Bears avenge loss at Bell, leading from start to finish in rematch

A month after watching Bell County end a 15-game winning streak against them in a 59-56 loss on Log Mountain, the Harlan County Black Bears had no problems with focus in the rematch, racing to a 12-2 lead in the first three minutes on the way to an 89-69 victory Tuesday at HCHS.
“We were going over some of their sets today and I could tell they were locked in. I had no doubt we were ready,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We wanted to set the tone offensively and defensively, and I thought we did. We were aggressive out of our trap and did a good job on (Cameron) Burnett in the first half.”
“We didn’t play very well and Harlan County did. I thought this game was lost in the first three or four minutes,” Bell County coach Brad Sizemore said. “We started out the game one of six at the free-throw line and had a bunch of silly turnovers. We got behind and had to start gambling. They shot it well and beat us to a lot of loose balls. We seemed to be flat and didn’t have a lot of energy defensively.”
Held to 12 points in the earlier matchup, Harlan County sophomore Trent Noah scored 28 in the rematch, including 13 of 15 at the line as he did a much better job at attacking the basket.
“We were attacking downhill and shot 26 free throws,” Jones said. “I don’t care if we shoot 3s, but have to get to the free throw line and play more to the basket. We watched film of the first game and I pointed out we were on our heels until the last couple of minutes. We didn’t want to do that tonight.”
Sophomore guard Jonah Swanner also had a huge night as he hit 11 of 13 shots and finished with 26 points.
“I know those other kids made a lot of shots, but I think he was the difference,” Sizemore said. “Every time we tried to get back into the game, he came up with a long rebound. He did what he wanted to going to the rim. He played really well.”
“That was the second straight game where they disrespected Jonah and put his guy at the free-throw line,” Jones said. “I told him he had to make them pay and he did. He was aggressive and did a great job of attacking off the dribble.”
Daniel Carmical and Maddox Huff added 14 and 13 points, respectively, as the Bars improved to 11-4 on the season.
Senior forward Cameron Burnett and senior guard Dalton Stepp led the 10-3 Bobcats with 26 and 23 points, respectively. The Bobcats played without junior guard Dawson Woolum, their second-leading scorer last season, due to illness.
Noah had three baskets in the first quarter and Maddox Huff added two as the Bears built a 20-9 lead.
Swanner took over in the second quarter, hitting five straight shots as HCHS extended its advantage to 27, at 42-15, with 3:05 left. Carmical and Maddox Huff added two 3-pointers each as Harlan County took a 46-26 lead into the break. Noah was limited to two free throws in the quarter but made his presence felt on the defensive end with four blocked shots.
Harlan County took its biggest lead at 61-33 on two free throws each by Noah and Jackson Huff. Swanner had three more baskets in the quarter and HCHS led 68-43 going into the final period.
Stepp and Burnett each had three baskets in the fourth quarter as the Bobcats outscored Harlan County 26-21 by hitting nine of 13 shots, including two 3-pointers by freshman Noah Brock, who finished with nine points.
“We told our guys at halftime, let’s just try to win the second half and we did,” Sizemore said. “I was proud of them for not giving up. We could have got beat by 40, but we at least made it competitive. I was really proud of Brock, our freshman. He came in and hit some 3s. That was gutsy of him.”
Harlan County will travel to Pineville on Friday and play host to Harlan on Saturday. Bell County will travel to Corbin on Friday.
Harlan County and Bell County split a freshman/junior varsity doubleheader Monday at Bell County as the Bobcats won 50-44 in a freshman game and the Bears won 48-33 in junior varsity action.
Blake Burnett scored 17 and Noah Brock added 15 to lead Bell in the freshman game.
Ethan Simpson led the 3-1 Bears with 11 points. Brody Napier and Hunter Napier scored 10 each.
Hunter Napier scored 13 and Caleb Johnson chipped in with nine to lead the HCHS junior varsity squad, which improved to 4-2.
Burnett led Bell with 18 points.
Bell County (50) — Noah Brock 15, Cooper Miracle 2, Blake Burnett 17, Elijah Hampton 4, Austin Goodin 2, Ethan Buell 10.
Harlan County (44) — Ethan Simpson 11, Brody Napier 10, Hunter Napier 10, Terry Delaney 6, Jaycee Carter 7.
Harlan County (48) — Ethan Simpson 5, Brody Napier 9, Hunter Napier 13, Caleb Johnson 9, Jaycee Carter 8, Terry Delaney 2, Brayden Hensley 2.
Bell County (33) — Brock 6, Burnett 18, Hampton 5, Huff 4.