Hot start, balanced attack power Bears over Middlesboro


Chris Jones

Middlesboro’s Ethan Barton and Harlan County’s Jonah Swanner battled for a loose ball in Friday’s district clash. The Black Bears improved to 9-1 overall and 3-0 in district action with a 69-49 victory.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

The Harlan County Black Bears discovered last week at Scott the dangers of depending on one player to carry their offense. Freshman guard Trent Noah poured in 35 points, but the Bears left with their first loss of the season.
Harlan County (9-1) found some much-needed balance on Friday in a 69-49 win over visiting Middlesboro.
Noah again led the Bears with 21 points, but he had plenty of support on the wings from sophomore Daniel Carmical and junior Jackson Huff, who teamed for 28 points while hitting eight of 10 3-pointers, Carmical scored 17 and Huff added 11. The Bears shot 58 percent (26 of 45) for the game and 50 percent (11 of 22) from the 3-point line.
“We’ve talked about the importance of having a third, or even a fourth, scorer,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We’ve had different people step into that role with Maddox (Huff) or Daniel or Jackson the last couple of games. When we didn’t have that was when we lost. We have to have that consistency with a third, or fourth, scorer.”
Senior guard Tyler Cole saw limited action due to a strained groin suffered in last week’s win at South Laurel and was held scoreless as a last-minute addition to the starting lineup.
“I had no intention of playing him, but he came in and got his uniform and asked to play,” Jones said. “I hope it wasn’t the wrong decision, but this is his senior year and he wants to be out there. He didn’t have the explosiveness he usually does. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Middlesboro freshman guard Cayden Grigsby also had a big night from behind the 3-point line with six in an 18-point effort to lead the 2-6 Jackets. Senior guard Ethan Barton added 12 points.
Huff hit a pair of 3-pointers while Carmical and Noah added one each as HCHS hit its first four shots to take a quick 12-4 lead. The Bears hit nine of 15 shots in the quarter and built a 23-7 advantage.
“When we are knocking down shots, we’re awfully hard to guard,” Jones said. “We shot it well most of the game, but especially the first quarter. We want Noah and (Tyler) to play downhill and when they do it puts a lot of pressure on the other team.”
“They are hard to guard. We tried a zone to start the game, but it didn’t work,” Middlesboro coach Lewis Morris said. “You can’t give them open looks. They have a good team.”
Carmical and Huff each hit 3-pointers early in the second quarter as the lead grew to 19. Grigsby kept the Jackets in the game with a pair of 3-pointers, but a pair of baskets by Noah gave HCHS a 40-23 advantage at halftime.
Middlesboro closed to within 15 early in the third quarter before Carmical heated up again with three straight 3-pointers. Noah added three baskets as HCHS hit seven of nine shots in building a 58-37 advantage.
Baskets by Josh Turner and Noah pushed the lead to 25 when Jones went to his reserves with 4:30 to play. Barton and Grigsby each hit 3-pointers as the Jackets got as close as 17 before HCHS freshman Jared Rhymer reeled off five straight points.
“I thought we competed well after the slow start,” Morris said. “We missed a lot of easy shots. We got the shots we wanted. We have to cut down on the unforced turnovers. We’re competing and get better. It’s small steps at this point.”
Harlan County will play host to Pikeville in a 6:30 p.m. game on Saturday. Middlesboro will play South Laurel on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Bell County as part of the Pride of the Mountains Basketball Showcase.


Harlan County guard Trent Noah went up for two of his 21 points in the Black Bears’ 69-49 win Friday over visiting Middlesboro. (Chris Jones)