By John Henson For the Times-Tribune
If the Harlan County Lady Bears are to make another run at the 13th Region title, junior guards Lauren Lee and Kaitlyn Stittums will be counted on to graduate from their jobs a year ago as role players.
The athletic backcourt duo took on a leadership role Tuesday as the Lady Bears, runner up to Clay County last year, opened the season with a 65-34 rout of visiting Williamsburg.
After being held without a basket in the first quarter as Harlan County held on to a slim four-point lead, Lee and Stittums came alive in the second period with four baskets each. Each turned turnovers into points as Harlan County forced seven with its press, leading to a 12-for-21 shooting performance. The Lady Bears closed the quarter with a 21-2 run to build a commanding 40-15 lead at the break.
"I think the big thing was they got a little tired," Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan said. “We were aggressive the first quarter but didn’t get much out of it. We weren’t converting. The second quarter we started finishing the plays off. Once we settled down, our defense created a lot of shots.”
“We weren’t smart and didn't handle the basketball. They played great press defense in the second quarter for sure,” Williamsburg coach Andrea Ellis said.
Harlan County's backcourt trio carried the offense as freshman Brooklyn Massingill scored 19, followed by Stittums with 11 and Lee with nine.
Massingill supplied most of the offense in the first quarter with three baskets to help HCHS take a 14-10 lead. Tarrah Davis and Carissa Conlin each had three-pointers for Williamsburg.
A basket by Kacie Brown pulled the Lady Jackets within six with 6:06 left before a flurry of steals by Harlan County quickly turned the game into a rout.
“We didn’t set up in our offense or run the things I was asking them to run,” Ellis said. “I don't know. We weren’t ourselves tonight. That was not the team I’ve been coaching for the last two or three months. It stinks to drive this far and get beat like this. All we can do is learn from it.”