Bears fight back to edge Knott in double-overtime classic at WYMT tourney

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John Henson

Harlan County guards Maddox Huff and Jonah Swanner played defense against Knott Central’s Jaden Huff in action from the WYMT Mountain Classic. Huff kept the Bears alive with 3-pointers at the end of regulation and the first overtime before HCHS pulled away for a 74-70 win in double-overtime.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

HAZARD — Down six with 90 seconds left in regulation, the Harlan County Black Bears looked like a team heading for an early exit in the WYMT Mountain Classic
Down six with 90 seconds left in the first overtime, the Harlan County Black Bears looked like a team that had pushed its luck one too many times.
Somehow, on their worst shooting night of the 2021 season, the Black Bears found themselves still alive for a second overtime. Freshman guard Trent Noah hit eight of eight at the free throw line in the final 81 seconds of double overtime to send HCHS to a 74-70 win over Knott Central on Wednesday at Perry Central and into Saturday’s semifinals.
“I’ve told the kids there are going to be nights we don’t shoot well, but, hopefully, not that bad. I tell them we can still win if we battle, and I was very proud of the way they battled back and wouldn’t give up,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We were down multiple downs in regulation and overtime but kept making big shots.”
A 3-pointer by Tyler Cole with 3:15 left in the second overtime gave the Bears a one-point lead. Knott’s Josh McGuire hit one of two at the line to tie the game, then Noah took over as he stepped to the line four times down the stretch and hit both shots every time as part of a 28-point night.
“That’s who I want on the line,” Jones said. “I have all the confidence in the world of Trent stepping up and hitting those.”
There wouldn’t have been a second overtime if not for Noah’s cousin, eighth-grader Maddox Huff, hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer in regulation. Knott had several fouls to give in the closing seconds and tried to foul Huff before he stepped back to hit the tying trey.
The Bears fell behind by six in the first overtime, but Noah hit a 3 with 56.4 seconds left, then Huff hit another with 38.7 seconds to play. Knott held for the last shot, but Kent Damron was off the mark as the Patriots struggled to find a good shot.
Huff had missed his first five 3-point attempts before hitting two huge shots to keep the Bears alive
“Any kid we have we tell them to keep shooting,” Jones said. “Maddox made a huge shot to send it to overtime, then another huge shot to get us in the second overtime. I always tell our kids if they miss 10 shots, I want them to take the 11th one. I hope we can shoot better over here Saturday.”
Maddox’s brother, Jackson, was the only Bear to shoot well in regulation, finishing with 20 points on six 3-pointers.
“Jackson was the spark when we got down early. He definitely sparked us tonight, not only with his shooting but his defense on (Kent Damron),” Jones said. “He was in a little funk to start the year, but he is playing awfully well now.”
Cole, who sat out a game last week with an injury, added 12 poitns as the Bears improved to 11-1.
Senior guard Colby Napier led the 8-4 Patriots with 30 points. McGuire, a 6-6 senior center, added 15 points and 18 rebounds. Damron chipped in with 13 points.
Harlan County will play the Martin County-Hazard winner on Saturday.