Bears’ upset bid falls short with loss to Knox Central

By John Henson, Managing Editor

CORBIN — A rematch of last year’s 13th Region Tournament championship in this year’s first round lost some of its luster with the news that standout Harlan County point guard Trent Noah was sidelined for the tournament due to a broken foot suffered last week.
An expected nail biter turned anticipated blowout turned back into a thriller when the Black Bears pulled even against Knox Central in the final minute of the third quarter. The Panthers responded with a decisive 12-1 run in the fourth quarter on the way to a 63-47 victory.
“I’m awfully proud of this bunch, probably as proud as I’ve been all year long,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “They stuck to the gameplan. We changed a bunch of things yesterday, offensively and defensively. They stuck to it to perfection, even when we got down. They could have very easily quit in the first half and got ran out of here. When it was 38-38 in the final minute of the third quarter without your top scorer and rebounder, you couldn’t ask for more than that. We missed some open shots when it was 38-38. I felt if we had made a couple of those, we’d have won the ballgame.”
Knox Central coach Tony Patterson debated in his mind for.a second when asked if Noah’s absence caused his team to relax.
“It may have, but it shouldn’t have,” Patterson said. “I’m going to say no. I just think we lost focus from late in the first quarter to the end of the third quarter. We lost focus on what we were supposed to do. Noah is a great player, and I can’t say if we would have played better if he was in. We can’t let that bother us. I hope he heals fast. He’s a great player, and he will do big things, I have no doubt. I know where he’s coming from. I watched my son go through the same thing.”
Knox Central star Jevonte Turner was limited to only four points with sophomores Daniel Carmical and Jonah Swanner spent the majority of the game on him. Freshman center Gavin Chadwell stepped up to hit 10 of 10 shots from the field in a 23-point, 11-rebound effort.
“That was our gamplan to go inside out and we got away from it,” Patterson said. “We’re big and strong and physical, but tonight we started cranking 3s. That’s not us.”
Sophomore guard Abram Brock also played a huge role with 13 points, including a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter, then two baskets off steals to put the Panthers in control.
“If he doesn’t guard and poke a few out we’re in trouble,” Patterson said. “Harlan County had the momentum until then. We were able to get a little lead and spread them out. He saved us. He really dug in and guarded. Nobody else was doing it, but he’s done it two or three times this year.”
“I think this game shows how talented Knox Central is. You hold one of the best players in the state to four points, but some others really stepped up,” Jones said. “(Brock) knocked down some 3s. (Chadwell) is a load down there to handle.”
The Bears’ problems with Chadwell and their physicality issues in two losses to Harlan this season illustrated their lack of strength, an area Jones says must improve going into the 2022 season when HCHS will again be ranked among the region favorites with three starters and numerous key reserves returning from a 19-6 squad.
“We’ve got to get in the weight room,” Jones said. “I told them they can take some time off or play other sports if they want, but they have to put some time in the weight room. We have to get bigger and stronger so we can compete on the backboards.”
Senior forward Josh Turner had perhaps the best game of his high school career with 18 points and five rebounds. Junior guard Jackson Huff added 14 points and five rebounds.
“Josh carried us. We changed our offense yesterday to run it through him. I trust him enough to make all the decisions,” Jones said. “We put Jackson on the point, and he did an outstanding job. They both kept us in the game.”
Maddox Huff and Turner scored to give Harlan County an early 5-0 lead but Central took control inside with Chadwell and built a 25-11 lead before Jackson Huff’s long 3 cut the deficit to 25-14 after one quarter.
Central’s lead grew to 16, at 33-17, midway through the second quarter on baskets by Turner, Chadwell and Isaac Mills. Turner hit two straight shots, then Jackson Huff connected on a 3 to start an 11-2 run that helped Harlan County cut the deficit to 36-30 at halftime.
The Panthers went over four minutes without a basket in the third quarter as HCHS pulled even on baskets by Maddox Huff, Turner and Jackson Huff to tie the game at 36. Bryce Imel broke the drought for Central, then Turner answered for the Bears. Harlan County missed several chances to take the lead before Chadwell powered his way inside for a basket that gave Central a 40-38 advantage going into the final period