BAXTER — With his team on the ropes, it was Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan who rescued the Lady Bears from a stunning upset. After a Blair Green free throw tied the game with three seconds left, Nolan called a timeout to ice the seventh-grader before her second shot. The strategy was successful and Green missed her next attempt.
Freshman standout Brooklyn Massingill then capitalized on Nolan’s decision with a game winning jumper from the right corner with 35 seconds left to lift Harlan County to a 51-50 victory.
“It should have never come to that situation, but we work on those in practice. (The timeout) was to make sure we were able to get a shot with three seconds left,” said Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan. “They had a chance to win. We finished in overtime, but we didn’t do a good job of closing the game out.”
The Lady Bears scored the game’s first 14 straight points and appeared to take control in the first quarter.
Kaitlyn Stittums opened the game with a basket and Brooklyn Massingill followed with five straight points as Harlan County jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Sarah Evans’ three-point play pushed the lead to double-digits, and Stittums followed with two straight baskets to make it 14-0. Middlesboro’s Bailey Hensley closed the period with six straight points to keep the Lady Jackets within striking distance.
After the dominant first quarter, the Harlan County defense relaxed in the second as Hensley continued to keep Middlesboro close. The freshman had seven of her team-high 17 points in the second quarter, including a pair of treys, to keep the Lady Jackets within eight at the half.
Harlan County was five-of-14 from the field in the period, but maintained the lead thanks in part to six offensive rebounds. The Lady Bears controlled the glass throughout the contest. Harlan County outrebounded the Lady Jackets 28-17, with 16 boards coming on the offensive end.
The Lady Bears extended their lead back to double-digits in the third quarter. Four Lady Bears combined to outscore Middlesboro 9-6 in the period and make it 37-26.
An offensive rebound putback by Madison Cornett made it a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, before the Lady Jackets began a late rally. Middlesboro outscored Harlan County 12-3 down the stretch to force overtime.
“When you are missing layups and foul shots you just open the door to let them back in the game. We have to finish better. We just missed way too many easy shots. They were aggressive, and our kids started playing not to lose, instead of to win,” Nolan said.
Hensley and Amanda Biscardi each hit one-of-two from the free throw line to open overtime and give the Lady Jackets a two-point lead.
Cornett had just one point in overtime, but made two of the Lady Bears’ biggest plays in the extra period. A Cornett steal led to a Kaitlyn Stittums layup to tie the game at 48. The senior then gave the Lady Bears a one-point lead with 55 seconds left after hitting a free throw off of an offensive rebound.
“They were trying to post our guards. Green has good size, so we switched there with Madison because she is used to guarding that position,” Nolan said. “Madison made some big plays. Whether she scores or not, she gets rebounds and makes big defensive plays.”
Green put the Lady Jackets up two with a pair of free throws with 47 seconds remaining in the contest, but Massingill put the Lady Bears up for good on the ensuing possession. Massingill finished with 16 points to lead Harlan County.
Harlan County (20-3) returns to action Thursday at home against Harlan, while Middlesboro (3-16) will travel to Bell County on Friday.
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Harlan County (51) – Kaitlyn Stittums 11, Brooklyn Massingill 16, Bella Noe 4, Lauren Lee 5, Sarah Evans 10, Madison Cornett 5, Keisha Mimes 0, Shauntae Lewis 0.
Middlesboro (50) – Bailey Hensley 17, Taylor Moyers 4, Taylor Prater 0, Blair Green 12, Carissa Padgett 7, Amanda Biscardi 10, Lauren Spurlock 0.