Lady Dragons coast past Clay to halt three-game losing streak

Published 3:47 pm Monday, January 29, 2024

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By John Henson

Contributing Sports Writer

An 11-0 run to end the first quarter and an 11-0 run to start the second were more than enough to help the Harlan Lady Dragons end a three-game skid as they coasted to a 75-42 victory Saturday afternoon over visiting Clay County.

After seven early lead changes, Harlan took control late in the first quarter and then pulled away in the second by forcing 11 Clay turnovers. 

“Our defense looked pretty good today,” Harlan coach Mackenzie King Varner said. “We’re really focusing on getting back to the fundamentals of defense, and when we do we play really good ball. We’re working on it being a priority.”

Harlan ended its toughest week of the season with the win after opening with a hard-fought overtime loss Monday at Harlan County. The Lady Dragons fell to Pikeville on Thursday in the state All “A” Classic and then lost at home against Knox Central.

“It was a big week for us, and we had a lot of really big games,” Varner said. “We needed to play some really good teams, and I think it exposed some of our weaknesses and we’re ready to fix them.”

Junior forward Kylie Noe owned the paint against Clay as she hit 10 of 15 shots in a 22-point effort. Peyshaunce Wynn added three 3-pointers to score 13 points. Emma Owens and Aymanni Wynn added 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Senior guard Sidney Jones scored 21 points and freshman guard Madison Penland added 13 for the 6-15 Lady Tigers, who appear to be headed toward the worst season in school history.

Jones had three early baskets for the Lady Tigers as the lead alternated until Noe sparked a Harlan run by hitting four straight shots to put Harlan up 23-11 after one quarter. Aymanni Wynn and Addison Campbell had two baskets each in the second quarter as the Lady Dragons stretched their advantage to 41-20 at halftime.

Not hit four of five shots in the third quarter as the Lady Dragons built their lead to 60-29 while Clay was missing four of 12 shots.

Reagan Goodman provided a spark off the bench in the fourth period as she pulled down six rebounds and hit three of three shots. Harlan started a running clock on a three-point play by Aymanni Wynn with 6:39 to play. Jones and Penland each had two baskets in the period for Clay.

Harlan returns to action Tuesday at North Laurel. Clay County will travel to Jackson County on Tuesday.

Lady Dragons fall in All ‘A’ opener

After a seven-year wait between appearances in the state All “A” Classic, the Harlan Lady Dragons were happy to get back, even if it was against the top-ranked team in this year’s field.

Pikeville, the state’s fourth-ranked team and undefeated against Kentucky competition, scored 13 unanswered points after an early 3-3 tie and coasted past the Lady Dragons 61-41 in the nightcap of eight first-round games Wednesday at The Corbin Arena.

Senior guard Trinity Rowe headed to Southern Miss, led the 14-2 Lady Panthers with 21 points. Kristen Whitehead and Leighan Jackson scored 11 each. Kyera Thornsbury added 10.

The 11-7 Lady Dragons were led by 14 points from Aymanni Wynn, 12 from Emma Owens and 10 from Kylie Noe.

“They’ve never been in this gym and never played in this type situation,” said first-year Harlan coach Mackenzie King Varner, who was a junior forward on the Lady Dragons’ All ‘A’ state runner-up team in 2017 in their last trip to state competition. “I’m proud of the way they played. We haven’t played a team as rough and tough as they were. It was a good matchup for us, and we just had a hard time scoring. I think they fought, and we have a lot of things we can learn and work on.”

Pikeville may have won the game on the glass with a 30-18 rebounding advantage that helped lead to 59 shots compared to 38 for Harlan.