Lady Bears end eight-year title drought with five-set thriller over Bell


Scott Warren

The Harlan County Lady Bears are pictured with their championship trophy after defeating Bell County in five sets on Tuesday in the 52nd District Tournament finals at Middlesboro.

By John Henson, Managing Editor


MIDDLESBORO — After knocking on the door of Bell County’s district domination throughout the 2022 season, the Harlan County Lady Bears broke through in dramatic fashion Tuesday with a five-set win over the three-time defending champs at Middlesboro High School.
Harlan County captured its first district title since 2014 with a 25-20, 23-25, 25-19, 25-27, 15-11 win over Bell County. The Lady Cats defeated HCHS in the last two district championship games and won twice over the Lady Bears during the regular season, including a similar five-set marathon at Log Mountain on Aug. 30. Harlan County finally broke through Tuesday in.a match that was back and forth all night.
The fifth and final set was tied at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 and 11 before the Lady Bears broke through with the final four points.
“My anxiety was through the roof,” said Harlan County coach Christina Spurlock. “We tried to focus on energy and movement tonight, and they capitalized on both. We came in as the underdog and just got the job done. This was amazing. They’ve improved so much.”
The 11-11 Lady Bears were led by a talented contingent of underclassmen, including sophomore Ashton Evans with 35 digs, 10 kills, three service aces and one assist. A trio of freshmen also played key roles, including Savannah Hill with 23 assists, 12 digs, four aces and two kills. Kalista Dunn added 22 digs, 10 kills and four aces. Kylee Hoiska had 15 digs and six aces. Lindsay Hall, one of four seniors, had 13 digs, six aces and eight kills. Destiny Cornett added 10 digs and five kills. Chloe Shelton had nine assists and four digs. Brooklyn Wood contributed four digs and one kill. Emilee Eldridge had three kills and two digs.
Both teams will compete in the 13th Region Tournament next week at Corbin.


Harlan County senior Emilee Eldridge went up for a spike in the Lady Bears’ five-set win over Bell County on Tuesday in the 52nd DIstrict Tournament finals. (Scott Warren)