Harlan didn’t come all this way to get bounced out of the All “A” Classic early yet again.
It defeated Frankfort 67-50 in the girls’ quarterfinals Friday at the Frankfort Convention Center, keyed by a 39-point performance by junior Jordan Brock.
The Green Dragons advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 1997. Harlan was knocked out in the first round the previous two seasons. It is the first time the 13th Region representative has reached the semifinals since Jackson County did so in 2003.
Coach Derrick Akal couldn’t be happier for a group of girls who have flown under the state’s radar.
“I’m happy for them. They fought,” Akal said. “ ... They’ve earned the right to play in the semis tomorrow.”
Brock, who averages 18.3 points and shoots 41.2 percent from three-point land, put together a first-half performance few will forget, scoring 25 points on 10-for-12 shooting. Harlan needed every single bucket, too, as it got locked into a 26-all tie with Frankfort at the break.
“I expect that out of her. She’s fully capable,” Akal said. “I’m just glad the rest of the state gets a chance to see what she’s capable of.” She finished 16-for-23, including a 3-for-5 clip from behind the arc.
The morning was not without collateral damage; Brock tossed a bit of her cookies during a timeout. Akal suffered a hike in his blood pressure before halftime. He quickly dismissed any notion of checking out of the game.
“They stayed in the fight so I believed I’d stay in there with them,” Akal said.
The rest of the Green Dragons stepped up their play in the second half. Brooklyn Massingill scored nine points in the third quarter, four as part of an 8-0 run that put Harlan up 41-33 entering the final period. She finished with 13 points and a steal. McKenzie King added seven rebounds and eight boards.
BriAnna Burbridge, the state’s second-leading scorer who had a single-game tournament record 48 points against Menifee County on Wednesday, was held to 21. Harlan wanted to limit her transition opportunities and time spent in the paint.
“We wanted to get back and build a wall and just make it tough for her to score,” Akal said. “She scored some tough buckets, the ones that she did get.”
Frankfort attempted to establish Jasmine Turpin early in the post because she matched up well, Panthers Coach Deron Norman said, but she had a hard time sealing her position in the paint at times. She finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Free throws were a blight for the Panthers. They finished 17-for-32 from the line, with Burbridge and Turpin combining to hit just 12 of 24 attempts. Harlan didn’t finish too much better at 12-for-21.
“When you’re trading buckets with somebody and you’re not making your free throws, you’re not trading buckets,” Norman said. “That hurt us and we normally don’t do that. I think that really turned the game.”
Akal isn’t worried about the quick turnaround for his team as it prepares to face Owensboro Catholic, which ousted Harlan last year. “We gotta come in here and play just like they gotta come in here and play.”
Brock said Harlan’s detractors keep the team motivated. She feels bad for All “A” participants who lose because she and the other Green Dragons have been in that spot for a while. They aren’t ready to feel that pain again.
“Everybody has doubt in us and we’re here to win,” Brock said. “We deserve to win.”
Harlan 67, Frankfort 50
Frankfort (10-9) — Burnett 4, Washington 2, James 4, Burbridge 21, Turpin 14, Williams 3, Tillman 2.
Harlan (19-4) — Brock 39, Bianchi 2, Massingill 13, M. King 7, K. King 4, Simpson 2.