Bears’ defense stands strong in rout of Mercer


John Henson

Harlan County’s Jonah Swanner guarded Mercer County’s Seth Caton in action from the Ted Cook Classic at South Laurel. Swanner scored 20 points in the Bears’ 88-45 victory.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

LONDON — With a lineup featuring several of the region’s top offensive players, scoring should rarely be a problem for the Harlan County Black Bears and a big reason why coach Kyle Jones focused on defense in the preseason.
The work appears to be paying off as the Bears forced 27 turnovers on Saturday in the Ted Cook Classic in rolling to an 88-45 victory over Mercer County.
“That’s been our focus since I started. We’ve talked a lot about it and a big portion of our practices are focused on defense,” Jones said. “We want to be able to switch up our defenses and keep people off balance, and I feel we did a good job of that.”
Junior guard Trent Noah and senior guard Daniel Carmical each scored 21 points to lead the 2-0 Black Bears. Noah’s basket with 6:40 left in the fourth quarter marked the end of the afternoon for the HCHS starters as it extended the lead to 82-35 and helped Noah pass Cameron Carmical, his cousin and a current HCHS assistant coach, for the top spot on the Harlan County scoring list with 1,765 points.
“I’m happy for him. He’s a great kid,” Jones said. “He’s reached a huge milestone, and I know he’s happy to get that out of the way so he can move ahead this season.”
Junior guard Jonah Swanner was a big part of the Bears’ defensive success as he turned several steals into baskets, hitting nine of 12 shots in a 20-point performance.
“We’ve told him we want him to run when he gets the opportunities,” Jones said. “Nine out of 10 times he will be able to outrun whoever is guarding him.”
Sophomore guard Maddox Huff also had a big afternoon with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Sophomore center Trevor Elis and senior guard Seth Caton led the 0-1 Titans with 11 points each.
Harlan County took advantage of the Titans’ turnover problems to race to a 13-2 lead. Huff had two baskets in the run and Jonah Swanner added a three-point play.
Perry provided most of the offense for Mercer County in the opening quarter with a pair of 3-pointers, but the Bears built a 28-8 lead at the break with the help of nine Mercer turnovers and six Huff rebounds.
Carmical heated up in the second quarter with three baskets, including two 3-pointers, as the lead grew to 49-22 by halftime. Noah added two baskets and the Titans had seven more turnovers.
Harlan County turned a comfortable lead into a rout midway through the third quarter with an 18-0 run that started with two Swanner baskets and also included 3-pointers from Huff and Carmical.
“Even though we were ahead, I thought they were the aggressor in the first half,” Jones said. “I thought we did a much better job of getting after them the second half.”
Harlan County plays Knott Central on Wednesday in the first round of the WYMT Mountain Classic at Perry Central. Mercer County plays host to Nelson County on Tuesday.



Harlan County point guard Maddox Huff worked agianst Mercer’s Thaddeas Mays on Saturday in London. Huff had 16 points and nine rebounds in the Bears’ 88-45 victory. (John Henson)