Noah carries Bears into semifinals with 36-point, 18-rebound night against Knott


John Henson

Harlan County guard Trent Noah prepared to release a shot at the end of the first half on Wednesday in the WYMT Mountain Classic. Noah scored 36 points and pulled down 18 rebounds in the Bears’ 63-40 win.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

HAZARD — Balance is nice as the Harlan County Black Bears demonstrated in a pair of wins to open the regular season, placing three in double figures in a victory over Perry Central and four in a win over Mercer County on Saturday.
But when the balance isn’t there, as was the case for the Bears on Wednesday in the opening round of the WYMT Mountain Classic at Perry Central, it’s good to have a star to carry the offense by himself, if needed. Junior guard Trent Noah, one game after breaking the school scoring record, took control early and stayed there with a 36-point, 18-rebound effort as HCHS advanced with a 63-40 victory over Knott Central.
“It’s great as a coach when you have a kid you can say ‘get us a bucket’ if the offense is kind of stagnant,” Harlan County coach Kyle Jones said after the Bears improved to 3-0. “I’m really confident in our kids and I think those guys will be ready to go Friday. I have no doubt we’ll have better balance.”
Harlan County raced to a 17-4 lead and stayed in control, maintaining a double-digit lead over the final three quarters. The Bears, however, were not nearly as crisp as a unit as they were in the previous two games, hitting only 10 of 34 shots and pulling down 18 rebounds without Noah’s contributions.
“I felt our defense was really good starting out the game. We were getting after them and they were having some problems against our man pressure,” Jones said. “I thought we got the lead and then relaxed. Knott County has a scrappy team and they played hard, but if we’re going to keep advancing we have to be able to put four quarters together. I’m happy we got the win, but I think we can play a lot better.”
Knott Central, under the direction of Harlan High School graduate Casey Huff, struggled to get comfortable in the first half with a roster featuring only one returning starter from last year’s 8-17 squad.
“I knew we’d have some jitters and we talked about that at halftime,” Huff said. “We’ll be back. We’re young and hungry, and we’ll bounce back.
The Patriots also had no solution for Noah, who answered every Knott run.
“That’s what he does. He’s a player,” Huff said. “We knew coming into it what we were going up against. At the end of the day, I thought our boys fought even though we were a little outmatched. I was really proud of our effort.”
Noah scored the game’s first five points and dominated the opening period, hitting six of seven shots for 15 points as the Bears built a 21-11 lead. Knott turned the ball over six times in the opening quarter against the Bears’ man-to-man and took only four shots. HCHS hit nine of 16 shots in the quarter.
Maddox Huff and Noah sparked 6-0 run to start the second quarter as the lead grew to 16 before the Patriots finally started to find a rhythm on offense. Drake Slone and Nick Ratliff hit 3-pointers as Knott got as close as 13 before a Noah drive to end the half gave Harlan County a 36-21 halftime lead.
Knott scored the first five points of the second half before Noah answered the call again with five straight points. Noah had 11 points and seven rebounds in the quarter as the Bears extended their lead to 52-30.
Jonah Swanner, Daniel Carmical and Brody Napier hit consecutive 3-pointers midway through the final period, pushing the lead to 63-34 and marking the end of the night for the starters on both sides.
Harlan County will play Perry Central in the semifinals on Friday at 8:30 p.m. Harlan will play Breathitt County in the other semifinal at 6:45 p.m.



Harlan County junior Jonah Swanner guarded Knott Central’s Drake Slone in the WYMT Mountain Classic on Wednesday. Harlan County advanced with a 63-40 victory. (John Henson)
Harlan County guard Maddox Huff worked around a Knott Central defender in action from the WYMT Mountain Classic on Wednesday. (John Henson)