdan had gotten into a little slump, but the last couple of games she has really stepped up and showed her senior leadership. She’s came into games and gave us some scoring punch and she’s always been a really good defensive player,” Akal said. “I thought she did a really good job defensively (on Green) in the first half. She got a little tired in the second half, but she’s come along and that’s definitely what we need.”
A basket by Ledford gave the Lady Dragons their biggest lead of the night at 49-28 with about 6:30 to play. Green scored 18 of her 25 points the rest of the way, including six during an 8-2 run that cut the lead to 14 and forced a Harlan timeout with 2:37 to play, but Middlesboro was never able to get closer than 12 the rest of the way and Brock hit eight free throws and Tori Mitchell added two down the stretch.
“I thought our kids played hard and competed, we just missed some shots that we normally hit. Blair got off to a slow start and really didn’t get into a rhythm until the second half,” Green said. “We did a lot of good things. But there were a couple of lazy passes in crucial situations, just things that young kids are going to do. Overall, we competed and I thought throughout the game we got better.”
Sophomore forward Lauren Spurlock came off the bench for the second straight game as she makes her way back from an elbow injury. She hit a jumper to go along with a pair of free throws to score four points in the game and provide the Lady Jackets with a little more size in the post.
“I thought she did some good things. This was just her second game back and she’s not been able to compete in practice so it’s going to take her a little while. As the year goes on and she gets more playing time, she’ll get in rhythm and she’ll be able to help us. She can step out an shoot a jumper or score around the basket.”
Both teams will be competing in the Hyden Citizens Bank Shootout at Leslie County this weekend. Middlesboro (2-3, 0-2 in district play) plays Buckhorn Friday at 7:45 p.m. in their first game while Harlan (5-4, 1-1) takes on Magoffin County Saturday at 9:45 a.m.
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HARLAN (64) — Jordan Brock 23, Jourdan Ledford 17, Emma Bianchi 6, Kaitlyn Jenkins 7, Masie Charles 2, Tori Mitchell 5, McKenzie King 4, Madelynn Henson 0, Katie King 0.
MIDDLESBORO (50) — Blair Green 25, Amanda Biscardi 8, Morgan Thompson 4, Hannah Warren 5, Bailey Hensley 4, Lauren Spurlock 4.