Karst finds her rhythm and Lady Bears find second seed with win over Harlan


Kim Henson

Harlan County guard Ella Karst put up a shot over Harlan’s Leah Davis in Tuesday’s district clash. Karst poured in 26 points to lead HCHS to a 65-53 win.

By John Henson, Managing Editor



Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, the Harlan County Lady Bears couldn’t afford to have Ella Karst, their standout sophomore guard, continuing to battle a shooting slump.
Karst broke out in a big way Tuesday at Harlan, pouring in 26 points as the Lady Bears overcame a slow start to knock off the Lady Dragons 65-53 and clinch the district’s second in the process.
“I told her Monday we weren’t leaving practice until she was in rhythm again,” Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan said. “We put in some extra work. Most of it had to do with confidence. I could tell last night she felt more confident. She was down on herself a little, but scorers go through that occasionally. I liked her toughness last night more than anything. She showed a lot of grit and was a true leader on the floor.”
Taylor Lunsford added 13 point and eight rebounds and Jaylin Smith had 11 points and eight rebounds as the Lady Bears improved to 15-10 overall with its fifth straight win and moved to 3-2 in district action.
Harlan County struggled early, falling behind 15-6 before reeling off 15 unanswered points to take control. Harlan didn’t score for over seven minutes, until Aymanni Wynn broke the drought with two free throws. The Lady Dragons didn’t have a basket in the quarter until Wynn hit a 3 with 1:17 left. HCHS led by as many as 15 and took a 34-22 advantage into the halftime break.
“The problem was it so loud and the kids were counting on me to call sets and couldn’t hear me, so they weren’t in sync,” Nolan said. “We called a timeout and settled down and started communicating better on the floor. Defensively, we made a few adjustments. They hit their first shots and we missed ours, so we needed the change the momentum. We were able to sustain it the rest of the game after that.”
The Lady Dragons turned the ball over 13 times in the decisive second quarter and hit only two of eight shots from the field.
“They went back to that 2-3 and started trapping and it was spread out,” said Harlan assistant coach Mike King, who was in charge of the team with coach Tiffany Hamm Rowe absent. “I moved Kylie (Noe) to the free-throw line as a high post. She really hasn’t been there before. All she has to do is learn to square up because nobody there can stop her.
“We just couldn’t execute on offense. Defensively, we turned them over and did a good job on the boards. The effort was there. It came down to us executing on offense out of the 2-3. That was the difference in the game.”
Wynn scored 19 to lead the Lady Dragons. Noe and Emma Owens added 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Harlan fell to 8-15 overall with its fifth straight loss and ended its district schedule at 1-5. The Lady Dragons would finish fourth in the district if Middlesboro can upset Harlan County on Friday, or they would be tied for third if HCHS wins and would flip a coin to determine if they play Bell County or Harlan County in the first round of the district tournament.
Harlan County returns to action Friday in the first game of a girls/boys doubleheader at Middlesboro and then plays host to Barbourville on Saturday at 3 p.m. Harlan will play host to Corbin on Friday, travel to Pineville on Saturday and close the regular season at home against Red Bird on Feb. 14.