The Letcher County Central High School Lady Cougars are the pre-season pick as the secondbest team in the 14th Region behind three-time defending regional champion Breathitt County, and LCCHS justified that high pre-season ranking with an impressive 63-52 win at Harlan County Monday evening.
“This was ugly,” said LCCHS coach Dickie Adams, “but we won and that’s all a coach can ask for. This was a big win over a quality opponent in the opening game.”
The Lady Cougars led wire to wire, 18-14 at the end of the first quarter and 34-27 at the half. After Harlan County rallied to within 42-40 midway of the third quarter, senior Brittany Sexton took over.
“Brittany went to work,” said coach Adams. “She scored seven straight points for us on a trey and then two offensive stick-backs and kept us in the lead.” Sexton finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds.
LCCHS, which made 27 turnovers for the game, then protected the ball better down the stretch and knocked down 11- of-12 free throws to hold off the Lady Black Bears.
“Their half-court defense caused our guards all kinds of problems,” said coach Adams. “They made our guards turn the ball over (17 times). We made too many turnovers but all our (errors) are fixable. Our execution was good, our effort was real good. We missed a lot of easy shots (21-for- 57) but we were very competitive and it really was a good game for us.”
Harlan County, ranked second in the 13th Region pre-season behind Clay County, returned all five starters from last year’s 21-10 squad. Two of last year’s losses came at the hands of LCCHS.
The Lady Bears are big inside with 5-11 Heather Maggard and 6- 0 Samantha Sexton. Both girls are seniors, averaged double/doubles last year and were named to this year’s pre-season All 13th Region Top 10.
While Maggard was ill and did not play, Sexton led the Lady Black Bears with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Guard Johnnie Parker finished with 11 points.
“This was a very physical game,” said Adams. “They are a very big team and they were very aggressive and they beat us up some, but we responded and we actually out-rebounded them 42- 32. Julie Cornett came in off the bench and really gave us a lift.”
In just 13 minutes, the 5-10 freshman forward claimed 9 rebounds and scored six points.
Senior forward Shannon Bays added a double/double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Sophomore guard Haley Whitaker chipped in with nine points, and Erica Meade wound up with five points.
Following their win at Harlan County, the Lady Cougars continue on the road with a trip to Owsley County this Friday night, and then on to Frankfort to take on highly-ranked Franklin County on Saturday morning. The Lady Flyers may be ranked second in the pre-season in the 11th Region but they are ranked 22nd in the preseason Herald-Leader state preseason rankings.
This Franklin County squad, 24-7 last year, is loaded with talent and placed three girls on the 11th Region Pre-season Top Team: 5-10 senior guard Andrea Howard, 5-10 senior forward Chelsea Craig, and 5-10 sopho- more guard Ashli Mayes.
The Lady Cougars’ homeopener will be on Dec. 11 against Belfry. LCCHS will host Betsy Layne on Dec. 15.
This year’s four team/three night round robin LCC Christmas Classic opens on Dec. 21. Joining the Lady Cougars will be June Buchanan, Shelby Valley and Powell County.
Beginning the Saturday after Christmas, the Lady Cougars will be playing in a three-day holiday invitational in Paris.
The Lady Cougars will host both the 53rd District and 14th Region tournaments this season beginning the last Monday in February.