HARLAN — With three weeks left in the regular season, the South Laurel Lady Cardinals are really hitting their stride. Their latest win came on Friday night, when they traveled to Harlan County and left with a 63-54 win over the Lady Black Bears.
The Lady Cardinals (11-7) got a boost from two of their veteran players on the night. Brianna Howard and Rachel Presley led the way for South Laurel. Presley led all scorers with 19 points, while Howard added 17.
Coach Chris Souders said Howard and Presley showed up big when the team needed them, in each of the first and second halves.
“It seemed like Bree kept us in the game in the first half, and Rachel was able to get going in the second half after sitting most of the first half with foul trouble,” said Souders. ‘It was a thing of beauty but we did what we had to do.”
Harlan County came out strong to start the game. Howard connected on three three-pointers in the first quarter, but the Lady Black Bears were still too much, as they took a 20-16 lead over South Laurel in the first quarter.
The Lady Cardinals’ defense tightened up in the second quarter. Howard knocked down two more three-point shots and Reagan Jones connected on two 3s, as well, as South Laurel rallied to tie the game at 32-32 at the half.
Presley went to work in the third quarter, taking over the game on the offensive end. The junior scored nine points in the third and helped South Laurel pull ahead to a 48-45 lead entering the fourth quarter. In the game’s final minutes, it was the Lady Cardinals’ defense that made the difference.
Harlan County managed to hit just three field goals in the fourth, and Presley poured in another eight points, as South Laurel finished with the 63-54 win.
Souders said defense and rebounding were the keys to the win down the stretch, noting the play of Emily Cox, who finished the game with eight points and 10 rebounds.
“We played much better in the second half,” said Souders. “Any road win is always a good win.”