Bears hit 17 treys in blitzing Corbin during early-season showdown


Chris Jones

Harlan County guard Jackson Huff battled through Eli Pietrowski’s pick to guard Hayden Llewellyn in Monday’s game. Huff scored 12 points in the Black Bears’ 78-56 victory over visiting Corbin.

By John Henson, Managing Editor


Both first-team all-state guards as seniors in 1994, then college roommates and now two of eastern Kentucky’s top coaches, Harlan County’s Michael Jones and Corbin’s Tony Pietrowski have a long history of squaring off in big games.
The two were on opposite sides again Monday at Harlan County High School as their teams met in an early-season showdown. Unlike most of their previous matchups, including regional championship games as both players and coaches, the latest game did not go down to the wire as usual. The Bears came out red hot and stayed ahead all the way in a 78-56 victory that improved their record to 3-0.
“Any time you can beat a Tony Pietrowski-coached team by 20 and have them down by 30 then you’ve accomplished something,” Jones said. “When we went in at halftime, I told our guys that this was my type of game. I told them that coach Pietrowski and I battled like this back when we played. I have a ton of respect for him, and he knows how I feel about him.”
The Black Bears had heroes step up at key points throughout the game, including sophomore guard Trent Noah and his game-high 23 points. Daniel Carmical took over in the second half as he scored all 17 of his points. Jonah Swanner and Jackson Huff added 15 and 12 points, respectively.
The 1-1 Redhounds were led by junior guard Hayden Llewellyn with 19 points and junior forward Brody Wells with 12. Corbin struggled on offense for most of the night, shooting 40 percent from the field (23 of 57) and 33 percent (six of 18) from the 3-point line. The Bears continued their 3-point assault by hitting 17 of 37.
“Harlan County did a lot of things well, including shooting the ball. If they shoot like that, they will be hard to guard. They can stretch out and then get to the rim,” Pietrowski said. “They were the better team tonight, but these are the kind of games we want to play. I think we can get better from this.
“I thought we were just really impatient. Our offense got a lot of one-pass or two-pass shots and that’s something we talked about. When teams are making a run like Harlan County did, those are the times you have to gather yourself and be patient. We panicked.”
Jones was especially pleased with the Bears’ effort on defense and the home-court advantage created by a boisterous student section.
“I’m so excited the way our fans turned out tonight and got behind this group. We need that night in and night out. We told them it was going to be a war and I wanted them to show up and be ready, and I thought we did that,” Jones said. “The thing I was most proud of tonight was that we held a team that will compete for the regional championship to 56 points. Our defense was solid tonight. That is the first time we’ve played man-to-man in some time, but this bunch is buying into it.”
Jackson Huff got the Bears off to a fast start, hitting three 3-pointers in the opening quarter as HCHS took an early lead it never relinquished. Noah and Swanner also added three baskets each as Harlan County outscored the Hounds 26-13.
“Jackson shot the lights out the first quarter,” Jones said. “He was doing a good job of running the floor, gettin this feet set and spotting up and his brother (Maddox Huff) was finding him. He gave us a big lift the first quarter.”
Swanner was a weapon throughout the night as he used his quickness to slice past defenders, hitting four of five shots in the first half.
“Jonah is a spark plug and the key to us making a long run because we can put four shooters around him,” Jones said. “He has the ability to blow by you. It was a great team win.”
Up 38-26 at halftime, the Bears missed their first six shots of the second half, but fortunately for them the Redhounds couldn’t capitalize as they missed their first five. Carmical heated up midway through the quarter after being held scoreless in the first half. The junior guard hit three straight from behind the line as HCHS pushed its lead to 20 and maintained a 55-39 advantage going into he final period.
“He just has to make one or two and you think the next 10 will go in,” Jones said. “We spread you out offensively and put shooters everywhere. If you go out there on them, we’ll let Jonah play one on one.”
Maddox Huff, Swanner and Carmical teamed for 17 straight points midway through the fourth quarter as the Bears’ lead grew to 74-47 with three minutes left.
Harlan County will travel to Williamsburg on Friday to take on the Jackets in the Wayne Bargo Classic. Corbin will play host to Garrard County on Tuesday.
Down by 18 in the third quarter, Harlan County fought back to within three and a tying 3-pointer rattled out at the buzzer as the Redhounds held on for a 50-47 victory in junior varsity action.
Sophomore guard Hunter Newberry scored 18 points and sophomore forward Hayden Wells added 11 to lead Corbin. Kade Elam tossed in 10.
Freshman guard Ethan Simpson sparked the comeback and led the Bears with 17 points. Jaycee Carter, a freshman center, added 10 points. Brody Napier tossed in six, followed by Blake Hensley with five and Hunter Napier, Taelor Haywood and Terry Michael Delaney with three each.