Black Bears rally for overtime win over Breathitt


Chandra Howard

Harlan County guard Trent Noah worked against Breathitt County’s Christian Collins in Tuesday’s game. Noah scored 33 points as the Bears won 87-78 in overtime.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Preseason favorites to win the 14th Region with a senior-dominated squad back from a 26-8 team, the Breathitt County Bobcats looked nothing like a contender when Harlan County pounded them 82-57 in the WYMT Mountain Classic in December.
The Bobcats were a different team Tuesday, pushing the Bears to overtime on their home court before HCHS guards Trent Noah and Maddox Huff took over on the way to an 87-78 victory. Harlan County needed a 10-0 run to wipe out an eight-point Breathitt lead, then opened the extra period with seven straight points, Harlan County hit 14 of 16 at the line in overtime after taking the lead.
“We talked in the last timeout about going spread to score,” Harlan County coach Kyle Jones said. “We still want to be aggressive. We knew if we made free throws we’d win the game, and we did.”
“They are such a good basketball team and shoot so well. They knocked down some big shots,” said Breathitt County coach Kyle Moore, who took over the team after the holidays following the death of coach B.B. King. “We did some things where we hurt ourselves. That’s mostly my fault, being kind of new to this. It’s been a while since I’ve coached basketball and I take the blame. We played a good team. They made plays down the stretch and we didn’t, and that was the difference in the game.”
Noah and Huff teamed for 60 points to lead the 17-3 Bears as Noah scored 33 and Huff added 27. Daniel Carmical and Jonah Swanner also hit several big shots in adding 14 and 11 points, respectively.
“We talked at halftime about us settling for too many outside shots,” Jones said. “We’ll take open 3s, but we want to get to the basket and get to the free throw line. I asked them what was the biggest difference the second half and Jonah (Swanner) was the first one to say ‘effort.’ Effort wins a lot of games.”
Senior guard Luke Bellamy scored 26 points to lead the 11-8 Bobcats, who had won three straight going into the game under Moore, a former football standout who coaches the Breathitt football team.
“Luke has done a great job for us. He was really focused tonight and It showed,” Moore said. “He came out on a mission and make some big shots for us and also played great defense.”
“They are tough to guard. They are long and athletic and have two or three guys who can get to the basket,” Jones said. “They are tough to keep off the boards. I think they are definitely a dangerous team in the 14th.”
Christian Collins, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, added 24 points and 10 rebounds. Austin Sperry, a sophomore guard ranked as the 14th Region’s to player, added 17 points.
“I think we’re making progress. We’re taking it one day at a time and just went back to what winning basketball Is and that’s tough basketball and being physical,” Moore said. “Our kids have done that and I’m really proud of them.”
Harlan County took a 12-6 lead in the opening four minutes with Noah hitting two 3s and Swanner adding two baskets, but Collins wiped out the Bears’ advantage on three straight trips down the court. Huff’s 3 gave the Bears another lead before a Bryce Hoskins jumped put the Bobcats up 16-15 at the end of the period.
Bellamy took over in the second quarter, hitting five of seven shots as the Bobcats built a 36-28 halftime advantage. Harlan County hit only five of 13 shots while missing six of seven from beyond the 3-point line.
The Breathitt lead reached 11 early in the second half on a three-point play by Collins, but HCHS fought back to within two on two basket by Huff and a 3 from Carmical. Two Collins dunks stretched the lead to 53-47 going into the fourth quarter.
A Bellamy 3 gave the Bobcats a 66-58 lead with 3:11 left. Carmical hit a 3, then Noah converted a three-point play and scored off a drive to pull the Bears even with 1:54 to play. A turnover gave the ball back to Harlan County with 52 seconds left and Noah drew a foul and hit both shots with 18 seconds to play. Sperry missed a 3 in the closing seconds, but senior center Bryce Hoskins grabbed the rebound and scored to send the game to overtime.
Carmical put the Bears ahead to stay with a 3 to start overtime. Two free throws and then a basket by Noah put HCHS in command as the Bears went on to secure the game away at the line.
Harlan County will play Madison Central on Saturday at 3:15 p.m. in the Rocket Classic at Rockcastle County High School. Breathitt County returns to action Feb. 3 against Letcher Central in the Scott Blank Classic at Buckhorn.
Freshman guard Reggie Cottrell scored 26 points as Harlan County improved to 6-4 in junior varsity action with a 61-48 win over Breathitt County. Ethan Simpson and Hunter Napier scored eight points each. Brody Napier added seven. Brennan Blevins contributed six. Gage Bailey and Taelor Haywood added four and two points, respectively.
Peyton Collins scored 14 and Braxton Terry added 11 for the Bobcats. Canaan Gross scored six, followed by Brady Turner with five, Aaron Johnson with four, Alex Strong and Damian Smith with three each and Brantley Campbell with two.
Harlan County swept a doubleheader last week at Leslie County, winning 39-26 in a freshman game and 60-31 in junior varsity action.
Reggie Cottrell scored 18 points to lead HCHS in the freshman game. Brennan Blevins tossed in nine, followed by Hunter Napier with eight and Gage Bailey with two for the 1-3 Bears.
Hunter Napier led Harlan County in junior varsity action with 14 points. Ethan Simpson added 13 points. Brody Napier and Cottrell scored 11 each. Blevins chipped in with six. Bailey scored five.




Harlan County sophomore Maddox Huff was surrounded by Breathitt County defenders as he scored two of his 27 points in the Bears’ 87-78 victory on Tuesday. (Chandra Howard)


Harlan County guard Jonah Swanner went up against Breathitt County’s Andrew Combs in Tuesday’s game. Swanner scored 11 in the Bears’ win. (Chandra Howard)