December 20, 2013

North finds its game in Harlan

By Mitch Howard
Sports Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — HARLAN—Sometimes what you dread doesn’t turn out as bad as you thought. For example, a long road trip to Harlan. It didn’t seem like an appealing idea after the Lady Jaguars lost to Whitley County 74-42 on Monday. Instead they turned in one of their better efforts before falling to the Lady Dragons 59-54.

“Defensively we had a pretty good effort. The night before we talked about not having any effort whatsoever on the defensive end,” North Laurel coach Eddie Mahan said.

Harlan missed its first six shots as North Laurel opened a quick 8-0 lead, behind a pair of three-pointers from Hannah Gray. After Emma Bianchi scored at the 5:22 mark for the Lady Dragons, a three-pointer by Madison Shepherd gave North Laurel a nine-point cushion. It wasn’t just the three-pointers that got North Laurel off to a fast start.

“It was the best start we have had and Hannah Lawson was a big part of that. She started attacking the basket like she was at the end of last year,” Mahan said.

The Lady Dragons closed the quarter with a 7-3 run to cut their deficit to 18-13.

“The second quarter we did let up and get into some foul trouble. We were shuffling people in and out. It allowed them to get on a roll,” Mahan said.

Jourdan Ledford and Jordan Brock each nailed three-pointers, and Torri Mitchell scored on a putback at the 2:24 mark in the second quarter to even the score at 23-23. Another three-pointer by Shepherd gave North Laurel the lead, but Harlan answered with a trey by Mitchell, who then stole the ball and connected with McKenzie King for a layup to put the Lady Dragons on top 31-28 at the half.

“Halftime has not been very kind to us. Our girls never let up this time,” Mahan said.

That doesn’t mean the third quarter started well. Harlan opened with a 7-1 run and extended its lead by 46-38 heading into the final period. Defense would lead a North Laurel comeback.

“Our man and our zone both worked pretty effectively. So we were able to switch up defenses and it kind of bothered them just a little bit. They weren’t hitting from the perimeter, which was a huge thing for us,” Mahan said.

Harlan committed just nine turnovers in the first three quarters, but would open the fourth quarter with four quick miscues. Harlan still led 49-40 with 6:49 remaining before an 8-1 run by the Lady Jaguars that included another three-pointer by Shepherd and a pair of baskets by Lawson to pull within two.

The Lady Dragons pushed the lead back to six, but North Laurel wouldn’t go away. Twice the Lady Jaguars were within a basket, the last with 47 seconds remaining. Harlan sealed the win with free throws.

“We had a lot of adversity we had to fight through,” Mahan said.

Lawson and Shepherd both fouled out. The Lady Jaguars were already without Ashton Bridges, who missed the game due to illness.

The Lady Jaguars are off until after Christmas when they will face Livingston Central in the First Southern National Bank Classic being played at Logan County and Russellville. Other teams in the tournament include Hopkins County Central, Russellville, Spencer County, Trigg County, Logan County, and Middlesboro.

“It’s a tournament I think we could be competitive in. I think it is one that will help us grow,” Mahan said.