Defense the difference for Letcher in win at Harlan

Even coach Keith Baker isn’t quite sure what to expect from his Letcher Central Lady Cougars this season as his up-and-down squad tries to defend its 14th Region title.
The Lady Cougars hope they can build some momentum from their performance Monday in a 58-41 win at Harlan that improved their overall record to 13-11 less than a week from beginning play in the 53rd District Tournament on Saturday. Letcher won with defense, holding Harlan without a field goal for just under 16 minutes from midway through the second quarter to midway through the fourth quarter.
“We started out pressing and backed off in a halfcourt trap and played a matchup zone and kept them from driving to the basket,” Baker said. “It kept us from getting in even more foul trouble.
“I feel like we can make a run. We have been kind of helter-skelter this season. You never know which Letcher Central team will show up. I feel we are one of the top teams in the 14th Region, so it’s time to get prepared.”
Harlan (7-14) played good enough defense to win but shot only 30 percent (11 of 37) from the field and had only three field goals after the first quarter.
“I liked our defensive effort and thought we played a good defensive game,” Harlan coach Tiffany Hamm said. “Letcher is a physical team and they took away some things on offense we like to do. It’s a credit to them. We played good defense for the most part but just didn’t shoot it very well.”
The Lady Cougars placed three in double figures, including Kaylee Banks with 13 points and Brooke Bates and Tori Holcomb with 11 each.
Harlan was led by Kylie Noe with 14 points and Aymanni Wynn with 12.
The Lady Dragons pounded the ball inside with great success in the first quarter, hitting eight of 12 shots. Harlan was led by three baskets from Noe and two each from Wynn and Abbi Fields
Letcher got most of its offense from the perimeter, hitting four of nine from behind the 3-point line, led by Holcomb with two.
Harlan hit five of six free throws midway through the period, helped by a technical against Baker, to go up 25-22.
Letcher came to life at the point, closing the half with an 11-0 run. The Lady Cougars were led by two baskets from Baker and two from Whitt to build a 33-25 halftime lead.
Neither team could manage a field goal in the first five minutes of a physical third quarter that pushed the Lady Cougars into some foul problems. Harlan was unable to capitalize, missing all nine shots from the field. Letcher hit three of 13 shots in the period and extended its lead to 43-33.
Angel Wynn finally broke the field goal drought for Harlan with a 3 at the 4:10 mark, but Letcher had pushed the score to 53-33 before the shot.
Harlan closes its regular-season schedule Tuesday at Red Bird in a.girls/boys doubleheader. Letcher Central will travel to Pikeville on Thursday before playing host to Cordia in tournament action Saturday.
Heidi Bentley scored 12 points and Ashlynn Sergent added 10 as Letcher Central rolled to a 44-12 win in junior varsity action. Farrah Combs chipped in with six. Kaylee Banks tossed in five. Kylie Wright, Macie Kincer, Myra Ward, Page Damron and Jaylee Wright scored two each. Kara Holcomb added one.
Abbie Jones led the 3-10 Lady Dragons with five points. Annie Hoskins and Ella Lisenbee scored three each. Carlie Jo Kennedy added one.