By John Henson For the Times-Tribune
HARLAN – It may have been the longest nine months of Larry Anderson's quarter century coaching career, waiting to see his Lady Colonels get back on the court after a crushing upset loss to North Laurel in the opening round of last year's 13th Region Tournament. Whitley County, ranked among the region's top teams once again, started the 2012-2013 season in impressive fashion on the road Monday, rolling past Harlan 62-38 in the season opener for both teams.
"You get to a point you just want to play, especially after five or six weeks," Anderson said. "We have a veteran team now. The things we are putting in we've done before. Getting the season started was good for this team. They needed to play."
Whitley took advantage of Harlan's youthful lineup, which featured two eighth graders and two sophomores, by forcing 25 turnovers, leading to numerous points in transition.
"To jump from middle school to varsity and play two of the top teams in the region (including Corbin in a scrimmage) you have to adjust to the speed of the game and the physicality of the game," said Harlan coach Derrick Akal. "That's something that will happen over the course of the season, and they'll be a lot better. Getting back on defense is part of the adjustment from middle school."
"I was pleased with our defense and rebounding," Anderson said. "We still aren't getting the ball in quick enough and looking down the floor quickly enough. We're not running our break as quickly as we can."
Harlan (0-1) stayed close early as sophomore Torri Mitchell and eighth grader Jordan Brock each hit 3-pointers and eighth grade center Emme Bianchi had a couple of blocks to help the Lady Dragons build an 8-5 lead.
Sophomore Taylor Dingess, a starter with junior center Kandace Craig sidelined by an injury, sparked a 15-3 run to close the quarter. Dingess, who finished with a team-high 20 points, hit two 3-pointers and a basket and Hallie Jones added a trey as the Lady Colonels took a 20-8 lead by the end of the opening period.
"I said in the preseason that we could start any five of our top seven and not worry about it. (Dingess) played well tonight. It could two or three different people Friday," said Anderson, who added that Craig could return as early as next week.
Mitchell and Bianchi had baskets in the early part of the second quarter to help Harlan cut the deficit to seven. Sabrina and Savanna Sizemore each found the range from the 3-point line to spark a 12-2 run to close the half as Whitley built a 34-17 advantage. Whitley hit eight of 16 from beyond the 3-point line.
Junior guard Brandi Smith, the region's third-rated player, hit all three of her shots in the third quarter as Whitley extended its lead to 48-27 going into the final period.
"Brandi can score on the move or from the 3-point line. She's gotten taller and stronger, too," Anderson said. "She is one of the top players in the 13th Region, and we have some other good kids to go with her."
Harlan had 10 turnovers in the third quarter as Whitley's pressure led to numerous Harlan mistakes.
"I think that's our inexperience. As soon as we saw them press we got in a tense mode," Akal said. "Once we started to turn and look to the middle we were able to beat the press.
Mitchell scored 10 to lead the Lady Dragons. Bianchi finished with nine points, nine rebounds and had at least five blocked shots. Jourdan Ledford, the elder statesman of the squad as a junior, added nine points and six rebounds.
Anderson said he was impressed by how prepared the Lady Dragons were, especially with only one starter back from last season.
"I thought it was one of the better coached teams we've seen," Anderson said. "They do a great job on defense and a great job on ball screens. A lot of things we tried to do offensively they took away from us because they are well coached defensively."
Harlan returns to action Saturday at North Laurel. Whitley County plays host to McCreary Central on Friday.
Whitley County pulled away in the second half for a 33-10 win in the junior varsity game.
Freshman guard Lauren Elliott led the 1-0 Lady Colonels with 11 points. Emily Vanderpool scored eight, followed by Sierra Feltner with four, Haley Mahan with three, Johnna Dopel, Heather Partin and Savanna Sizemore with two each and Madison Centers with one.
Harlan (0-1) was led by freshman guard Shanae Thomas with three points. Katie King, Callie WIlson and Amber Fee scored two each. Madelynn Henson added one.
Whitley County 20 14 14 14 — 62
Harlan 8 9 10 11 — 38
Whitley County (62) - Bethany Powers 7, Brandi Smith 18, Taylor Dingess 20, Maria Johnson 6, Sabrina Sizemore 3, Halie Jones 5, Savanna Sizemore 3, Emily Vanderpool 0, Hanna Logan 0, Heather Partin 0, Haley Mahan 0.
Harlan (38) - Jordan Brock 6, Jourdan Ledford 9, Tori Mitchell 10, Masie Charles 2, Emma Bianchi 9, Shanae Thomas 2, Katie King 0, Madelynn Henson 0, Callie Wilson 0, Amber Fee 0.
Whitley County (33) ˆ Johnna Dopel 2, Haley Mahan 3, Heather Partin 2, Savanna Sizemore 2, Emily Vanderpool 8, Lauren Elliot 11, Sierra Feltner 4, Madison Centers 1.
Harlan (10) ˆ Katie King 2, Shanae Thomas 3, Callie Wilson 2, Amber Fee 2, Madelynn Henson 1..
By John Henson For the Times-Tribune
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