Lady Bears hang on for win as Middlesboro cuts 16-point deficit to two in final minute

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Chris Jones

Harlan County center Taylor Lunsford passed the ball during Saturday’s game against visiting Middlesboro.

Harlan County senior guard Jacey Lewis stole a pass and went in for a basket in Saturday’s district clash against Middlesboro. (Chris Jones)

After taking a 16-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Harlan County Lady Bears had to hold off a pesky Middlesboro team to win 57-54 at home on Saturday afternoon.
“Everything looks easy when the ball goes in the hole,” said Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan. “We make it look a little more difficult than it should’ve been in the fourth quarter.”
The game feature several spurts by both teams.
* The Lady Jackets had a 10-0 run midway through the opening quarter behind six points from Grace Gent.
* Harlan County used an 11-1 run as Ella Karst had two baskets and Kellybeth Hoskins nailed a 3-pointer.
* The Lady Bears opened the second half with an 11-2 spurt with Jacey Lewis nailing a pair of 3s and Hoskins adding another.
* Harlan County closed the third quarter with an 8-1 run with four Lady Bears scoring.
* Keevi Betts scored five points and Kailey Owens had four during an 11-0 run by Middlesboro to pull within 51-50 with 1:40 to play.
A putback by Kassy Owens gave HC a three-point lead at the 1:09 mark.
Following a free throw by Betts, Kelly Beth Hoskins hit two free throws to make it 55-51.
Gent hit three of four free throws in the final minute, but Karst hit two from the strip as the Lady Bears escaped with the victory.
“Early on, they hit some early shots and we missed some early shots,” said Nolan. Once we got into a little bit of a rhythm the whole complexion of game is different. I know we got more shot attempts and that’s a big factor for us.”
“We got out to a pretty good lead and in the second quarter, we got a little wore down and got into foul trouble,” said Middlesboro coach Scott Overbay. “We get into foul trouble at the guard position and we struggle. I think we had 20 turnovers in the first half.”
Karst, a freshman guard, powered the Lady Bears with 23 points and five assists. Lewis scored 14 points, including four 3-pointers. Hoskins added eight points.
Gent led Middlesboro with 20 points, including 12 of 14 free throws. Kailey Owens poured in 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“We had a good discussion between quarters and finally started playing again,” said Overbay. “My kids they hustled really well and played hard. They gave everything they had.”
The Lady Jackets stayed in the game by hitting 23 of 28 free throws for 82 percent.
“That was my focus at halftime,” Nolan said of the free throws by Middlesboro. “They were getting to the free throw line and we weren’t. We were settling for jump shots. We focused on that at halftime and fought back.”
Both teams shot 37 percent for the field. Harlan County hit 22 of 60 shots while Middlesboro connected on 15 of 37.
The Lady Jackets held a 29-27 rebounding advantage. Middlesboro committed 22 turnovers compared to HC’s nine.
The two teams will meet again in the opening round of the 52nd District Tournament at Harlan High School during the week of March 15.
Harlan County (8-9) travels to Knott Central on Monday. The Lady Bears will visit Pineville on Thursday and play host to Knox Central on Saturday.
Middlesboro (7-13) entertains Corbin on Monday.