Bears rally from 10-point deficit to defeat Clay

Noah scores 33 to lead HCHS


Brendon Miller

Harlan County guard Trent Noah, pictured in action earlier this season, scored 33 points Monday in the Bears’ 85-71 victory at Clay County.

By John Henson, Managing Editor


MANCHESTER — Owner of the state’s biggest homecourt advantage through the 1980s and much of the 1990s, the Clay County Tigers fell on hard times in 2022 with only six wins. The Tigers appear to be on their way back with six wins already going into Monday’s game against visiting Harlan County.
The Tigers held a 10-point advantage in the third quarter against the heavily-favored Black Bears before Harlan County turned up the pressure on defense and went on a 40-10 run that extended into the fourth quarter on the way to an 85-71 victory.
“We started guarding,” Harlan County coach Kyle Jones said. “They shot the ball extremely well. If I was guessing, that might have been the best they’ve played all year in the first half. They were making shots, but we were helping them some by not guarding very well. In the third quarter we held them to 10 points and made a big run. We took care of the ball better the second half. That’s something we talked about in the locker room. We wanted to move the ball around and get buckets in transition.
“I was proud of them the second half. There are going to be games like this. There could be a game like this in the district. You have to be able to overcome adversity.”
Junior guard Trent Noah scored 33 points to lead the 13-3 Bears. Maddox Huff, Jonah Swanner and Daniel Carmical added 14 points each. Caleb Johnson came off the bench to provide a spark with eight points.
The 6-6 Tigers were led by junior forward Hayden Harris with 16 points and sophomore guard Landon Dezarn with 15. Freshman center Aiden Wagers added 14.
Clay took a 12-4 lead as Harris and Dezarn led a fast start. Harlan County fought back within two before Dezarn scored and gave the Tigers a 24-20 lead after one quarter. Clay owned an 11-3 advantage on the boards in the period, leading to five more shots. Noah kept the Bears close early as he hit five of six shots in the period, including two 3-pointers.
Harlan County appeared to take control with a 12-2 run in the second quarter to go up by six, but Clay closed the half with 11 straight points, capped by Wagers’ buzzer-beater from halfcourt, to take a 41-36 lead into the break.
“North came in and beat them pretty bad over here a week ago, and Clay County has a lot of pride,” Jones said. “I knew they wouldn’t come out and lay down. We just weren’t ready to play at the start, but we played about as well as we could in the third quarter.”
The Clay lead reached 10 as Harris hit a 3 and Dezarn connected on three free throws to make the score 47-37 with 6:54 left in the third quarter.
Harlan County took over from there, outscoring Clay 30-4 with Noah, Huff and Swanner teaming for eight baskets. The Bears turned up the pressure on defense, leading to seven Clay turnovers while having none of their own for the first 13 minutes of the half before Jones went to his reserves. The Bears led by as many as 22 points before Clay reeled off 11 straight points in the final three minutes.
Clay County will play host to Harlan on Thursday. Harlan County travels to Middlesboro on Friday for a girls/boys doubleheader.
Clay County won 57-55 in overtime in junior varsity action as Landon Howard scored 17 and Noah Collett added 15 for the Tigers. Conner Gilbert tossed in 12, followed by Landon Smith with seven and Jay Nicholson with six.
Hunter Napier led the 2-4 Bears with 14 points. Reggie Cottrell added 13. Ethan Simpson tossed in 12. Brody Napier contributed 11. Brennan Blevins and Gage Bailey added three and two points, respectively.
Harlan County dropped a junior varsity/freshman doubleheader at Letcher Central in two close games, falling 43-38 in junior varsity action and 38-35 in the freshman game.
Ethan Simpson scored 17 and Brody Napier added 12 in the junior varsity game. Evan Simpson tossed in five. Aidan Reynolds and Brennan Blevins chipped in with two each.
Reggie Cottrell led the Bears in the freshman game with 17 points. Blevins scored seven. Reynolds and Gage Bailey scored four each. Will Shepherd scored three.
Harlan County split a doubleheader at Knott Central, winning 36-30 in junior varsity action and falling 60-30 in a freshman game.
Ethan Simpson scored 11 points and Brody Napier added 10 to lead the Bears in the junior varsity game. Reggie Cottrell tossed in eight. Gage Bailey scored five. Tyler Baker added two.
Kayden Hensley led the Bears in the freshman game with eight points. Brennan Blevins chipped in with seven. Will Shepherd contributed five. Aidan Reynolds and Bailey scored four each. Cottrell added two.