The loss at Middlesboro earlier this month in the All “A” tournament must not have set too well with the Lady Dragons. Saturday, Harlan’s defense forced the Lady Jackets into a pair of long scoring droughts in the second and third quarters as the Lady Dragons pulled away for a 48-24 win in 52nd District action.
“It was good to get a win. The last time we came here we lost that All ‘A’ play-in game. The girls stepped up and they’ve played really good defense the past two games,” said Lady Dragon coach Derrick Akal.
Sophomore forward Torri Mitchell led the Harlan offensive effort with 17 points. She was the only player to reach double-figures in the game. The Lady Dragons also got eight points from Jourdan Ledford, seven from Masie Charles and six each from Emma Bianchi and Jordan Brock.
Freshman guard Bailey Hensley and 7th-grade forward Blair Green each scored eight points to lead Middlesboro. The Lady Jacket got four points each from Taylor Prater and Carissa Padgett.
“We just couldn’t really get into an offense. We’re not setting screens — Tonight I felt like we just went through the motions,” said Lady Jacket coach Elgie Green. “I didn’t feel, as a team, we really wanted to win this game. Harlan came out and they had something to prove and they played a lot harder than we did.”
The Lady Jackets hung close in the first quarter. Green scored four of her points while Padgett and Prater added baskets and Harlan led just 11-8 after one.
A basket from Padgett made it 13-10 with about five minutes to play in the second quarter, but the Lady Jackets wouldn’t score again before halftime.
Ledford keyed the Lady Dragon’s defensive effort by shadowing Green and keeping her from getting the ball in scoring position.
“Jourdan Ledford, not only is she a really good shooter but she’s a really good individual defender. She normally draws every team’s leading scorer and does an excellent job,” Akal added.
Mitchell scored six of her points in the second period and Bianchi added a basket as the Harlan lead grew to 19-10 by the half.
It looked like the Lady Jackets might have another second half run in them when Hensley opened the third quarter with a long jumper to make it 19-12, but Middlesboro wouldn’t hit another field goal the rest of the period and Harlan outscored them 15-1 over the rest of the quarter to put the game away.
Mitchell started an 11-0 run with a pair of free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound. She and Bianchi hit baskets as the lead grew to 25-12 by the 4:35 mark. Ledford hit a short jumper and Brock knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 30-12 with 2:45 remaining in the third.
Hensley hit one of two free throws at the 1:58 mark to end a 5:17 scoring drought for the Lady Jackets.
“We had some good open looks, they just didn’t fall. We didn’t shoot the ball real well. Defensively, it wasn’t too bad. We only gave up 48 points,” Green said. “We just couldn’t score no matter what offense we tried to run or who we tried to get the ball to. We just had an off, off offensive night.”
Harlan got two free throws from Kelly Cox and then a basket inside from Charles to take a 34-13 lead into the fourth.
Charles and Brock hit 3s early in the fourth quarter and the Lady Dragons went on to win by 24. It was their third straight win following a six-game losing streak.
“Obviously we want a good record and we want to win the district games. But with a young team we just want to get better every game and every day and I think we’ve done that,” Akal said. “I think what’s helped a lot is our team assists have went up and that’s a big change and Torri Mitchell. The last two games she has stepped up. We told her she can be one of the best players on the court each night if she’ll assert herself and she’s done that.
“Coming into the season Torri conceivably could have been our point guard. But with Kelly going down and Kaitlyn Jenkins going down we’ve had to have her in the post. Some nights she has an advantage down there because she handles the ball so well and sees the floor well. We just want her to be more aggressive offensively, get easy points in the paint and get to free throw line.”
Both teams will be back on the court on Monday with Harlan (9-10, 2-2 in district play) visiting J. Frank White Academy, Tenn., while Middlesboro (3-14, 0-4) plays host to Lynn Camp.
— — —
Harlan………..11…8…15…14 — 48
Middlesboro…8….2….3…11 — 24
HARLAN (48): Torri Mitchell 17, Jourdan Ledford 8, Masie Charles 7, Emma Bianchi 6, Jordan Brock 6, Kelly Cox 4, Katie King 0, Callie Wilson 0, Jessie Cochran 0, Mackenzie King 0.
MIDDLESBORO (24): Bailey Hensley 8, Blair Green 8, Carissa Padgett 4, Taylor Prater 4, Taylor Moyers 0, Lauren Spurlock 0, Sophia Knuckles 0, Hannah Warren 0.