Harlan, Bell advance to district finals

Published 10:30 pm Monday, October 21, 2019

One streak continued and one ended in the opening round of the 52nd District Tournament on Monday at Harlan County High School.

The Harlan Lady Dragons will be making their fifth straight appearance in the district finals after winning their semifinal matchup against Middlesboro. The Harlan County Lady Bears will miss playing in the district finals for the first time since 2009 and only the second time in school history after falling to Bell County.

Harlan rolled into the finals with a 25-11, 25-13, 25-9 sweep of Middlesboro.

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After five lead changes in the early going of the first set, Harlan’s Hannah Jones slowly took control. Jones had three kills and Madelyn Haynes added two in a 10-2 run that put the Lady Dragons in control. Haven Saylor reeled off five straight points, including two aces, to close out the set.

Natalee King dominated at the net in the second set as Harlan rallied from an early deficit. Middlesboro stayed close, trailing 15-12, before King and Haynes used their height to take control. Haynes reeled off eight straight service points late in the set before Middlesboro scored. A King kill on the next point ended the set.

Saylor was the star for Harlan in the third set, reeling off seven straight points, finishing with two aces to close out the set and the match

Harlan (11-10) will play in the finals on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Middlesboro closed the season with a record of 2-17.

Bell County will make its first appearance in the 13th Region Tournament since 2014 following a 25-13, 25-18, 25-13 win over the Lady Bears, who finished 4-17. The Lady Cats improved to 14-12 with the win and are in position for their first winning season since 2006.

Clara Bolinger and Raegan Robbins had huge games for the Lady Cats, who never trailed in any of the three sets.

Robbins and Bolinger each had aces as Bell raced to an 8-2 lead in the first set. HCHS fought back to within five at 17-12 after Olivia Minor and Serenity Whitehead had kills, but Robbins and Bolinger took over again in an 8-1 run to close the set.

Robbins and Mary Kate Smith helped Bell take a 9-4 lead in the second set. HCHS fought back again, getting as close as 18-15 behind four straight service points from Whitehead. Paighton Freeman had two straight aces as the Lady Bears trailed 22-18 before several unforced errors cost them again as Bell closed with three straight points.

Bell built a 4-0 lead in the third set and stayed in control, building an 18-6 advantage on the way to the sweep.