By John Middleton
For the Times-Tribune
HARLAN COUNTY — The Harlan County Lady Bears have been among the most consistent programs in the 13th Region Tournament since the school opened five years ago. The Lady Bears continued their postseason success with a 54-31 rout of 51st District Champion Barbourville in first round action on Thursday.
Harlan County quickly took control with a suffocating defensive effort in the first quarter. The Lady Bears limited Barbourville to just one made basket and three points in the opening period as they jumped out to a 12-point advantage. Kaitlyn Stittums had four straight points to cap an 11-0 Harlan County run to open the contest. Barbourville junior Tyra Bunch banked in a shot to make it a 10-point game late in the period, but sophomore Bella Noe scored on an offensive rebound to put Harlan County up 15-3.
Barbourville kept pace from the free throw line in the second quarter. The Lady Tigers were again limited to just one made shot in the period, but went 10-of-14 from the charity strip to stay within 12 at the half. Noe and senior Sarah Evans each had a pair of baskets in the second to allow Harlan County to maintain the lead.
“Harlan County was up, ready and it showed. It was 11-0 before we could even blink an eye. It doesn’t help that we only hit five shots total the whole game. But, you are going to shoot bad – you gotta play defense and they didn’t,” said Barbourville coach Andrea Hillard.
Harlan County held the Lady Tigers without a point for the first 5:46 to open the second half and extend the lead to 18 points. Senior Madison Cornett opened the third quarter with a pair of strong baskets in the paint. Stittums followed with a jumper and Brooklyn Massingill added a layup on an assist from Lauren Lee to make it 35-15. The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the period. Evans closed the period on a basket underneath with 10 seconds left to make it 41-23.
The Lady Bears continued to add to the lead in the fourth quarter. Harlan County held Barbourville to one made field-goal in the final period.
Barbourville closes the season at 21-11. The Lady Tigers don’t have a senior on their roster and should be a favorite to capture the 51st District title again next year.
“We set some high goals this year. As juniors, I thought we were capable. I still think we didn’t show what we could do, but next year I have some very high expectations,” said Hillard. “I have some kids that are very experienced, and I will rely on them to hopefully have an even better season next year.”
13th Region Girls Tournament at Harlan County High School
Harlan County 54, Barbourville 31
Harlan County 15 12 14 13 54
Barbourville 3 12 8 8 31
Harlan County (54) – Stittums 10, Massingill 14, Noe 6, Cornett 10, Evans 12, Mimes 2.
Barbourville (31) – Liford 6, Mills 2, Erslan 4, Bunch 2, Erslan 13, Hicks 4.