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Bears shoot past DeSales in tourney

LONDON — It probably appeared to most basketball observers that the Harlan County Black Bears lost much of their shooting prowess with the graduation of Cameron Carmical and Treyce Spurlock last May.

In their 10-1 start to the 2018 season, the Bears are showing that they still have some players who can score and that was never more evident than in an 83-71 win Wednesday over Louisville DeSales in the first round of the Legacy Nissan Dribble Drive Challenge at South Laurel High School. The Black Bears shot a blistering 82 percent (14 of 17) from beyond the 3-point line to build an early lead and then made sure they held on by shooting 89 percent (23 of 26) from the free throw line.

“It would be nice if we could shoot it like that all the time. We did some good things offensively and we shot it well, but we didn’t defend like we’re capable,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We also gave up too many offensive rebounds and didn’t guard the dribble well. They have a nice club though. They shot it well and gave us trouble. We can clean up some little things though.”

Junior guard Alex Pace hit four of the 3-pointers in a 23-point effort to lead the Bears. Senior forward Lamar Burkhart scored 17 points on five 3-pointers.

Keegan Brewer led the 4-7 Colts with 25 points. Sam Weining added 15, followed by Matthew Ruckregel with 13 and Dalton Kelly with 10.

Burkhart started the 3-point barrage, hitting three straight as the Bears grabbed a quick 9-5 lead. DeSales closed to within two before Pace hit a 3-pointer and then completed a three-point play.

“Lamar is the type of kid who can get on a roll if he hits one or two, like he did in our second game last week in Gatlinburg,” Jones said. “Teams have to respect him out on the floor because of the way he can shoot. There will be games where we really need that.”

A 3 by DeSales’ Brewer pulled the Colts within three with 1:02 left. Pace hit a 3-pointer and Drew Nolan closed the quarter with a trey as the Bears built a 21-15 lead.

DeSales pulled within one on a 3-pointer by Brewer before the Bears reeled off six straight points behind Pace, Burkhart and Taylor Spurlock to go up by seven. Two more 3-pointers by Spurlock and one by Gabe Price pushed the HCHS advantage to 42-28 at halftime.

With senior point guard Andrew Creech slowed by illness, Spurlock came up big off the bench with 15 points.

“He didn’t get to practice yesterday and has been sick, so he didn’t have a typical Andrew game, but I told him right before the game ended that I knew he would bounce back tomorrow,” Jones said. “Taylor has played well all year. He has given us some great minutes off the bench, and we need that. (Gabe) Price has also played real well lately.”

HCHS had five turnovers in the opening three minutes of the third quarter as the Colts pulled within seven. Spurlock hit a 3-pointer to turn the momentum back in the Bears’ favor. The lead went back to 15 as back-to-back 3s by Pace and Spurlock. DeSales battled back to within nine, at 54-45, after three quarters.

Harlan County was up by seven with just under five minutes left when the Bears went to the spread offense that was so good to them in last year’s run to a regional championship. The Bears were able to get to the basket or draw fouls as they pulled away for the double-digit win.

“They are getting better at it,” Jones said of the spread offense. “All we have to do is handle it. I know that is easier said than done, but we did a good job with it. You have to hit free throws, and we did that tonight.”

Harlan County will play South Laurel in the opening semifinal Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Simon Kenton will play North Laurel in the other semifinal.

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Harlan County suffered its first loss of the season in the finals of the Smoky Mountain Christmas Classic in Gatlinburg, falling 79-64 to Louisville Pleasure Ridge Park.

The Bears led 19-15 after one quarter and 27-21 in the second quarter before HCHS lost three starters to foul trouble and PRP responded with a 24-5 run to take control.

Alex Pace scored 18 points to lead the 9-1 Bears. Andrew Creech scored 14. Tyrese Simmons and Gabe Price chipped in with 10 each.

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Harlan County 83, DeSales 71

DESALES (4-7)

Dalton Kelly 4-10 0-0 10, Keegan Brewer 10-15 2-3 25, Sam Weining 5-16 4-6 15, Matthew Ruckregel 5-5 3-4 13, Travis Seiber 0-3 0-0 0, Luke Askins 3-6 2-2 8, Kevin Sullivan 0-0 0-0 0, Antoine Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Hunter Brooks 0-0 0-0 0, Jack Michels 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 26-55 11-15 71.

HARLAN COUNTY (10-1)

Andrew Creech 0-3 0-0 0, Drew Nolan 2-4 7-8 13, Alex Pace 7-10 5-6 23, Tyrese Simmons 2-6 3-3 7, Lamar Burkhart 6-8 0-0 17, Taylor Spurlock 3-5 7-8 15, Gabe Price 3-4 1-1 8, Patrick Bynum 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Cole 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-40 23-26 83.

DeSales 15 13 17 26 — 71

Harlan County 21 21 12 29 — 83

3-point goals: DeSales 8-21 (Brewer 5-7, Kelly 2-7, Weining 1-6, Johnson 0-1), Harlan County 14-17 (Burkhart 5-7, Pace 4-5, Nolan 2-2, Spurlock 2-2, Price 1-1). Rebounds: DeSales 21 (Askins 7, Ruckregel 4, Seiber 4, Kelly 2, Brewer 2, Weining 2), Harlan County 26 (Price 7, Spurlock 5, Burkhart 4, Pace 4, Simmons 3, Nolan 1, Bynum 1, Cole 1). Turnovers: DeSales 9, Harlan County 16.

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Pleasure Ridge Park 79, Harlan County 64

HARLAN COUNTY (9-1)

Andrew Creech 3-8 8-10 14, Drew Nolan 2-12 4-4 8, Alex Pace 7-13 2-4 18, Tyrese Simmons 2-7 6-9 10, Lamar Burkhart 1-6 0-0 2, Gabe Price 4-9 2-5 10, Patrick Bynum 1-1 0-0 2, Taylor Spurlock 1-5 0-0 2, Tyler Cole 0-3 0-0 0. Totals: 21-60 22-33 64

PLEASURE RIDGE PARK (8-2)

Gerald Gray 13, Trey Hill 22, Darius Osborne 9, B.J. Robinson 11, Tyler Redmond 3, Cyncer Wilson 8, Cashawn Beasley 4, Tyler Anderson 9.

Harlan County 19 13 12 22 — 64

Pleasure Ridge Park 15 30 18 16 — 79

3-point goals: Harlan County 2-12 (Pace 2-5, Price 0-1, Spurlock 0-1, Cole 0-1, Nolan 0-2, Burkhart 0-2). Rebounds: Harlan County 36 (Simmons 8, Pace 7, Price 7, Nolan 5, Bynum 4, Creech 3, Spurlock 2)