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GREENSBURG— North Hardin’s inability to close out a game helped close out the Lady Trojans’ solid season Wednesday night.
And the girl who was worried she had a broken foot helped break North Hardin’s heart.
Nelson County junior forward Brianna Harman, who had missed the last four games with what she had first feared was fractured right foot, had 11 points and six rebounds off the bench to help the 19th District Tournament champion Lady Cardinals rally past the 17th District runner-up Lady Trojans, 52-46 in the opening quarterfinal of the Girls’ 5th Region Basketball Tournament at Green County.
Harman, who scored a team-high 18 points in the Lady Cardinals’ regular-season loss to the Lady Trojans, hadn’t played or practiced since tearing ligaments on both sides of her foot in a win over Whitley County on Feb. 9.
After the swelling went down over the weekend, she had the foot re-examined. Her new X-rays showed no breaks and she was cleared to play Tuesday.
“Honestly I still didn’t think I would be able to do much,” Harman said. “My defense wasn’t near where it usually is.”
Neither was her team’s defense — or offense, for that matter — early on.
North Hardin opened the game with a 7-0 run and took a 14-2 lead into the second quarter, forcing five turnovers and holding Nelson County to 0-for-9 shooting from the field in the first quarter.
Nelson County was able to trim its lead to 18-13 at the half by holding North Hardin scoreless the final 4:40 of the second quarter — the first of North Hardin’s two droughts of 4 minutes or longer without a field goal.
Nelson County opened the second half with an 11-5 run which was capped by a 3-pointer from Harman from the left wing to give her team it’s first lead at 24-23 with 3:29 left in the third quarter.
“She wouldn’t have stopped if we wouldn’t have limited her,” Nelson County coach Kelly Wood said of Harman. “She’s just an amazing athlete. But I still didn’t know what she would be capable of considering she hadn’t been in the gym for the last three weeks.”
What Harman and her team was capable of was a gritty comeback to end a few seasons of frustrations against the Lady Trojans. North Hardin had owned the series recently, winning three straight and 5-of-6. Two of those meetings were in the postseason — including last year’s 51-46 win in the region quarterfinals at Central Hardin.
“We knew we had nothing to lose,” said Nelson County senior center Cierra Drake, who had 10 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks. “But we didn’t want this to be our last game. And we didn’t want to lose to them again.”
Nelson County showed that refuse-to-lose mentality down the stretch. North Hardin took a 45-41 lead with 4:14 left in the game as freshman guard Tamiah Stanford found senior forward Morgan Barrick in the lane for a basket. Stanford earned All-Tournament Team honors with a game-high 17 points, eight rebounds and a game-high four assists.
The Lady Cardinals rallied again, reeling off an 8-0 run. A pair of free throws from Harman gave Nelson County the lead for good with 1:53 left at 47-45, while North Hardin’s only point in the final 4:13 was a free throw by senior forward Chanel Roberts with 9.8 seconds left. Roberts actually hit the second free throw, but she was whistled for a lane violation.
Roberts, suffering one of her worst shooting nights of her productive season, nearly had a double-double (eight points, nine rebounds) despite shooting 3-of-15 from the field. She missed 12 of her final 13 attempts.
“I’m still a big fan of hers,” Wood said. “And of their whole team, really. They’re pretty good.”
Drake was fouled before the ball was inbounded and hit both free throws to make it a two-possession game with 9.8 seconds left.
North Hardin’s comeback attempt was thwarted by three turnovers in the last minute.
“We turned it over too much and played like a scared basketball team,” said second-year North Hardin coach Chris Corder. “We didn’t look like a team which won 25 games. I’m kind of at a loss for words.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or at email@example.com.
North Hardin 14 411 17—46
Nelson County 2 1120 19—52
Team FG FT R TP
North Hardin 18-53 5-7 34 46
NelsonCounty 16-39 15-22 32 52
Player FG FT R TP
Taft 3-11 0-0 4 8
Stanford 7-14 3-4 8 17
Roberts 3-15 2-3 9 8
Edmunds 0-1 0-0 4 0
Barrick 2-6 0-0 6 4
Jones 3-5 0-0 3 9
Wilson 0-1 0-0 0 0
Player FG FT R TP
Calbert 4-11 3-6 3 12
Lewis 3-6 4-6 4 12
Hagan 2-5 2-4 1 7
Johnston 0-4 0-0 4 0
Drake 3-7 4-4 11 10
Harman 4-6 2-2 6 11
Hall 0-0 0-0 0 0
3-POINTERS: NORTH HARDIN (5-16): Domeneque Taft 2-9, Kiera Jones 3-5, Chanel Robetts 0-1, Tamiah Stanford 0-1. NELSON COUNTY (5-11): A.J. Lewis 2-3, Caitlin Hagan 1-3, Shila Calbert 1-2, Alyssa Johnston 0-2, Brianna Harman 1-1. ASSISTS: NORTH HARDIN (10): Tamiah Stanford 4, Kiera Jones 3, Domeneque Taft 2, Chanel Roberts 1. NELSON COUNTY (9): Caitlin Hagan 3, A.J. Lewis 3, Shila Calbert 2, Alyssa Johnston 1.