Bears shake off slow start to defeat Middlesboro in final district clash of regular season


Kim Henson

Harlan County freshman Reggie Cottrell provided a spark for the Black Bears on Friday after a slow start, scoring 10 points and grabbing three rebounds in an 87-61 victory.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Eleven days before they play host to Harlan County in the first round of the 52nd District Tournament, the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets hope they learned something from a trip to HCHS for a regular-season matchup Friday.
Middlesboro led through much of the first quarter and stayed within striking distance until the third quarter before eventually being overwhelmed on the way to an 87-61 loss.
“In the first half, we showed that when we want to we can play with anyone in the state,” Middlesboro coach John Wheat said. “We’re not the most talented bunch. We’re still really young, and that’s not an excuse. I don’t use that as an excuse. I saw things tonight I’m really about it and can grow on over the next 10 days or whenever we play them again.”
“I talked to them about being ready after playing Harlan two times in five days, but they are kids and they hear things like everyone else does. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you say to them,” Harlan County coach Kyle Jones said. “I thought we played a lot harder the second half. We gambled too much the first half. I have no doubt we’ll be ready when we play them in two weeks.”
Trent Noah scored 26 points and Maddox Huff added 22 as the Bears improved to 22-5 and completed a 6-0 mark in the regular season against district opponents.
“We were going up against exceptional players like Trent, (Daniel) Carmical and Maddox,” Wheat said. “They are very talented. That’s a three-headed monster, and they are hard to stop.”
The Bears received a big boost off the bench from freshman guard Reggie Cottrell and junior forward Caleb Johnson, who each added 10 points.
“We went over their personnel, but you can’t cover everything,” Wheat said. “Some times you have to roll with the punches and see what happens.”
Sophomore guard Jerimah Beck scored 15 points and junior forward Trey King added 14 points to lead the 7-20 Jackets.
Middlesboro led by as many as five points in the opening quarter. Noah and Huff sparked a 7-0 run capped by Cottrell’s trey to put HCHS up 20-18 at the end of the period.
“Reggie came in and kind of changed the complexion of the game,” Jones said. “He got some steals and hit some shots. Reggie will be a really good player. He knows he has to get a little stronger, but we’re pleased with his progress.”
Cottrell added two more baskets in the second period while Johnson hit all three of his shots as the Bears built a 43-30 halftime lead.
“Caleb always plays hard, but I thought this was his best game in a while,” Jones said. “He got a lot of offensive rebounds. We need Caleb and Jaycee (Carter) to get on the boards and be contributors.”
After turning the ball over seven times in the second period, the Jackets had eight more in the third as HCHS took control. Noah and Huff had four baskets each as the Bears hit 13 of 24 shots in the period to take a 74-47 lead.
“The turnover bugaboo got us late in the second quarter and in the third quarter,” Wheat said.
Two Noah dunks highlighted a 10-2 run in the fourth quarter to start a running clock at 84-49 with 5:40 left. The Jackets closed the game with a 12-3 run.
Harlan County plays at Boyd County on Saturday. Middlesboro plays at Oneida Baptist on Saturday at noon.


Harlan County guard Maddox Hufr drove around Middlesboro’s Trey Kyle in Friday’s district clash. Huff scored 22 points in the Bears’ 87-61 victory. (Kim Henson)
Harlan County guard Trent Noah poured in 26 points, including several dunks, in the Black Bears’ 87-61 win Friday over visiting Middlesboro. (Kim Henson)


Harlan County sophomore center Jaycee Carter worked against Middlesboro’s Trey King in Friday’s game. The Bears completed a perfect 6-0 mark against district competition with an 87-61 win. (Kim Henson)