Bears advance to WYMT finals with overtime win over Hazard

By John Henson, Managing Editor


HAZARD — Back in the finals of the WYMT Mountain Classic for the third time in school history, the Harlan County Black Bears followed a double-overtime win on Wednesday with a 69-65 overtime victory over Hazard on Saturday afternoon at Perry Central High School.
Freshman guard Trent Noah, who led the Bears with a 24-point, 13-rebound performance, scored seven straight in overtime to help the Bears build a five-point lead they never relinquished. Junior guard Jackson Huff hit four straight free throws to match baskets by Hazard’s Andrew Ford to keep the lead at four with 26.8 seconds left. Tyler Cole pushed the lead to five by hitting one of two, but Wade Pelfrey gave the Bulldogs a chance with a 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining. HCHS senior center Josh Turner put the game away with 1.8 seconds left when he hit two free throws.
Offense was a struggle much of the day for the Bears, much like in the win over Knott earlier in the week, but they were able to make several key plays down the stretch.
“You have to give Hazard credit. I have a tremendous amount of respect for coach (Al) Holland. He’s been successful everywhere he’s been,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “They got up in us today and we didn’t do a great job of handling it. That’s something we have to correct in practice. I’m awful proud of them because they made plays when it counted. Not having five guys playing well and still be able to win says a lot about our team.”
Daniel Carmical and Jackson Huff also had big games for the 12-1 Bears with 18 and 15 points, respectively.
“Daniel shot it well, and that’s what we need from him. I told him before the game he’d shoot it well today because I have so much confidence in him,” Jones said. “Jackson played very well today on both ends of the floor. He shot it well, but I thought the way he guarded Pelfrey at the end was the difference in the game.”
Pelfrey, a senior guard, led the 9-3 Bulldogs with 26 points. Junior forward Andrew Ford added 16 points. Eighth-grade guard Samuel Shoptaw scored 10,
Harlan County struggled to run an offense in the opening three minutes with a handful of turnovers before the first shot from the field. Noah, Huff and Carmical hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers as the Bears grabbed an 11-4 advantage midway through the period. HCHS had only one other basket the remainder of the quarter as Hazard built an 18-14 lead as Pelfrey and Shoptaw hit 3-pointers.
Pelfrey and Shoptaw continued to carry the Hazard offense in the second quarter as the Bulldogs moved out to a 29-24 lead, Noah pulled the Bears even with five straight points before two free throws from Pelfrey gave Hazard a 31-29 halftime advantage.
The lead changed hands several times in the third quarter. Carmical put the Bears up on two occasions with a three-point play and then a 3-pointer. Pelfrey’s 3 to beat the buzzer gave the Bulldogs a 44-42 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Hazard moved out to a five-point advantage that Huff wiped out in two trips down the floor. HCHS pulled even two more times on baskets by Tyler Cole and Turner. Max Johnson missed on a 3 in the closing seconds, then Carmical missed on a long shot just before regulation ended.
Harlan County will play Knox Central on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the WYMT finals. No Harlan County boys has team won the WYMT Mountain Classic.