Central overcomes slow start with strong finish to edge Bears in WYMT finals


John Henson

Harlan County senior guard Tyler Cole worked against Knox Central’s Isaac Mills on Monday in the Food City/WYMT Mountain Classic. Cole scored 20 points in the Bears’ 74-70 loss.

By John Henson, Managing Editor


HAZARD — In the first 90 seconds of the WYMT Food City Mountain Classic finals on Monday, the Harlan County Black Bears couldn’t miss. The Bears hit four straight 3-pointers to start the game in building a 14-0 lead over Knox Central.
In the final three minutes, the Bears couldn’t score or rebound. Knox Central closed the game with a 9-0 run to win a 74-70 thriller.
“We got off to a great start, just like we did in (last year’s) regional tournament. We kept telling the kids in timeouts that the game wasn’t over and they would make runs. We knew we wouldn’t blow this team out,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We just didn’t do a good job of executing at the end. We had our chances. Our two best players had it late and we had a walk and a missed layup.”
Senior guard Jevonte Turner scored 26 points and junior forward Isaac Mills added 23 to lead the 6-2 Panthers, who defeated Harlan County in last year’s 13th Region finals.
The 12-2 Black Bears were led by senior guard Tyler Cole with 20 points. Sophomore guard Daniel Carmical and freshman guard Trent Noah each added 18 points. Jackson Huff chipped in with 10.
Carmical hit two 3s while Huff and Noah added one each to give Harlan County a 14-0 lead. Mills and Turner led an 11-3 run that brought the Panthers back after they missed seven of their first nine shots. Huff hit a second 3-pointer and Cole scored inside as the Bears led 24-17 after one period.
Harlan County extended its lead back to 11 midway though the second quarter before Knox fought back again behind Turner, Mills and K.T. Turner. A 3-point by Andrew Sizemore cut the HCHS lead to 44-41 at halftime.
The Bears went ice cold to start the second half, missing seven of their first eight shots, as Knox built a five-point advantage with a 10-0 run. Carmical found the range again from the outside with a pair of 3-pointers in a 13-4 run to close the quarter. Noah’s three-point play helped HCHS take a 59-55 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Noah had a 3-pointer and a three-point play in an 8-0 run that put the Bears up 70-65 with 3:31 left in regulation. The Bears didn’t score again as Knox took control of the game on the backboards with a 10-3 advantage on the boards in the period.
“We didn’t do a good job rebounding the basketball,” Jones said. “I thought they killed us on the boards. I kept telling them in timeouts that we would do enough offensively to win, but if we didn’t rebound we wouldn’t win. That proved true. They just manhandled us on the boards late in the game.”
Freshman forward Gavin Chadwell had four of the Panthers’ rebounds in the fourth quarter and also scored the go-ahead basketball with 44 seconds. Cole missed a chance to put Harlan County ahead when he missed in the paint, then Noah was called for a walk as went for the tie. Central’s Turner missed a chance to ice the win at the free throw line, giving Harlan County the ball in the closing seconds. The Bears had an out-of-bounds play under their basket with eight seconds left, but Abe Brock stole Josh Turner’s pass and found Jevonte Turner for a game-closing dunk.
Harlan County returns to action Tuesday at home against North Laurel, the 13th Region’s top-rated team at this point of the season. Knox Central (6-2) plays host to Corbin on Wednesday.