Bears overcome early struggles to defeat Perry Central


John Henson

Harlan County guard Trent Noah scored 18 points in the Bears’ 62-42 win Thursday over visiting Perry Central.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Playing their final home game of the 2021 season, the Harlan County Black Bears struggled through the best part of three quarters on Thursday against visiting Perry Central. The Bears were limited to only six points from the start of the second quarter until midway through the third before finally coming to life with a 12-4 run to end the period.
Harlan County outscored the Commodores 23-8 in the fourth quarter on the way to a 62-42 win that improved the Bears’ record to 17-4, including a 7-0 mark against 14th Region opponents.
“We’ve had some really good practices leading up to this game, so I don’t know why we came out and played like this. I don’t know if it was Senior Night or what. I asked them at halftime if they wanted to be here tonight,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We had an interesting halftime talk. We didn’t play well to start the third quarter either. Credit Perry Central for making us play that way.”
“We’ve done that all year. We play well, then two or three things go wrong,” Perry Central coach Shannon Hoskins said. “We kind of all apart. Our defense stopped moving, and we started giving up offensive rebounds. Everything we did right the first half went wrong the second half.”
Senior guard Tyler Cole, who was honored before the game in Senior Night ceremonies, along with Josh Turner and James Gray, scored 19 points to lead the Bears, including six straight to start the decisive run in the third period. Tristan Cooper and Trent Noah also hit 3-pointers in the final 46 seconds of the quarter.
“I’m proud of these seniors and what they’ve meant to our program,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “They’ve given us everything they’ve had for four years. I told them when I gave them their gifts before the game that I wanted one more month with them, which would put us at Rupp Arena. I know this group will turn it around and be ready to play Saturday and in the district tournament as well.”
Noah finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Jackson Huff added 10 points and five rebounds.
Perry Central (6-11) was led by sophomore guard Tyler Day with 14 points. Rydge Beverly chipped in with 10 points. Senior center Lanse McKenzie contributed nine points and nine rebounds.
Harlan County hit five 3-pointers in the opening quarter, led by two from Daniel Carmical, helped the Bears build a 21-14 lead. Noah had three baskets in the quarter.
Cole’s basket pushed the HCHS lead to nine early in the second period before the Bears went ice cold, missing their final eight shots from the field in the half. Beverly and Mckenzie each had two baskets as Perry reeled off 12 unanswered points to go up by three. Two free throws by sophomore guard Jonah Swanner, who provided a spark on defense, cut the deficit to 26-25 at halftime.
The Bears extended their lead from five points to 12 midway through the fourth quarter before Perry made a final run to get within nine with four minutes left. Harlan County scored the game’s final 11 points, led by two baskets from Huff, to win by 20.
“I was proud of Jackson, especially defensively. I also thought Jonah gave us a spark on defense, then Tristan came in and hit a big shot,” Jones said. “We had some bright spots, but our effort wasn’t good the first half.”
While the rebuilding Commodores have struggled much of the season, Hoskins likes their chances of a postseason run with no clear-cut favorite in the 14th Region.
“We’ve had our opportunities all year,” Hoskins said. “It’s something different all the time, with free throw shooting, rebounding or field goal shooting. We have lot of inexperience, but we have to find a way to put it together for five games.”
Harlan County will close its regular season schedule Saturday against Montgomery County at 8:30 p.m. in the Raymond Reed Classic at South Laurel High School. Perry Central will play Martin County on Saturday.
Tyler Smith forced overtime with a 3-pointer with two seconds left, then Perry Central went on to a 50-45 win.
Trayton Woods scored 19 to lead the Commodores. Connor Combs added 10 points.
Jeremiah Clem led the 4-5 Bears with 16 points. Jared Rhymer scored nine. Ethan Rhymer added eight. Caleb Johnson and Samuel Henson each chipped in with five. Taelor Haywood scored two.