Strong night on offense carries Lady Bears to district win over Harlan

By John Henson, Managing Editor



Finding an offensive rhythm has been an elusive goal for the Harlan County Lady Bears through much of the last two seasons, which was one reason why HCHS coach Anthony Nolan was so pleased with what he saw on Saturday against Harlan.
Harlan County shot 65 percent (13 of 20) from the field in the first half, hitting seven of eight shots in the second quarter, on the way to building an 11-point lead. Harlan got as close as one in the third quarter but HCHS held on and then pulled away again for a 73-62 victory. It was the 12th straight win over Harlan for the Lady Bears.
‘’We worked on some of the finer things in our offense and how to get shots and which shots to take. I think the kids are finally starting to click in practice,” Nolan said. “The kids are starting to step up, and when the ball goes through the hole the confidence just flourishes. We were looking to take high-percentage shots. In the past, we’ve not taken the shots we take in practice and that kills our confidence. Our kids executed really well in the fourth quarter after they made a run.”
Junior forward Jaylin Smith played one of the best games of her high school career with 21 points to lead the 8-8 Lady Bears.
“We expect that night in and night out from Jaylin, and some nights she doesn’t do that,” Nolan said. “She came in with more confidence today. She has the ability to stretch a defense. She did that all summer long. She is a very versatile player, and Ella (Karst) is so smart with the ball that she will find her.”
Karst added 18 points for the Lady Bears. Junior center Taylor Lunsford added 13 points on five-of-six shooting while adding a game-high 12 rebounds.
“Taylor works so hard to get those shots, and I know when they start going in it’s a big boost to her confidence,” Nolan said.
Freshman forward Kylie Noe was the most consistent offensive threat for the 7-10 Lady Dragons with 23 points. Aymanni Wynn and Emma Owens added 15 and 11 points, respectively.
The game was tied three times in the first quarter before Kylie Jones and Smith closed the period with baskets to put Harlan County up 14-10.
Smith and Karst hit back-to-back 3-pointers as the Lady Bears’ lead grew to nine late in the second quarter. A driving basket by Hailey Austin pushed the Lady Bears’ advantage to 31-20 at halftime.
Harlan battled back by getting to the free-throw line in the third quarter, hitting 14 of 15 and closed to within one when Owens hit one of two at the line tie 56.4 seconds left. Karst and Jones scored to close the period and extend Harlan County’s lead back to five points.
Smith and Lunsford each scored in the lane as HCHS reclaimed control early in the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Taytum Griffin extended the Lady Bears’ lead to 14 with four minutes left.
Both teams return to district action Tuesday as Harlan County is at home against Middlesboro and Harlan travels to Bell County.