Noah’s record night propels Bears to victory over Letcher Central

By John Henson, Managing Editor

It was clear early in Thursday’s game against the visiting Letcher Central Cougars that the Harlan County Black Bears had a mismatch against anyone guarding Trent Noah.
The Bears went to Noah early and often and the Cougars sent Noah to the free-throw line at a record pace as the sophomore guard hit 23 of 26 at the line and finished with 44 points, breaking his own boys record at HCHS and breaking the overall school basketball record of 43 previously held by former all-stater Blair Green, who is now at the University of Kentucky.
“Any time you can get to the free-throw line 26 times, that’s always a positive, especially the way he shoots it. He kept asking for the ball, and that shows he’s maturing as. a player,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “I’ve watched a lot of film and that’s hardest playing team I’ve seen on film. They get after you and make you earn everything you get. We had to be aggressive and play down hill.”
The Bears played without starting freshman point guard Maddox Huff, due to illness, and sophomore guard Jonah Swanner saw limited action for the same reason. Letcher was without two starters in Nigel Nichols and Kayden Adams.
Junior guard Daniel Carmical added 16 points for the 14-4 Bears.
The 6-10 Cougars were led by Bodie Bentley with 17 points. Avantae Higgins and Peyton Dixon contributed 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Letcher stayed close early, even with its problems guarding Noah and Carmical. The Cougars took a 14-12 lead on a 3-pointer by Ethan Whitaker, but a four-point play by Carmical put the Bears back on top, this time for good. Letcher hit seven of 11 shots in the opening quarter but trailed 22-19.
Freshman guard Brody Napier played the best game of his high school career as he provided a spark off the bench with six points in the second quarter. Noah also had two baskets and hit 17 of 19 at the line in the first half as the Bears built a 52-36 lead.
“Brody has grown up a lot in practice and through junior varsity and freshmen games. He did a phenomenal job tonight,” Jones said. “He made a few mistakes, which is expected in his first extensive action, but I was proud of the way he got down the lane and scored and knocked down a 3. That’s how we want our kids to play off the bench.”
Noah had four baskets in the third quarter as the Bears’ advantage grew to 68-50. Junior guard Jeremiah Clem provided a lift with eight rebounds in the second half.
“Jeremiah came in and played hard. He played like he did this summer,” Jones said. “We hope he can continue that so we can give him some more minutes.”
Harlan County will play host to Madison Southern on Friday at 6 p.m. and will be home on Saturday for a 5 p.m. game against Cordia.
Letcher Central forced overtime with three free throws with .5 seconds left in regulation, but Harlan County took over in the extra period on the way to a 40-33 victory.
Eighth-grade forward Hunter Napier scored 14 points to lead the 5-3 Black Bears. Brody Napier and Jaycee Carter added nine and eight points, respectively. Caleb Johnson scored seven. Taelor Haywood chipped in with two.
Cooper Bailey led the Cougars with 12 points. Gavin Ramey scored nine.