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Lady Bears ride transition game to rout

Two county rivals who have won the last three 13th Region championships between them, the Harlan County Lady Bears and Harlan Lady Dragons had no shortage of star power in recent years with all-staters such as Jordan Brock, Blair Green and Kaylea Gross making the HCHS-Harlan series one of the best in the mountains.

Television cameras and a near-capacity crowd Friday at Harlan gave this year’s first matchup the look of recent seasons, but the game itself was decided early as Harlan County capitalized on Harlan’s youth to force 21 turnovers in the first half on the way to a 71-29 victory.

The Lady Bears built a 29-9 lead by the five-minute mark of the second quarter by hitting nothing but 11 layups and seven free throws, continually turning turnovers into transition points.

“Transition was big for us,” Harlan County coach Debbie Green said. “We don’t mind not running an offense if we can play like that. We do a good job of getting up and down the court. Bree (Turner) did a great job of rebounding and getting the ball out. We also did a great job of sharing the basketball.”

“It’s not too hard to make open layups, and they shot a lot,” Harlan coach Tiffany Hamm said. “I thought our defense was pretty good in the halfcourt, but they took advantage of our weaknesses. You have to give them credit.”

While Harlan County was shooting layups, the Lady Dragons struggled to score, shooting 27 percent (nine of 37) from the field. Harlan struggled taking care of the ball all night with 35 turnovers.

Senior guards K.K. Johnson and Phebe McHargue led the 4-0 Lady Bears on offense with 23 and 19 points, respectively. Senior center Breann Turner had another solid all-around game with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Harlan (0-6 overall, 0-3 district) was led by junior forward Natalee King with 14 points and 13 rebounds

McHargue had three layups in the first quarter, while Johnson, Middleton and Turner added one each to outscore Harlan 16-5. King converted a three-point play to give Harlan a 3-0 lead before the Lady Dragons went over five minutes without another point In missing 14 of 16 shots in the period.

Three more baskets by McHargue and two by Turner pushed the Lady Bears’ advantage to 37-15 by halftime. Harlan hurt its chances of keeping it close by missing six straight free throws late in the quarter.

Johnson came out hot to start the second half, hitting four of five shots, including two 3-pointers. Johnson and McHargue closed the quarter with three-point plays to start a running clock as the lead grew to 61-22. HCHS hit nine of 15 shots in the quarter.

Harlan County will travel to Middlesboro on Monday for a girls/boys district doubleheader. Harlan will play host to Leslie County at 6 p.m. on Saturday in the Doc Gray Classic.

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Harlan County 71, Harlan 29

HARLAN COUNTY (4-0)

Phebe McHargue 8-14 2-3 18, K.K. Johnson 9-14 3-7 23, Reanna Middleton 3-7 4-4 10, Morgan Blakley 2-5 0-0 4, Breann Turner 4-10 2-4 10, Hannah Wood 0-1 2-2 2, Kassy Owens 0-1 0-0 0, Jacey Lewis 0-1 2-2 2, Kelly Beth Hoskins 0-1 0-2 0, Jaylin Smith 1-3 0-0 2, Jaylin Preston 0-1 0-0 0, Haley Middleton 0-1 0-0 0, Taylor Lunsford 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 27-60 15-27 71.

HARLAN (0-6)

Payeton Charles 1-5 0-2 2, Ella Karst 0-5 0-0 0, Savanna Smith 1-4 0-2 3, Natalee King 4-14 6-8 14, Alli Thompson 0-1 3-4 3, Peighton Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Madison Cole 1-2 0-0 3, Angel Wynn 0-0 0-2 0, Emma Owens 1-1 0-0 2, Reagan Jones 1-5 0-0 2, Makayla Sizemore 0-0 0-0 0, Megan Pacholewski 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 9-37 9-18 29.

Harlan County 16 21 24 10 — 71

Harlan 5 10 7 7 — 29

3-point goals: Harlan County 2-6, Harlan 2-12. Rebounds Harlan County 34 (Turner 13, Wood 4, Owens 3, Smith 3, McHargue 2, Johnson 2, Blakley 2, Hoskins 2, Middleton 2, Preston 1), Harlan 32 (King 13, Charles 3, Karst 3, Thompson 3, Smith 2, R. Jones 2, Cole 2, Wynn 2, Sizemore 1, Pacholewski 1). Turnovers: Harlan County 12, Harlan 35. Fouled out: None.