Griffin rescues Lady Bears in tournament win over Middlesboro

By John Henson, Managing Editor

LOG MOUNTAIN — A 10-point halftime lead was down to one with five minutes left and the Harlan County Lady Bears were on upset alert and in danger of missing the 13th Region Tournament for the the first time in seven years.
Junior guard Taytum Griffin started an 11-5 run with a 3-pointer and added two more baskets to help Harlan County hang on for a 47-43 win over Middlesboro in the first round of the 52nd District Tournament at Bell County High School on Monday.
“I had to tell her to shoot,” Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan said. “Taytum puts in as much work as anyone on her shot, but she still lacks confidence.”
The Lady Jackets had seven of their 15 turnovers in the fourth quarter with some costly mistakes taking away their momentum.
“I’m very proud of how our girls competed tonight,” Middlesboro coach Scott Overbay said. “We just had a few turnovers late in the game that really hurt us against their pressure. (Griffin) also hit some big shots. You have to focus so much on (Ella) Karst because she’s one of the best point guards in the region.”
Nolan suffered a personal tragedy earlier in the day when his mom died after a battle with illness over the past several days.
“She would have wanted me to be here, and I wanted to be here for the girls,” Nolan said. “I think that also had an effect on our girls tonight.”
“Our prayers are with coach Nolan and his family,” Overbay said.
Sophomore guard Ella Karst scored 18 points and Griffin added 11 for the 20-10 Lady Bears, who have now won 10 straight games.
Freshman guard Keevi Betts led the 10-18 Lady Jackets with 20 points. Senior forward Kailey Owens added 13 points and 13 rebounds. It was the 11th straight first-round loss for Middlesboro
Middlesboro shot only 20 percent (four of 20) in the first half but the Lady Bears were unable to blow the game open with a 22-12 halftime lead.
“We were tight tonight. Our kids did what they had to do to win, but they have to play with more confidence,” Nolan said. “I also thought we overpenetrated at times tonight, especially in the first half. Owens is tall and a presence around the basket and we struggled with that.”
Harlan County will play top-seeded Bell County for the district title on Thursday at 7 p.m. It is the fourth straight meeting in the district finals for Bell County and HCHS.


Taytum Griffin scored seven of her 11 points in the fourth quarter to help Harlan County hang on for a 47-43 win over Middlesboro in the 52nd District Tournament. (John Henson)