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GIRLS' 5TH REGION BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT: Nelson County concerned by North Hardin, Roberts (02/27)

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By Nathaniel Bryan

The North Hardin Lady Trojans have gone from dealing with one future NCAA Division-I post player in the 17th District final Saturday night to having to match up with another D-I player at 6 tonight as they take on senior center Cierra Drake and the Nelson County Lady Cardinals in the Girls’ 5th Region Basketball Tournament quarterfinals at Green County.

“Nelson’s really good and we were fortunate to beat them at our place earlier in the year,” North Hardin coach Chris Corder said Sunday morning after the tournament’s draw meeting. “They’re big, they’ve got good shooters and they’ve got a young point guard who’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. It will be a good matchup, I like having the early game and I like where we’re at.”

The Lady Trojans (24-7) knocked off Nelson County, 69-58 on Jan. 14 in Radcliff behind 24 points and nine rebounds from senior forward Chanel Roberts.

“Chanel. That’s an easy question,” veteran Nelson County coach Kelly Wood said when asked what he remembered most about the teams’ first meeting. “We have to limit her touches and do a good job on the others.”

In Elizabethtown’s 52-46 win over North Hardin in the district final, the Lady Panthers didn’t limit Roberts’ touches, letting the reigning News-Enterprise Area Player of the Year go off for a game-high 27 points. But Elizabethtown, which got a huge second-half effort from sophomore center Reauna Cleaver, did a good job on the others, holding the remaining Lady Trojans to a combined 19 points.

Drake, whose sister Samantha plays basketball for the University of Kentucky and whose brother T.C. played football for Kentucky, continued her family’s D-I legacy by announcing her commitment to Eastern Kentucky University this week. Drake leads the Lady Cardinals (26-5) in points per game (14) and field-goal percentage (52.6) and is second in rebounds per game (6.1).

However, the Lady Cardinals will be without junior forward Brianna Harman. A three-sport athlete who also plays volleyball and finished in the top 20 in the girls’ 100-meter dash in the Class 3-A state track and field meet, Harman suffered a broken foot in her team’s 45-21 win over Whitley County on Feb. 9 in John Hardin’s Duke’s Sporting Goods Valentine’s Shootout at East Hardin Middle School.

In the teams’ first meeting this season, Harman grabbed eight rebounds and scored a team-high 18 points.

At the time of her injury, Harman averaged 7.9 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game.

“That puts us in a little bit of a bind. That hurts our depth and hurts some things we want to do,” Wood said. “She’s probably our best defender, so that makes it a little bit more difficult on us. But we’re just going to have to find a way.”

Without Harman, the Lady Cardinals have less bodies defensively to throw at North Hardin – and especially Roberts. Roberts entered the postseason averaging 19.1 points and 12.2 rebounds per game while shooting 52.8 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from the 3-point line and 67.1 percent from the foul line.

So what kind of defense does Wood plan to contain Roberts?

“I don’t think you can (contain her),” Wood said. “She’s going to get her points. But we can’t make them easy and we don’t want them to be easy. You can try to limit her from getting second-chance points and things like that, but there’s no way you can stop her.”

Other than Roberts, Nelson County has to watch out for freshman guard Tamiah Stanford (9.8 points per game), junior guard Domeneque Taft (8.3), junior guard Kiera Jones (5.7), junior forward Morgan Barrick (4.9) and senior forward Brianna Edmunds (3.6), who all have scored double-digits at various times throughout the season.

“Their speed, their ability to get to the rim and their ability to rebound, plus Chris is a very good coach who does a good job with them, so there are a lot of things that concern me,” Wood said. “But when you get to this point, everyone is a concern.”

Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com.