Jackson rules paint in tourney win over Lady Bears

By John Henson, Managing Editor



CORBIN — With an imposing frontline featuring 6-foot-4 junior Kenady Ward and 6-foot-2 freshman Abby Gilbert, the Jackson County Lady Generals have been the 13th Region’s most pleasant surprise with a 7-2 record going into Wednesday’s game against Harlan County in the fifth-place game of the Lady Redhounds Christmas Bash.
That tandem teamed for 36 points and 18 rebounds while taking away the Lady Bears’ inside attack for much of the night on the way to a 55-40 victory.
The Lady Generals found success early with a high-low attack that included Ward at the free-throw line and Gilbert under the basket. Gilbert had hit four straight shots in the opening quarter on the way to a 17-point, 10-rebound performance. Ward caused problems around the basket all night long and finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.
“It did early, but we adjusted,” said Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan about the Lady Generals’ size advantage. “Their size bothered us. We knew it would be hard to shoot over 6-4, but we wanted to attack the seams and get to the free-throw line, but we didn’t do that until the second half. I think our defense bothered them, but we didn’t always convert turnovers. We have to be able to finish.”
The 5-6 Lady Bears were led by sophomore guard Ella Karst with 14 points. Taytum Griffin added nine points.
With Gilbert and Ward dominating inside, the Lady Generals built a 17-8 advantage after one quarter. The lead grew to 15 midway through the second quarter before Karst and Griffin reeled off seven straight points. Kylie Jones closed the half with a 3 that cut the deficit to 27-20.
Jackson County built a 14-point advantage in the third quarter and led 40-29 going into the fourth period before HCHS made a final run by picking up its efforts on the defensive end. A steal and layup by Jaylin Smith pulled Harlan County within four, at 42-38, with 5:32 left. Harlan County had a couple of chances to get even closer as Jackson turned the ball over eight times in the quarter but failed to convert. The Lady Bears had a couple of turnovers of their own at that point as the Lady Generals pulled away for good with a 9-0 run.
“We had to guard them earlier, and we finally did a better job of doing that and made a run. We got it down to four and we had a chance to get ahead and make them come out and guard us, but we turned the ball over and that killed our momentum,” Nolan said “Careless plays like that really hurt. We have to mentally improve on things like that. If we get a stop there and get an outlet pass and score, I can make them come out and guard us. Then we could use our strengths against them. It went from two to nine, and they don’t miss free throws. We held them defensively, but we struggled on offense. The careless turnovers really frustrate me. We get a rebound and they take it away. We have to get tougher.”
Harlan County is off next week and returns to action Jan. 4 at South Laurel.