Bears’ losing streak reaches four after falling to St. Xavier at Kentucky State

By John Henson, Managing Editor

FRANKFORT — From Somerset to Jackson to Frankfort, the Harlan County have traveled across the state over the past week in search of quality competition.
The Bears have added three losses to their season total against teams ranked in the top four in their respective regions, including a 69-63 decision Saturday against St. Xavier in the Ed Stepp Classic at Kentucky State University, but HCHS coach Michael Jones is counting on the experience to help his team make a run heading into the postseason.
“Adversity makes you better. We can’t let these losses determine our future, and they won’t. This bunch will bounce back,” Jones said. “I told them we’re preparing for a run at the end of the season and that’s why we’re playing this kind of competition. We’ll take this and build on it and get ready for Tuesday night.”
Harlan County fell behind 10-2 early but fought back and took a lead late in the second quarter and led by four late in the third period before St. Xavier closed with a 10-0 run sparked by eight points from Mekhi Smith, including a four-point play to close the quarter.
We were also up four late in the second quarter and had some bad possessions on defense,” Jones said. “We talked at halftime about what we work on in practice about switching screens and we didn’t do that in the third quarter. We were stepping back and letting him go down the floor and that really hurt us.”
Smith and Cole Sherman, both senior guards, each score 20 to lead the 16-6 Tigers, who are ranked fourth in the 7th Region.
Sophomore guard Trent Noah led the 16-9 Bears with 21 points and 10 rebounds but was limited to only two baskets through the first three quarters before leading a late comeback with four-of-five shooing in the fourth period.
“He wasn’t aggressive at all the first half and wasn’t going to the boards. That’s why I took him out the first half,” Jones said. “When he goes to the offensive boards, he is extremely hard to stop, but he’s been standing and watching too much the last two games. He will have to start going to the offensive boards and being aggressive on both ends of the floor.”
Maddox Huff added 16 points for the 16-9 Bears. Jackson Huff and Jonah Swanner scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.
St. Xavier hit its first seven shots from the field, led by two 3-pointers from Sherman, to build a 17-6 lead. Maddox Huff helped bring the Bears back by hitting three straight shots. Swanner added two baskets and Jackson Huff hit a 3 to close the quarter and cut the deficit to 17-14.
Noah, Maddox Huff and Jackson Huff each had baskets in a 7-0 as the Bears took a 32-28 lead before the Tigers scored the final four points of the half to tie the game at 32-all. HCHS hit eight of 13 shots in the quarter.
Harlan County returns to action Tuesday in a girls/boys district doubleheader at Harlan.