Balance, defense carry Bell to district win at HCHS

Harlan+County+junior+forward+Jaylin+Smith+raced+down+the+court+as+Bell+County%27s+Nadine+Johnson+defended.+The+visiting+Lady+Cats+rolled+to+a+72-42+win.

John Henson

Harlan County junior forward Jaylin Smith raced down the court as Bell County’s Nadine Johnson defended. The visiting Lady Cats rolled to a 72-42 win.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

One season after running through the 52nd District without a loss, the Bell County Lady Cats have the look of a team ready for a repeat after coasting to a 72-42 win Tuesday at Harlan County.
Bell County (2-1) featured an impressive balanced attack that included scoring on every level. Freshman guard Nadine Johnson and junior guard Ashtyn Meyers scored 18 points each. Sophomore center Taliyah McQueen added 16 points and 14 rebounds. Eighth-grade guard Lauren McGeorge came off the bench to add 11 points.
McQueen dominated the opening quarter with seven rebounds and three putbacks to help Bell take a 12-8 lead.
“We’ve talked in practice about establishing her more, and I thought we did that early in the game,” Bell County coach David Teague said. “We’ve talked to her about being a wall on those boards, and I thought she was early. She does a great job rebounding the ball.”
The Lady Bears slowly watched the game get away with seven turnovers in the second quarter as Bell’s lead grew to 33-21 at halftime.
“I challenged our bunch to be better defensively, and I think we were,” Teague said. “It wasn’t we weren’t working hard. We were out of position, but we cleaned that up some tonight. Our defense got us going when we struggled to get going offensively.”
“When we did attack, we were able to get high percentage shots, but then we missed some and the we got tentative and started playing sideline to sideline, and that’s when the turnovers started escalating,” Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan said.
McGeorge provided much of the offense in the quarter with three 3-pointers.
“That was big. She hit some 3s and got us settled down once we saw the ball go through the bucket,” Teague said. “I thought we played really well the second half.”
“We have to have people step up and make shots. We’re struggling doing that,” Nolan said. “Our goal is to improve by the end of the season. We have to stop beating ourselves. We made some runs, then turned the ball over with carelessness. We didn’t that over in Hazard (a win last week). I have to be patient with some of the young ones. At one time, we had two eighth-graders and a freshmen out there.”
Junior forward Jaylin Smith, who led Harlan County with 12 points, had four of the Lady Bears’ 10 baskets in the opening half. Ella Karst added two baskets in the second quarter.
Meyers took over in the third period with five baskets, including three treys, as the lead grew to 55-34. Kylie Jones and Kylie Noe, both eighth-graders, provided most of the highlights for HCHS in the quarter with three baskets and three rebounds.
Johnson controlled the fourth quarter with the game in hand as she worked through the Harlan County defense for four baskets. The Lady Bears hit only two of 17 shots from the field in the quarter.
Harlan County plays host to North Laurel on Thursday. Bell County plays at Corbin on Thursday.