Bears overcome another slow start

Published 11:55 pm Friday, December 8, 2017

With Cameron Carmical and Treyce Spurlock around to provide instant offense, almost on demand it seemed, the Harlan County Black Bears didn’t deal with many offensive slumps the past three seasons.

With Carmical now at Eastern and Spurlock at Morehead, the Bears are finding offense to be quite a challenge in the early part of the 2017-2018 campaign and coach Michael Jones is preaching patience.

“We have to keep telling ourselves as coaches that we have to be patient with this group. It’s a process,” said Jones after the Bears overcome a fourth straight slow start to defeat visiting Middlesboro 60-43 on Friday to improve to 4-0 on the season. “We probably had the best practice all season yesterday. Our offense looked good and we talked about what we needed to do, but then we got in the game and forgot. We get in a rut when we can’t score, but we’ve done a good job in all four games of battling back and finding a way to win.”

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Junior guard Alex Pace again came to the rescue for the Bears with a 28-point performance that carried the HCHS offense. Taylor Spurlock and Gabe Price provided a much-needed spark off the bench with eight and seven points, respectively, for the 4-0 Black Bears.

“Pace has worked really hard. He stays in the gym, including coming in at 6 a.m. a couple of times per week,” Jones said. “That work is showing by how he has improved from last year, and we’ve needed everything he’s given us. We’re fortunate he’s playing well offensively. He and Taylor both played well tonight.”

Sophomore guard Jabari Kyle scored 18 points to lead the 1-3 Jackets. Junior guard Drake Thomas added 11.

Thomas hit three 3-pointers and Kyle added two baskets as Middlesboro raced to a 16-5 lead after one quarter. The lead was still at 11 early in the second quarter when Pace ignited the comeback with a three-point play and a 3-pointer. Two baskets by Drew Nolan and another 3-pointer by Pace pulled the Bears even at 20-20. Baskets by Price and Andrew Creech put HCHS up 24-21 at halftime.

Harlan County forced Middlesboro into seven turnovers in the second quarter and eight more in the third quarter to take control of the game. Pace scored nine straight points in the third period as the HCHS lead grew to 43-33 going into the final quarter.

“A lot of that was inexperience,” said first-year Middlesboro coach Lewis Morris. “We have to learn to move when there is no place to go. We just lost our composure and instead of passing the ball we tried to dribble it. We stood around instead of moving the basketball and shooting layups. They have to learn to compete against stronger kids. We have to be able to battle for four quarters. It’s a process and we’ll keep working.”

“We talked before the game about playing hard and not waiting until we get behind,” Jones said. “If we would do that from start to finish, then our offense would kind of flow, but I’m proud of them for not giving up. It’s a long process and we’ll get better each game.”

Harlan County played Estill County on Saturday at Jackson County in the PRTC Classic.


Harlan County 60, Middlesboro 43


Jabari Kyle 8-12 2-2 18, Christian Hubbard 1-2 0-0 3, Drake Thomas 3-12 2-5 11, T.J. Patterson 0-2 0-0 0, Andrew Padgett 0-0 0-0 0, Mykel Griffin 4-5 0-0 8, Steven Poore 0-2 0-0 0, Taylor McClelland 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Davis 1-3 0-0 3, Cameron May 0-0 0-0 0, Ethan Barton 0-0 0-0 0, Eric Helton 0-0 0-2 0, Bryan Barnard 0-0 0-0 0, Caleb Bagonko 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-38 4-11 43.


Andrew Creech 3-9 0-0 6, Drew Nolan 3-6 0-0 6, Alex Pace 10-14 5-5 28, Tyrese Simmons 1-6 0-0 2, Lamar Burkhart 1-3 0-0 2, Gabe Price 3-6 0-2 7, Patrick Bynum 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Spurlock 2-2 4-5 8, Tyler Cole 0-2 1-2 1, A.J. Simmons 0-0 0-0 0, Josh Turner 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 23-49 10-14 60.

Middlesboro 16 5 12 10 — 43

Harlan County 5 19 19 17 — 60

3-point goals: Middlesboro 5-9 (Thomas 3-6, Hubbard 1-1, Davis 1-2), Harlan County 4-12 (Pace 3-5, Price 1-1, Creech 0-1, Simmons 0-1, Burkhart 0-2, Cole 0-2). Rebounds: Middlesboro 22 (Patterson 5, Griffin 5, Thomas 4, Hubbard 3, Kyle 1, McClelland 1, David 1, Bagonko 1), Harlan County 24 (Pace 6, Simmons 5, Spurlock 4, Nolan 3, Price 3, Creech 1, Cole 1, A.J. Simmons 1, Turner 1).