Bears bounce back from first loss by bouncing South in a 22-point rout

By John Henson, Managing Editor


The Harlan County Black Bears have been on quite a rollercoaster over the past week, taking on three 50th District opponents over an eight-day period. The Black Bears did something very few teams, if any, have done on back-to-back weeks with 22-point wins over perennial region powers Corbin and South Laurel. The Bears routed visiting Corbin 78-56 last Monday, then repeated that feat Tuesday with a 71-49 victory over the visiting Cardinals in a game that HCHS controlled after a 13-1 run in the first quarter.
What makes the two wins even stranger Is the fact that the Bears suffered their only loss of the season on Friday in overtime at Williamsburg, a team that wasn’t rated nearly as high as either of its 50th District rivals in this year’s preseason rankings.
“Adversity reveals character and we have some kids with high character and I knew they would bounce back,” said Harlan County coach Michael Jones. “South was coming off a tough game last night against North Laurel, but I thought, in spurts, we played really well.”
Harlan County followed a familiar pattern to success, hitting nine of 16 from beyond the 3-point line. Trent Noah finished with 29 points in becoming the first sophomore to join the school’s 1,000-point club. Maddox Huff and Daniel Carmical added 17 and 14 points, respectively, as the Bears improved to 4-1 on the season.
It was the second loss in two nights for the 5-2 Cardinals, who suffered a 70-52 loss at North Laurel on Monday after opening the season with five straight wins against solid competition, including Scott County and Frederick Douglass.
Eli Gover, a junior guard, was the only Cardinal in double figures with 11 points. South was held to single digits in each of the first two quarters as the Bears built a 13-7 lead after one quarter and a 29-15 advantage at halftime after leading by as many as 20 late in second quarter.
“We’re still missing some assignments on defense, including some things we went over and over for this game, but we played pretty well,” Jones said. “We also did some good things offensively. South Laurel will get up and guard you. Coach (Jeff) Davis always does an outstanding job preparing his team, so that makes it a challenge.”
Harlan County’s lead grew to 27-7 midway through the second quarter as Noah and Carmical each hit 3-pointers in a 12-0 run to start the second quarter. Carmical hit three of his four 3-pointers in the first half.
“Daniel made some big shots to stretch the lead out,” Jones said.
Harlan County’s lead grew to 24 late in the third quarter before Parker Payne and Rhys England scored to pull the Cardinals within 17 before Noah closed the period with a jumper that gave him 20 points for the game and 1,000 for his career.
“Trent is a phenomenal talent and a phenomenal person. I told him when I went out there (to give him a basketball marking his 1,000 points) that I wanted 2,000 more points,” Jones said. “We’re fortunate to have him. He carried us at times tonight.”
South opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run to get within 13 before Maddox Huff took control with a couple of jumpers to put the Bears back in control. Noah followed with consecutive treys to pus the lead back to 24.
“Maddox played well,” Jones said. “He had some mental lapses like everyone but he was more aggressive offensively, and that’s what we need out of him. I told him to just play his game.”
Harlan County will play its opening district game Friday at Bell County in a girls/boys doubleheader. South Laurel will play Newport Central Catholic on Saturday in the Stock Yards Bank & Trust Challenge at Rowan County.