Bears knock off 10th Region power Montgomery County in Raymond Reed Classic

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Harlan County forward Josh Turner passed around Montgomery County’s Rickey Lovette in action from the Raymond Reed Classic at South Laurel on Saturday. Turner had seven points and 12 rebounds in the Bears’ 69-68 overtime victory.

By John Henson, Managing Editor

LONDON — While playing good competition can’t guarantee success in the postseason, Harlan County coach Michael Jones has searched far and wide for a variety of quality opponents in a 2021 season delayed and changed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Harlan County capped off its regular season schedule at 18-4 with a 69-68 overtime win Saturday over Montgomery County, last year’s 10th Region runner-up, in the final game of the Raymond Reed Classic at South Laurel High School.
The Black Bears have earned wins over opponents from seven regions, including the 13th, and all those teams were ranked in the top six in their respective regions by the RPI ratings used by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
“That was a great team we just beat,” Jones said. “(Hagan) Harrison is one of the best guards we’ve seen all year, and they have the big (6-foot-6 Rickey) Lovette kid inside, who is a nightmare matchup for us.”
Harlan County almost let the game get away due to uncharacteristic problems at the free throw line. The Bears hit only 12 of 19 at the line for the game and missed four of five in the final two minutes of regulation.
“We’re one of the top free throw shooting teams in the state if you look at the stats, but I told them I’m confident they will knock those down in tournament time,” Jones said.
HCHS scored the first four points of overtime, including a 3-pointer from Jackson Huff, but Montgomery pulled even when Lovette scores inside and Harrison hit two free throws. Noah drew a foul with 5.5 seconds left and hit one of two at the line. Harrison’s shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
Harrison scored 33 points to lead the 10-6 Indians. Lovette added 14 points.
Noah led the Bears with 30 points. Tyler Cole scored 14 and Huff added 11.
“Coach (Gary) Greer told Trent that he had to take over the game. There are games you have to have that mentality when you are rolling like he was,” Jones said.
Senior forward Josh Turner added seven points and 12 rebounds.
“I thought Josh did a great job battling on the boards. He plays a lot bigger than he is,” Jones said.
Montgomery led through must of the opening quarter, led by two baskets each from Harrison and Lovette. Noah kept the Bears close with three baskets, including a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 16-13 going into the second period.
Noah had four more baskets in the second quarter, including another 3 to close the period as HCHS took a 31-30 lead into the break. Harrison had five of the Indians’ six baskets in the quarter.
Huff hit three straight shots in the third quarter, including two 3-pointers, as the Bears built an eight-point advantage. J.T. Woosley scored to close the period and cut the HCHS lead to 51-45.
“Jackson is playing really well defensively and offensively, and I know that will continue in the tournament,” Jones said. “We need that from him.”
Brandon Dyer hit a pair of 3-pointers for Montgomery in the fourth quarter to answer baskets by Cole and Noah. Harrison took over from that point with four baskets in the period, hitting a 3-pointer with 2:55 left to cut the deficit to one and then adding the tying jumper with 16 seconds left as the Bears left the door open with missed free throws.
Harlan County will be open the final week of the regular season and will take on Bell County on March 16 in the first round of the 52nd District Tournament at Harlan.