Bears waste no time taking control in rout at Letcher Central


John Henson

Harlan County guard Trent Noah, who is pictured working around a defender in Tuesday’s game at Bell County, scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Bears’ 79-41 win Thursday at Letcher Central.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

WHITESBURG — Much like his father in his days on the sideline, Hall of Fame coach Mike Jones, first-year Harlan County coach Kyle Jones has rarely been satisfied when analyzing his team’s play despite their 15-3 start this season. Jones’ Black Bears were so good Thursday he struggled to find anything wrong as the Black Bears enjoyed a surprisingly easy 79-41 rout of Letcher Central.
Ranked third in RPI in the 14th Region, the Cougars had a big crowd behind them for a mountain rivalry against one of the 13th Region’s top teams. It was a showdown that never materialized as HCHS raced to a 20-10 after one quarter. The Bears were up by 30, at 49-19, at halftime and had a running clock before the third quarter ended.
“I told them before we left this might be the most hostile environment they’ve played in so far this year. This will be good before we go to Harlan or some other tough places. They had a real big crowd ready for the game,” Jones said. “I enjoyed watching them play. This is the first time I’ve been able to sit there and think we are really executing well and playing hard. I don’t have a lot of complaints tonight. I know we’ll find some things on film they did wrong, but I was super proud of them.We played so well and shared the ball. I thought the first half was the best we’ve played all year.”
Harlan County had no shortage of contributors in the win, led again by junior guard Trent Noah with 22 points and nine rebounds. Maddox Huff hit five of six shots in the decisive second quarter and finished with 15 points. Jonah Swanner was perfect from the field as he added 12 points, as did Daniel Carmical, who hit four 3-pointers.
“I was so confident in the halfcourt of Trent and Maddox getting to the rim tonight. They were pressing up so hard on them, but we wanted them to make one move and go to the rim,” Jones said. “We’re hard to guard when we’re getting downhill and kicking to open shooters.”
The 13-6 Cougars were led by junior forward Peyton Dixon with nine points. Nigel Nichols and Jayden Huff added six points each.
The Bears grabbed a 14-2 lead with early success in transition, hitting eight of 14 shots in the opening quarter. Swanner had three baskets in the period as HCHS hit eight of 14 shots.
Harlan County connected on 10 of 16 shots in the second quarter to turn the game into a rout as Huff and Noah continually found open teammates. Junior forward Caleb Johnson provided a spark off the bench as he hit three of five shots while pulling down six rebounds in the period.
Noah dominated the third quarter with four baskets, including two in a 9-0 run that pushed the lead to 68-30 by the end of the period and started a running clock. Carmical hit consecutive treys to start the fourth quarter to make it 74-30 before the starters took the rest of the night off.
Harlan County will play host to another 14th Region contender on Tuesday against Breathitt County. Letcher Central plays host to Magoffin County on Friday.
Freshman guard Reggie Cottrell scored 18 points, including a twisting one-handed halfcourt shot to end the first half, to lead Harlan County to a 48-40 win in junior varsity action. Brody Napier and Hunter Napier added 12 and 11 points, respectively, as the Bears evened their record at 4-4. Ethan Simpson chipped in with seven points.
Terry Delaney scored 13 points and Evan Dixon added 11 for the Cougars. Jason McCool tossed in seven. Gavin Ramsey, Cameron Hays and Luke Slone added three points each.