LOG MOUNTAIN —The Harlan Lady Dragons came out shooting the lights out at Bell County, but the Lady Cats rallied in the second half to pull out a 63-54 win in the 52nd District opener for both teams.
Junior forward Jourdan Ledford, who finished with 25 points, and 8th grader Jordan Brock hit three 3-pointers each in the first quarter as Harlan built a 21-17 lead. Four free throws from Ledford early in the second pushed the Lady Dragon lead to 25-17.
“We made some shots early and that gave the girls some confidence and anything can happen once you make shots. We’ve been playing hard all season, I was proud of them,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said.
Bell County got a three-point play from Maci Morris and then a 3-pointer from Jess Sanders to close the gap to 27-25 and a Morris jumper tied the game 27.
Ledford and Garnett traded 3s to tie the game again. Later in the half Torri Mitchell hit a free throw and later a basket while Garnett hit a jumper and later a free throw and it was 33-33 at halftime.
“Harlan shot the ball really well, you have to give them credit. We wanted to put pressure on their guards and try to force them into some things, but they did a heck of a job stepping up and knocking some shots down,” Bell coach David Teague said.
The Lady Dragons never went away in the third quarter. A put-back from Mitchell gave them a 39-38 lead and it was 41-all after Garnett and Ledford traded baskets with just over 3:00 left in the period.
“Jourdan is an excellent shooter. She’s been getting some shots up and she’s been our leader,” Akal said. “This was just one of those nights for her.”
Bell senior Paige Robbins scored a pair of baskets in the final 30 seconds of the quarter and the Lady Cats carried a 47-43 lead into the fourth.
It was 49-47 after a Mitchell putback with 5:11 to play, but the Lady Cats got a 3 from Kelli Smith, then later a 3 from Sanders followed by a steal and layup on the inbounds play by Katrina Johnson. That 8-0 run pushed the lead to ten and the Lady Cats went on to win it by nine points.
“We didn’t play real well throughout the game at all. Offensively, we didn’t move the ball well and I didn’t feel like we shared the ball well,” Teague said. “But Kelli makes a big shot there in the fourth quarter and Jess makes one, those were big to help us get a little bit of a cushion. That’s the way we had been shooting it when we were moving the ball well in previous games.”
Sophomore Maci Morris led the Lady Cats with 25 points in the win, Garnett added 13, Robbins 10 and Sanders eight.
Joining Ledford in double-figures for Harlan was Mitchell with 12 and Brock with 11.
“We’ve got such a young team. I start two 8th graders and two sophomores. We just wanted to be patient on offense, really play hard on defense and hopefully make some shots,” Akal added. “The girls knew we were up against it, Bell’s a really good team. They’ve got three excellent players and some really good role players on the floor.”
Teague said the close match-up should help his team down the road.
“Hopefully something like this is an eye-opener for us,” he said. ” It’s always good to get a win in the district. We’re going to continue to work and try to get better.”
Harlan (1-3, 0-1) hosts J. Frank White, Tenn. today at 3 p.m.
Bell County (5-0, 1-0) hosts North Laurel Monday.
— — —
Harlan….21…17…10…11 — 54
Bell Co….17…16…14…16 — 63
HARLAN (54): Jouran Ledford 22, Torri Mitchell 12, Jordan Brock 11, Emma Bianchi 6, Shanae Thomas 3, Masie Charles 0, Katie King 0.
BELL COUNTY (63): Maci Morris 25, Morgan Garnett 13, Paige Robbins 10, Jess Sanders 8, Kelli Smith 3, Katrina Johnson 2, Sarah Collins 0, Jamie Boatright 0.