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HCHS overcomes slow start for win over Middlesboro

MIDDLESBORO — Playing its second game without all-state guard Blair Green, the Harlan County Lady Bears struggled for a quarter and a half Tuesday at Middlesboro before turning up its effort on the defensive end on the way to a 68-44 victory.

“I was afraid we’d come out flat, and I don’t think we came out with a lot of effort in the first quarter,” Harlan County coach Debbie Green said. “Our defense didn’t turn our offense and we weren’t talking. Middlesboro had a good run, and anyone will do that to you if you don’t come out ready to play. We picked it up the second half and got some things off our press.”

Eighth-grade center Lakin Burke gave the Lady Bears fits in the first half as she scored 18 of her game-high 24 points, converting three three-point plays in the first quarter.

“I didn’t think we were moving early. We were flat-footed,” Green said.

Junior guard Shelby McDaniel, making her second start with Green sidelined, led the 19-2 Lady Bears with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Junior point guard Phebe McHargue added 15 points. Senior forward Lainey Cox contributed 12 points and dominated the boards with 18.

“We started hitting some shots and our defense turned our offense,” Green said. “Lainey is just killing it on the boards for us and we got some great contributions off the bench.”

K.K. Johnson and McDaniel each hit 3-pointers and Phebe McHargue and Turner added baskets as Harlan County took an early 10-4 lead, but defensive problems kept the Lady Bears from pulling away.

Middlesboro hit eight of 12 shots in the first quarter, led by Burke with a perfect six-of-six, to take a 20-18 lead after one quarter.

A Baylee Woody 3-pointer gave Middlesboro a four-point advantage midway through the second period before HCHS closed with a 9-0 run, sparked by McDaniel and Cox, to take a 35-29 lead into halftime.

McHargue and McDaniel each had two baskets, including one trey each, in a 12-6 run to open the second half as Harlan County build a double-digit lead. Two straight baskets by McHargue off turners and a jumper by sophomore Morgan Blakley pushed the lead to 54-39 going into the fourth quarter.

Middlesboro missed all seven of its shots from the field in the final period as Harlan County coasted for the win with reserves playing the majority of the minutes. Cox had three baskets in the quarter and Blakley added two.

Harlan County can lock up the top seed in the 52nd District Tournament and complete an unbeaten district slate with a win Friday at Harlan in the first game of a girls/boys doubleheader. The Lady Dragons have a chance to tie for the top seed with a win. Middlesboro will be at home against Bell Count on Friday in a district doubleheader.

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Harlan County 68, Middlesboro 44

HARLAN COUNTY (19-2)

Phebe McHargue 7-13 0-0 15, K.K. Johnson 2-6 2-4 7, Shelby McDaniel 6-13 0-0 16, Lainey Cox 6-11 0-0 12, Breann Turner 2-6 0-0 6, Morgan Napier 1-4 0-0 2, Reanna Middleton 2-3 0-0 4, Morgan Blakley 3-5 0-1 6, Hannah Wood 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 30-61 2-5 68.

MIDDLESBORO (8-11)

Jamayha Poe 2-5 1-2 5, Baylee Woody 3-12 2-2 10, Hannah Warren 0-2 0-0 0, Grace Moles 1-3 0-0 2, Lakin Burke 9-15 6-10 24, Grace Gent 0-0 2-2 2, Kailey Owens 0-2 0-0 0, Tenley Jackson 0-1 1-2 1, Jadine Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Grace Temple 0-0 0-0 0, Mallory Jones 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-40 12-18 44.

Harlan County 18 17 19 14 — 68

Middlesboro 20 9 10 5 — 44

3-point goals: Harlan County 6-17 (McDaniel 4-6, Johnson 1-3, McHargue 1-6, Middleton 0-1, Blakley 0-1), Middlesboro 2-6 (Woody 2-4, Burke 0-1, Jackson 0-1). Rebounds: Harlan County 36 (Cox 18, Napier 5, Turner 4, Johnson 3, Blakley 3, McHargue 1, McDaniel 1, Middleton 1), Middlesboro 21 (Burke 9, Poe 3, Warren 2, Woody 1, Owens 1, Gent 1, Jackson 1, Brown 1, Temple 1). Turnovers: Harlan County 12, Middlesboro 20. Fouled out: None.