Lady Cats hope to stay on top in 52nd District race


By John Henson, Managing Editor

After four years of waiting while Harlan and Harlan County took turns making Sweet Sixteen trips, the Bell County Lady Cats made it back to the top of the 52nd District in 2020 with a 25-5 record that included an 8-0 mark against district competition.
Their goal in 2021 is staying there.
“We had a good year, both in our district and overall in general. We return a lot of kids who got experience in big games,” said David Teague, who enters his 12th season as coach.
Bell County brings back four starters, but losing star guard Abby Harris won’t be easy to overcome. Harris was the Lady Cats’ go-to player in pressure situations, including a comeback win over Harlan County in last year’s district finals.
“Abby did so much for us,” Teague said. “Abby scored for us, but she also gave us a lot as far as ball-handling and defending. That is something we have to replace this year. We hope we have some girls who are ready to step up and take a bigger role.”
Ashtyn Meyers (9.5 points per game, 2.1 rebounds per game last season), a 5-5 junior, can play wing or point guard.
“She is a good shooter with a good basketball IQ,” Teague said. “She’s played two years for us now, so we expect a lot of good things out of her.”
Abigail Cornett (6.8, 3.5), a 5-5 senior, returns at a wing where she provides a 3-point threat.
“Abby is a real good shooter with a lot of experience,” Teague said. “We’ll expect her to do more this year as far as scoring and being more aggressive on the offensive end.”
Teague brings back 5-7 senior forward Sara Kidwell (3.6, 4.4) and 5-9 sophomore center Taliyah McQueen (13.7, 10.0) in the post.
“Sara does a lot of things that are unnoticed. She’s a good rebounder who plays hard. She does a lot of things that a lot of people don’t realize. She plays her position as well as anyone in the region,” Teague said. “I was kind of surprised Taliyah wasn’t ranked a little higher. Not many in the region average a double-double, and she was top 10 in the state as far as rebounding. I look for her to continue that. She does a lot with her athleticism.”
Nadene Johnson (4.6, 2.1), a 5-5 freshman, was one of the region’s best sixth men last year and could move into a starting job this season.
“She’s so athletic and will be one of the better players in the region people don’t really know about,” Teague said. “She is so aggressive and strong and can do a lot of good things for us. We look for a big year out of her.”
Mataya Ausmus, a 5-4 senior, gives the Lady Cats another good shooter who could start or come off the bench.
“She had some good games for us last year,” Teague said. “She’s a good shooter, and I think she will take another step forward. We have a lot of interchangeable parts in those top six girls.”
While North Laurel and South Laurel remain the 13th Region favorites, Bell County is in a group of teams that could also challenge if things break their way.
“We have to keep pushing to get better. I feel North and South are the top two in the region, by far, right now, but I feel there are some other teams who have a chance to close the gap,” Teague said. “The big thing with us this year is staying healthy, like with everyone. We just want to keep plugging along and getting better.”