Lady Bears fall in 13th Region opener

Published 11:30 am Tuesday, February 28, 2023

By Paul Lunsford

Contributing Writer

Brooke Nicholson and Emily Sizemore combined for 39 points on Monday as North Laurel (27-6) downed Harlan County 62-38 in the first round of the 13th Region Tournament held at The Arena in Corbin.

The Lady Jaguars used a 17-10 scoring run in the first quarter and never looked back.

North Laurel outscored the Lady Bears (22-10) in the first three quarters.

Nicholson, a sophomore guard, poured in 23 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and had five steals. Senior guard Emily Sizemore scored 16 points. Gracie McKnight, a junior center, finished with 14 points for the 27-6 Lady Jaguars.

“I know many will talk about the scoring by Brooke Nichelson and she can score in multiple ways, but it is her rebounding and defense that makes the biggest impact on our games,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said.

Junior guard Ella Karst paced Harlan County with 18 points. Senior guard Taytum Griffin followed with eight and Faith Hoskins added six points and five rebounds. Jaylin Smith scored four, while Paige Phillips tossed in two points.

The Lady Bears will graduate four players, including Hailey Austin, Taylor Lunsford, Smith and Griffin.

North Laurel shot 49 percent from the field on 25 of 51. Harlan County hit 16 of 44 for 36 percent.

The Lady Bears committed 14 turnovers while North had just six.

The Lady Jaguars held a 24-22 edge on the boards.

North Laurel extended its lead to 28-14 at halftime, leading 53-27 entering the final quarter.

The Lady Bears outscored North Laurel 11-9 in the fourth period.

Harlan County is now 17-11 all-time in the 13th Region Tournament.

The all-time series record with the Lady Jaguars is tied at 8-8. North Laurel has won six straight against HC.

HCHS beaten by Bell

The Lady Bobcats of Bell County trailed by eight heading into the fourth quarter in Thursday’s 52nd District Tournament finals at Middlesboro.

But Bell County (23-9) used an 11-0 scoring outburst and outscored Harlan County, 18-6 in the final period, to claim its fourth straight championship with a 48-44 victory.

‘The game was a battle,” said Bell County coach David Teague. “I thought both teams played very hard. I was proud of the effort our kids gave and proud of kids for stepping up and making plays when we needed it.”

It was the seventh district championship for Bell County under Teague.

The game opened up like it was going to be a high-scoring contest.

After eight minutes of play, the two teams battled to a 17-17 tie.

Wilder scored seven and Ausmus nailed two 3-pointers in the opening quarter for Bell County.

Karst tossed in seven points and Smith added four in the period.

Harlan County outscored the Lady Cats 10-7 in the second quarter. Karst had seven in the period. HC led 27-24 at halftime.

Jones nailed 3-pointers for the Lady Bears in the third quarter as HC used an 11-6 spurt.

Harlan County held a 38-30 advantage at the end of the third period.

The final quarter featured McGeorge hitting two treys and scoring eight points, Wilder scoring six points, and Ausmus nailing a 3-pointer to seal the win.

“Harlan County did a good job throughout the game defensively with taking away our shooters,” said Teague. “I was proud of the way our players stayed the course and just stayed with the game plan.”

Junior forward Gracie Joe Wilder powered Bell County with 18 points. Mataya Ausmus followed with 14 points while Lauren McGeorge scored 10. Mikayla Gambrel, Kaylee Greer-Gann and Kairi Lamb each added two.

Junior point-guard Ella Karst led the Lady Bears with 18 points. Senior guard Jaylin Smith tossed in 10 points and six rebounds. Kylie Jones finished with six points. Taytum Griffin tallied four. Paige Phillips contributed three. Hailey Austin had two points and Taylor Lunsford chipped in one point and ten rebounds.

“The game plan was effective and we held a high-scoring team under 50,” said Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan. “We just simply passed up shots and missed some free throws to close the game. Incredible effort all night and very proud of the execution.”

Both teams shot 40 percent from the floor on the night. HCHS hit 18 of 45, while Bell was 17 of 43.

The Lady Bears outrebounded Bell High 32-25. Lamb led the Lady Cats with nine boards. Greer-Gann pulled down five.

The teams combined for 39 turnovers. The Lady Cats committed 21. HC had 18.