Thursday, January 26, 2017

Brock is catalyst for Lady Dragons; Friday's opponent

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If Lady Rocket basketball fans need to know just one thing about Harlan, Friday’s opponent in the state quarterfinals, it is that the 17-5 Lady Dragons are led by one of the state’s best players.

Senior guard Jordan Brock has already signed to play collegiate basketball at Tennessee Tech, which is not too far from her home in the mountains of southeast Kentucky.

Brock has amassed a number of accolades and honors during her storied career but the most remarkable achievement is the way she leads Harlan’s team. Brock is the top three-point shooter in Kentucky, making 37 percent of her shots and scoring more than three treys a game.

Brock, a 5-foot-7 guard, can light it up from anywhere. She scored 39 in an All A Classic State Tournament game last year and put up 48 once before in a game. She is the state’s top foul shooter and ranks among Kentucky’s top scorers at 23 points per game. She scored 41 points in a January win over Pineville, but junior McKenzie King, a 5-foot-9 forward, adds another 13 points a game to the Dragon attack. Senior Emma Bianchi, a 5-11 forward, scores 6 points and gets 7 rebounds a game. 

Harlan won both the KHSAA and All A 13th Region championships last year under Brock’s leadership and got to the Classic semifinals before losing to Owensboro Catholic. As a junior, Brock was listed as the 25th best player in Kentucky by the Lexington newspaper. This is the Lady Dragons’ fourth straight trip to the small-school state tournament.

Crittenden’s coaching staff knows that Brock and the Dragons will be formidable opponents.

“She is what they do. She runs everything,” surmised Lady Rocket coach Shannon Hodge after seeing Harlan defeat 19-2 Paintsville in the game just before Crittenden’s game Wednesday at Frankfort. 

“We’re going to have to try to keep her out of the paint as much as possible and try to prevent second shots because they have a couple of big bodies underneath,” Hodge added. 

Tickets are $10 and available
only at the door for Friday's
game. There is plenty of seating.
Crittenden has a right to believe it can keep Brock in check, however. The Lady Rockets have one of the best defenses in Kentucky, which became clear to Sayre coach Charles Thomas during the opening round game. He said Crittenden’s defense around the basket was partly to blame for his team’s undoing. 

Crittenden County’s girls are 8th in the state in team defenses, giving up just 37 points a game. Much of that has to do with the dogged tenaciousness of senior Cassidy Moss, who regularly is assigned to the opposing team’s best player. But the blanket coverage is more diverse than just her. Kiana Nesbitt has become a heralded post defender and the length of Madison Champion and Amanda Lynch is key to Crittenden’s ability to slow down nearly anyone it encounters. Beyond that, junior Mauri Collins is a pesky perimeter watchdog and senior Meredith Evans is a strong physical presence in the post when she comes off the bench. 

In the state tournament opener, Coach Hodge played only those six. In fact, the rotation has become quite predicable over recent games, with perhaps only spot appearances by one other player – eighth-grade center Nahla Woodward – unless it’s late and the outcome is clear.

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