Bears complete three-game home sweep of district opponents with win over Middlesboro

Noah scores 42 to lead Bears

By John Henson, Managing Editor




A three-game 52nd District sweep over an eight-day span, all at home, has moved the Harlan County Black Bears from worst to first in the race for the top seed in next month’s tournament.
The Bears completed the district sweep with a 79-60 win Tuesday over Middlesboro in a game that was closer than most probably expected with the Jackets closing to within four by the end of the third quarter before HCHS reclaimed control with an 8-1 run to start the fourth period.
“I tried to prepare the kids, even when you go from 2,000 fans, or whatever it was, to 30 tonight, you still have to be locked in and be mentally ready to go and not worry about who is out there as far as fans and everything else,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “I didn’t think we were ready on defense. They got into the paint way too much. We gave up too many passes that we normally don’t let go through. Our intensity wasn’t there. No excuses because of fans not being here, but we didn’t react the way we should have.”
Sophomore guard Trent Noah carried the HCHS offense as he broke his own school record for boys basketball with 42 points, hitting 17 of 23 shots. Blair Green has the overall basketball scoring record for HCHS with 43 points on Jan. 15, 2016, in a 73-66 win at home over Knott Central.
“He missed that first layup and I got on him, and he responded,” Jones said. “There’s no doubt he carried us tonight.”
Daniel Carmical and Jackson Huff added 14 and 11 points, respectively, for the 13-4 Black Bears, who improved to 3-1 in district action.
Sophomore guard Cayden Grigsby led the 6-11 Yellow Jackets with 24 points. Caleb Bogonko scored 11 as he hit three of three 3-pointers. Jaiden Schertz added 10 points. The Jackets hit nine of 16 from behind the 3-point line.
“That’s the best I’ve seen their kids play. They were phenomonal. They were hard for us to guard,” Jones said. “We have to a better job of containing the dribble.”
But even with their struggles on Tuesday, the Bears control their own destiny in the district race and could clinch the top seed with road wins at Middlesboro and Harlan.
“We took care of business at home. Now, we have to go on the road and win,” he said. “If we can go on the road and pick up two wins we’ll be sitting in a good spot.”
Harlan County scored the game’s first six points and built an 18-5 lead with the help of four baskets by Noah and two from Jonah Swanner. Bogonko, the Jackets’ star running back in the fall, hit two 3-pointers to help Middlesboro cut the deficit to 10, at 22-12, after one quarter.
Noah hit four consecutive shots to start the second quarter as the Bears’ lead grew to 15. Schertz and Grigsby combined to hit seven of seven shots as the Jackets stayed within striking distance, trailing 44-31 at halftime.
The Jackets hit seven of 10 shots in the third quarter, closing the period with seven straight points to cut the HCHS lead to 53-49. Harlan County reclaimed control with its run to start the fourth period. Huff and Carmical combined to hit four of four 3-pointers in the period to help hold off Middlesboro’s upset bid.
Harlan County returns to action Thursday at home against Letcher Central. Middlesboro will play host to Bell County on Friday.
The Harlan County Lady Bears earned a covid forfeit win over Middlesboro in what was scheduled to be the first half of a district doubleheader on Tuesday. The Lady Jackets fell to 6-10 overall and 0-2 in district action. HCHS improved to 9-8 overall and 2-2 in district action.