WEST FRANKFORT — Playing shorthanded, the Harrisburg girls basketball team needed someone to step up, and Lotte Miller delivered for her squad.
The junior point guard scored a game-high 25 points as Harrisburg defeated Johnston City, 54-36, Tuesday in the semifinals of the West Frankfort Class 2A regional.
The Bulldogs were playing without Matty Hawkins and Essence Sanders, both of whom are injured.
“We told Miller, (Jessica) Hopson, and (Karsyn) Davis, that one of you is going to have to have a big game,” said Harrisburg coach Jake Stewart. “Lotte was huge tonight. We don’t win that game without her.”
After Johnston City took a 23-20 lead with 3:34 left in the first half, Lotte Miller buried a 3-pointer. She racked up 16 of her points in the first half and scored in a variety of ways.
“She is a competitor, and she hates to lose,” Stewart said. “That was her just wanting to win tonight.”
Maggie Price was big for Johnston City in the first half and scored 16 of her 22 points in the opening two quarters.
Harrisburg finished the first half strong and took a three-point edge into halftime. The Indians struggled to score in the second half.
“We felt like we got the looks we wanted in the second half, but we just didn’t shoot the ball very well,” said Johnston City coach Lenny Clark. “I thought our kids battled hard and hung in there as long as they could.”
Hopson scored five points during a 7-0 Harrisburg run to start the third quarter. The Bulldogs opened up a 10-point lead. Harrisburg was able to limit Price to six points in the second half.
“They have a good team, and they’re well-coached, and we knew this was going to be a tough game,” Stewart said. “I think our team did a good job of making adjustments at halftime because Price was really hurting us in the first half. Our kids did a nice job of recognizing how good she is.”
The final score looks lopsided, but Johnston City trailed by just eight points early in the fourth quarter. Lotte Miller started a 7-0 run for Harrisburg, and Lydia Miller finished it with a basket to basically put the game away.
“We missed some shots, and we were getting frustrated,” Clark said. “It got away from us late, and that’s what happens when you play against a good team.”
Hopson added 15 points for Harrisburg. Ashley Smiley tallied eight points for Johnston City.
Harrisburg takes on West Frankfort for the regional crown at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Redbirds defeated Du Quoin, 53-41, in Tuesday’s second game.