Bears’ hold off Whitley’s upset bid with strong finish on Senior Night

Noah scores 38 and Swanner adds 20 as Bears improve to 24-5 heading into regular-season finale


Kim Henson

Harlan County senior guard Jeremiah Clem went up for a basket during the Black Bears’87-80 win Tuesday over Whitley County.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Being able to finish strong is a trait every basketball team would like heading into the postseason, and it appears the Harlan County Black Bears have found that ability of late.
The Bears fell behind in the third quarter on Saturday at Boyd County before outscoring the Lions 22-12 in the fourth quarter to claim a victory. The Bears lost another lead Tuesday at home against Whitley County before closing the third period with a 12-2 run and following that up with nine-of-12 shooting in the fourth quarter on the way to a 87-80 victory.
“I felt we coasted in the third quarter and relaxed. That’s not been our M.O. because we have been guarding well,” Harlan County coach Kyle Jones said. “We got lost some times defensively. But we beat a good team tonight with our second leading scorer and primary ball handler.”
Whitley hit seven of its first 10 shots in the third quarter, taking a 49-48 lead on a three-point play by Brayden Mahan with 2:46 left in the period. It was the first and only lead of the night for the Colonels.
“I think when we share the ball we are as good as anybody offensively,” Whitley County coach Eric Swords said. “We went through a stretch where we held it too much instead of moving it and playing off what is open. In a game like this, if you have a two-minute stretch of not moving it they are going to score on the other end and can gap you.”
Junior guard Trent Noah carried the Harlan County offense again with a 38-point, 10-rebound performance. With point guard Maddox Huff sidelined by an ankle injury, Jonah Swanner also stepped up with a big night as he scored 20 points.
“I told Trent before the game that he might have to get 40 tonight, and he got 38,” Jones said. “Jonah stepped up tonight and filled a void and had a big game also.”
“Noah gave us problems all night driving to the rim. He got to his point and we don’t have a guy of his size. Once he gets around the basket he’s hard to contain,” Swords said. “ We tried to key in on Noah and Daniel Carmical. We wanted Swanner to get his shots from the perimeter, but he penetrated and had a good game.”
Daniel Carmical finished with 17 points, hitting three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter in his final game at the HCHS gym on Senior Night. Jeremiah Clem helped the Bears get off to a strong start as he also celebrated Senior Night. Clem missed the entire summer season and much of the preseason due to an injury.
“I was real proud of our seniors. You can see by watching Jeremiah play how smart he is and that injury he had was unfortunate. I told him before the game he was the ultimate teammate because he could have quit because he hasn’t played much due to the injury, but he stuck it out and has been a great teammate,” Jones said. “Daniel might miss three or four, then he gets hot. I just feel confident when he lets it go. He hit some big shots again tonight.”
Senior guard Ashton Reynolds led the 20-9 Colonels with 22 points. Senior forward Jamie Fuson added 16 points. Brayden Mahan and Bryce Anderson chipped in with 12 points each.
Harlan County closes its regular-season schedule Thursday at Barbourville before taking on Middlesboro next week in the 52nd District Tournament. Whitley County plays host to Cordia on Thursday before taking on South Laurel next week in the 50th District Tournament.

Harlan County guard Jonah Swanner went up for two of his 20 points during the Bears’ win Tuesday over Whitley County. (Kim Henson)
Harlan County’s Trent Noah worked inside between Whitley County’s Brayden Mahan and Jamie Fuson. Noah scored 38 points as the Bears won 87-80. (Kim Henson)