Bears take control early in win over defending 15th Region champs


John Henson

Harlan County senior guard Tyler Cole worked through the Martin County defense for two of his 23 points in the Bears’ 65-47 win Thursday in Inez.

By John Henson, Managing Editor


INEZ — A second straight long road trip to open the 2021 season ended in another double-digit win for the Harlan County Black Bears as they followed a 12-point victory Tuesday at Barren County with a 65-47 win Thursday over defending 15th Region champ Martin County.
The Black Bears used a 14-0 run to close the first quarter to take control and were never in trouble after that as they showed great energy on the defensive end and aggressiveness on the offensive side with Tyler Cole and Trent Noah again leading the way. Cole scored 23 points on 11-of-17 shooting as he continually sliced through the Martin defense. Noah added 21 points and a team-high nine rebounds as he scored both on the outside and inside.
“I’m really proud of them. We guarded better than we did Tuesday at Barren County,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “Tyler and Trent are doing what they are supposed to be doing. They are both extremely hard to guard and both very important to this team, obviously. They are also getting good support from our other guys. If we can consistently do that, we’ll be hard to beat by the end of the year,”
Junior guard Brady Dingess, one of the 15th Region’s top players, led the 0-2 Cardinals with 20 points. Martin County, coming off a 22-12 season, was again one of the region favorites, at least until 6-10 senior center Trey James decided to leave school early for Iona, a Division I school in New York coached by Rick Pitino.
The Cardinals shot only 33 percent (14 of 42) from the field in the loss and had only one basket in the first quarter. Both teams struggled offensively in the first four minutes, playing to a 2-2 tie before Cole took control and helped the Bears build a 16-2 lead. Eighth-grader Maddox Huff came off the bench to provide a spark late in the period with a pair of 3-pointers.
“I thought we settled too much in the first few minutes. The game plan was to make them guard us off the dribble. Once we started attacking, we shot a bunch of layups,” Jones said.
Cole hit five straight shots in the second quarter as the Bears’ lead grew to 20. Jonah Swanner added a steal and basket to make it 28-5. Dingess overcame a slow start, hitting three straight shots to help the Cards cut the deficit to 35-18 at halftime.
Harlan County had only two turnovers in the first half and six for the game, handling the Cardinals’ pressure well for much of the night while taking high-percentage shots.
“We had 15 turnovers over at Barren, and we cut it in half tonight,” Jones said. “We’re growing up on the road, and I like that about this bunch.”
Noah had three baskets in the third quarter while Cole added two more as the Bears stretched their lead to 52-30 by the end of the third quarter. A Noah trey midway through the fourth period pushed the HCHS lead to 23, prompting Jones to go to his bench.
Harlan County (2-0) returns to action Saturday at Letcher Central. Martin County (0-2) plays Paintsville on Monday in the 15th Region All “A” Classic.
Freshman forward Ethan Rhymer scored 11 points and sophomore guard Jeremiah Clem added 10 as Harlan County opened its junior varsity schedule with a 39-36 win.
Tristan Cooper tossed in eight for the Bears. Jared Rhymer added six. Caleb Johnson and Samuel Henson scored two each.
Matt Linville, a junior center, led Martin County with 12 points.



Harlan County freshman guard Trent Noah had 21 points and nine rebounds in the Bears’ 65-47 win Thursday at Martin County.


Sophomore forward Tristan Cooper scored eight points as Harlan County won 39-36 in junior varsity action Thursday at Martin County.