Lady Bears pull away in final quarter for district victory at Harlan


Jon Dickenson

Harlan County guard Ella Karst pulled up for two of her 25 points in the Lady Bears’ 64-49 win Thursday at Harlan. The 16-6 Lady Bears travel to Letcher Central on Friday. Harlan will play host to Barbourville.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

After three quarters of struggle on offense, when they shot 28 percent (12 of 43) from the field, the Harlan County Lady Bears put things together just in time in the fourth quarter on Thursday at Harlan. Trailing by two early in the final period, Harlan County hit a perfect five of five from the field and 13 of 14 from the line in a 24-7 run to end the game on the way to a 64-49 victory.
“The kids just executed, and I think they grew up a lot from the game over at Knott Central last week,” Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan said. “It was a grind and possession game. I thought our kids were patient tonight and moved the ball. They were coachable the whole time. We missed some shots, but I thought things would fall our way if we continued to execute.”
“We went on a.pretty good run, and these games are games of runs, but after the little skirmish they weren’t going to let anyone play,” said Harlan coach Tiffany Hamm Rowe, referring to an incident in the fourth quarter when both Harlan’s Kylie Noe and Harlan County’s Hailey Austin received technicals in a battle for a loose ball. “We got in a little foul trouble, but we needed to get a few more rebounds and hit a few more shots.”
Junior guard Ella Karst continued to lead the HCHS offense as she scored 25 points to help the Lady Bears improve to 16-6 overall and 2-2 in district action. Hailey Austin hit six of nine shots and added 16 points. Jaylin Smith overcame a slow start with some clutch baskets late in a 13-point night.
Sophomore guard Aymanni Wynn carried the Harlan offense with 27 points as the Lady Dragons fell to 8-14 overall and 2-3 in the district.
While his Lady Bears struggled to score for much of the night, they played well on the defensive end as Harlan shot 37 percent (17 of 46) from the field.
“They have a nice team with good scorers. They are big and strong,” Nolan said. “I thought our kids stayed poised. They made a run, but we executed and played well the fourth quarter.”
Harlan County led all but a few seconds in the first half as the Lady Bears went on a 13-4 run behind Karst, Austin and Taylor Lunsford to go up 13-7 after one quarter.
Karst and Austin each had two baskets in the second quarter as Harlan County’s lead at halftime was 27-22. Noe and Wynn each had two baskets for Harlan.
Wynn hit consecutive 3-pointers in the third quarter, the second.coming after Raegan Goodman ran down an offensive rebound in the corner, to go up by two. The lead changed hands several times after that before Smith’s basket gave HCHS a 40-39 lead heading into the final period.
Another Wynn 3 gave Harlan its final lead before two free throws each by Smith and Karst put Harlan County back on top for good. Smith hit a 3 and Lunsford and Karst each had baskets in an 8-0 run that extended the lead to eight and turned the final three minutes into a free throw marathon.
Harlan County won 38-19 on the boards, a key stat in Nolan’s eyes.
“We did a good job of limiting their shot opportunities. They are so strong,” he said. “We did a good job of getting the ball where we needed to in the fourth quarter, then converted at the free throw line.”
Harlan County travels to Letcher Central on Friday. Harlan plays host to Barbourville on Friday and Lynn Camp on Saturday.


Harlan County fell 39-35 at Knott Central in previously unreported action.
Faith Pollard scored 13 and Kylie Gayheart added 11 for the Lady Patriots, who avenged a loss at HCHS earlier in the season.
Ella Karst led the Lady Bears with 19 points.
Knott Central (39) — Faith Pollard 13, Kylie Gayheart 11, Layce Hall 6, Presley Fletcher 3, Drew Reed 2, Haley Combs 2, Kaylee Gibson 2.
Harlan County (35) — Ella Karst 19, Jaylin Smith 6, Kylie Jones 3, Taytum Griffin 3, Hailey Austin 2, Faith Hoskins 2.