Defense carries Bears in tourney win
GATLINBURG, TENN. — There is an old sports adage that is based on the premise that while offense may sell tickets, defense wins championships.
The Harlan County Black Bears believe in this theory.
The Bears used a solid game defensively to win 54-44 over East Hickman (Tenn.) on Thursday night in the opening round of the Smoky Mountain Christmas Classic in Gatlinburg.
The Bears (8-0) used their defense to speed up the tempo and force the Eagles (3-6) into multiple turnovers, forced shots, and misses for most of the matchup.
Harlan County head coach Michael Jones was pleased with the Bears work on defensive end.
“We were pleased with the effort and the hustle. It was a team effort. We pride ourselves on the defensive end,” Jones said. “After the first quarter, we played with a lot of energy and emotion.“
Offensively, Harlan County received contributions from all nine players that played with three players scoring in double figures, led by senior guard Drew Nolan and junior guard Alex Pace with 11 points apiece. Tyrese Simmons added 10 points. .
East Hickman was led by Zavier Taylor with 12 points.
The Eagles led 14-11 at the end of the first quarter while the Bears settled into their rhythm. Once they did, it was all Harlan County. The Bears outscored the Eagles 17-6 in the second quarter to stake Harlan County to a 28-20 lead going into halftime, a lead they would never relinquish.
In the second half, the Bears pressure began to wear down the Eagles. East Hickman was outscored in the third quarter 15-11 as Harlan County took a 43-31 advantage going into the fourth.
The fourth quarter was much of the same with the Bears using their defense to create offense. However, the Eagles outscored the Bears 13-11 in the final quarter, yet it wasn’t enough to offset the final margin of victory.
The Bears move on to a Friday matchup with Travelers Rest (S.C.) at 10 a.m. in the winners bracket of the tournament. The Eagles move to the consolation bracket of the tournament to face Knoxville Central at 11:30 a.m.
Harlan County 54, East Hickman, Tenn. 44
HARLAN COUNTY (8-0)
Andrew Creech 2 3-6 7, Drew Nolan 3 4-7 11, Alex Pace 2 5-8 11, Tyrese Simmons 3 4-4 10, Lamar Burkhart 1 0-0 2, Gabe Price 1 1-2 3, Patrick Bynum 1 0-0 2, Taylor Spurlock 2 0-0 5, Tyler Cole 1 0-0 3. TOTALS 16 17-27 54.
EAST HICKMAN, TENN. (3-6)
Keller 3 3-4 10, Krebs 3 2-2 9, Newcomb 1 1-2 3, Sowell 2 0-1 4, Taylor 5 2-2 12, Mobley 2 2-4 6. TOTALS 16 10-15 44
HARLAN COUNTY — 11 17 15 11 — 54
EAST HICKMAN Tenn. — 14 6 11 13 — 44