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Nolan, Simmons rescue Black Bears in win over Bell

Despite their 14-2 record going into Saturday night’s showdown against Knox Central, nothing has come easy this season for the Harlan County Black Bears.

The Bears found a way to win another close game once again Friday against visiting Bell County. Seniors Drew Nolan and Tyrese Simmons led HCHS to a 68-55 victory as the duo teamed for 22 points and nine rebounds in the fourth quarter after Bell had take on a one-point lead to open the period on a Sawyer Brock basket.

Nolan and Simmons scored the next eight points as Harlan County (14-2 overall, 4-0 district) reclaimed control. Nolan finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds and Simmons contributed 12 points and seven rebounds.

“We weren’t executing anything very well tonight, but they both went to the offensive boards really well and finished in traffic,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We needed that from them tonight. We didn’t handle their pressure. We didn’t defend. We just did enough to win and those two were big in the fourth quarter.”

Junior guard Alex Pace added 16 points for the Bears.

Sawyer Brock, a junior guard, led Bell County (10-5 overall, 2-2 district) with 17 points. Colby Frazier and Isaac Collett added 14 and 11 points, respectively.

First-year Bell County coach Frankie Smith said his Bobcats didn’t handle the emotion and intensity of the game as well as he would have liked. The game featured three technical fouls and five fouling out.

“I’m trying to change the culture. I told them to quit crying. The officials did not cost us the game,” he said. “Rebounding, making poor decisions, missing free throws, turnovers and not being where you’re supposed to be is what cost us the game. We got beat. I take full responsibility and my players have to learn to do that. We got beat tonight by a better team.”

Harlan County led through most of the first half, including 17-12 after one quarter and 32-24 at halftime. The Bears went up by 10 on a basket by Nolan to start the third quarter before the Bobcats went on a 14-4 run to pull even. Harlan County turned the ball over eight times against the Bobcats’ half-court trap after having only two turnovers in the first half.

“We were down 10 and tied it within five minutes,” Smith said. “We were able to get them in the mix where they didn’t know what to do, but they figured it out and started getting the ball in the middle a little easier and hitting the opposite side. They regained their composure.”

“I give them credit, but we were doing the opposite of what we were supposed to do. We dribbled it into the trap and then weren’t being strong enough with the ball,” Jones said. “This is something we have to correct if we can get back into the gym and get some practice in.”

Nolan hit five of six shots in the fourth quarter, most coming on offensive rebounds, as the Bears reclaimed control during a 19-5 run that also included three baskets by Simmons.

Harlan County will play host to Knox Central on Saturday. Bell County plays host to Lynn Camp on Monday.

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Harlan County 68, Bell County 55

BELL COUNTY (10-5)

Sawyer Brock 6-21 5-9 17, Colby Frazier 6-10 2-3 14, Trey Brock 2-4 0-0 4, Kyle Burnett 0-1 0-0 0, Tyler Partin 3-4 1-2 7, Isaac Collett 3-5 2-2 11, Ryan Lambdin 0-1 0-0 0, Dawson Atkins 0-4 0-0 0, Brayden Temple 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-49 12-19 55.

HARLAN COUNTY (14-2)

Andrew Creech 1-4 3-3 5, Drew Nolan 10-16 7-10 27, Alex Pace 5-13 4-5 16, Tyrese Simmons 3-9 6-9 12, Lamar Burkhart 0-2 0-0 0, Gabe Price 0-4 6-8 6, Patrick Bynum 1-1 0-0 2, Tyler Cole 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 19-51 26-35 68.

Bell County 12 12 17 14 — 55

Harlan County 17 15 10 26 — 68

3-point goals: Bell County 3-8 (Collett 3-5, S. Brock 0-1, Lambdin 0-1, Atkins 0-1), Harlan County 4-19 (Nolan 2-7, Pace 2-8, Simmons 0-1, Price 0-1, Cole 0-2). Rebounds: Bell County 23 (S. Brock 4, Partin 4, Collett 4, Atkins 4, Burnett 3, Frazier 2, T. Brock 2, ), Harlan County 39 (Nolan 13, Price 9, Simmons 7, Creech 4, Pace 3, Bynum 2, Burkhart 1). Turnovers: Bell County 12, Harlan County 12. Fouled out: Bell County (Partin, T. Brock, Collett), Harlan County (Creech, Pace). Technical fouls: Bell County (T. Brock, Partin), Harlan County (Pace).