Strong start propels Lady Bears to upset of Whitley

By John Henson, Managing Editor

After falling behind 3-0 in the game’s opening minute Tuesday, the Harlan County Lady Bears took control with 17 straight points and maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the night on the way to a 64-53 win over visiting Whitley County.
“We weren’t ready to play, and I don’t know why,” Whitley County coach Sean Pigman said. “This team hasn’t done that before. We made the first basket and you could get a good feeling, but sometimes bad things happen.
“It wasn’t all just about us though. They were ready to play. They had a good crowd, a good atmosphere and they were ready to go and they jumped all over us. That’s a credit to coach (Anthony Nolan). He does a good job, and Ella Karst gets them going. They were also dominant inside and shot the ball better than what I had seen.”
The victory was the second in two nights for the Lady Bears, who evened their record at 2-2 while knocking off a team ranked ahead of them in all the preseason polls.
“We got contributions from key people in key areas and played well on back-to-back nights. I was real proud. Whitley County has a nice team. I think our kids executed their roles early and everything looks easier when you’re making shots,” Nolan said. “We put ourselves in position to make those shots, and I thought they were coachable. They played real well until late in the game when we got on our heels a little and played not to lose.”
Harlan County featured a balanced attack that featured six players with eight points or more, led by sophomore guard Ella Karst with 14 points and junior forward Jaylin Smith with 13. Taylor Lunsford, Kylie Jones and Taytum Griffin scored nine each and Jaylin Preston added eight.
The 2-2 Lady Colonels were led by sophomore guard Marissa Douglas with 19 points and senior guard Chelsey Logan with 12.
Karst scored nine points in the early 17-0 HCHS run as the Lady Bears hit six of 10 shots. Preston provided a lift off the bench by forcing a turnover and hitting a 3-pointer to close the period and extend Harlan County’s lead to 20-5 lead. Preston hit all three of her shots in the game.
“We’ve been talking about our girls playing in their roles. She had a tremendous night with the deflections, then the next thing you know she was hitting shots. When you have that type of contribution it makes you a better all-around team,” Nolan said. “Even when we had people in foul trouble we were able to extend the lead with others coming in and executing.”
Jones took over the HC offense in the second quarter with Karst in foul trouble, hitting three straight 3-pointers to help the Lady Bears go up by as many as 18. Douglas had nine points in the final three minutes of the half for Whitley to keep the Lady Colonels in striking distance, down 37-21 at the break.
“One of our struggles early was getting production from our wings. We saw it in practice but it hadn’t happened in games,” Nolan said. “Last night we hit some shots from the perimeter and got some confidence. That helps a lot with people keying on Ella.”
Whitley made another run in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to 11 before Griffin, Karst, Smith and Preston sparked a 10-0 that helped extend the lead to 53-34 by the end of the period.
A second 3 by Preston gave the Lady Bears a 22-point advantage. Logan pulled Whitley within 11 late in the game, but Karst and Smith answered to break the Lady Colonels’ last run.
Harlan County will play host to Lynn Camp on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Whitley County will play Middlesboro on Saturday at 1 p.m. at South Laurel High School.
Michaela Barton hit five 3-pointers and scored 19 points as Whitley County rolled to a 50-19 win in junior varsity action.
Brianna Howard led the 0-3 Lady Bears with five points. Whitley Teague scored four. Savannah Hill, Maddi Middleton and Hailee Hensley added two each.


A 25-point third quarter, led by five baskets from junior forward Jaylin Smith, led Harlan County to a 70-60 win Monday at Barbourville.
Ella Karst scored 24 points and Smith added 16 to lead the 1-2 Lady Bears. Taytum Griffin contributed 10 points.
Senior center Brianna Gallagher led the Lady Tigers with 25 points. Sarah Smith added 13 points.
Harlan County (70) — Ella Karst 23, Jaylin Smith 16, Taytum Griffin 10, Paige Phillips 4, Taylor Lunsford 5, Kylie Jones 3, Hailey Austin 7, Abigail Fields 2.
Barbourville (60) — Sarah Smith 13, Aimee Woolum 3, Danni Jordan 8, Brianna Gallagher 25, Maggie Gibson 4, Angel Love 3, Lauren Smith 4.

Harlan County 15 11 25 19 — 70
Barbourville 12 12 17 19 — 60
3-point goals: Harlan County 5 (Karst 2, Smith 1, Griffin 1, Austin 1), Barbourville 3 (Gallagher 2, Jordan 1).