LOG MOUNTAIN — For over a half the Bell County Lady Cats gave the Harlan Lady Bears all they could handle in Thursday’s 52nd District championship game. But Harlan County turned up the heat on their pressure defense in the third quarter and used a 17-0 run to take control and went on to a 71-50 win.
“We always try to make adjustments at halftime and coach (Elgie) Green suggested that change,” Harlan County coach Debbie Green said. “Our girls executed it real well and it made a big difference.”
Harlan County (21-6) was led by senior point guard Phebe McHargue with 20 points. K.K. Johnson and Reanna Middleton added 17 and 16 points, respectively.
“I thought Bell played a great game,” Green said. “They did a nice job of taking Bree away in the first half, but our girls adjusted and played hard.”
The Lady Cats were led by junior guard Abby Harris with 20 points. Freshman Ashtyn Meyers hit four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points. Senior forward Brea Browning added seven points.
“I think Abby Harris is one of the best players in the region,” Teague said. “She had a big game for us tonight and showed what she can do.”
Bell County (13-17) is headed back to the 13th Region Tournament for the first time since winning it in 2015 when Miss Basketball Maci Morris led the Lady Cats to the program’s first Sweet Sixteen appearance.
“Harlan and Harlan County have had great teams, obviously, for the past few year so this is big for our girls to get back to the regional,” Bell County coach David Teague said. “We lose a couple of good seniors, but we have some good players coming back and this will be a good experience for them.”
The teams battled to a 12-12 tie after one quarter and the Lady Cats took a 20-19 lead on a Harris basket midway through the second.
Harlan County used an 11-0 run to go back out in front and carried a 34-24 lead into halftime.
Six turnovers by the Lady Cats fueled a prolonged 21-5 run by that saw the Lady Bear lead balloon to 55-29 and Harlan County went on to the 21-point win.
Harlan County was set to play Whitley County in the first round of the region on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Bell County will take on South Laurel Thursday at 6 p.m. in their first round game.