• 66°

Black Bears triumph over Middlesboro

MIDDLESBORO — If nothing else, the Harlan County Black Bears should be well prepared for the stress of postseason play from the experience gained in a season when just about every game seemed to provide problems to overcome.

Harlan County (16-5 overall, 5-0 district) rallied from a six-point halftime deficit against a short-handed Middlesboro squad that gave the Bears fits in the first half with a slow-down, spread offense. The Bears took control in the third quarter, hitting eight of 12 shots while outscoring the Jackets 23-6 on the way to a 63-50 victory.

Middlesboro (10-12 overall, 1-4 district) played without sophomore point guard Jabari Kyle, who is out with a back injury, and junior wing Drake Thomas, who is ill.

The Jackets hit six of seven shots in the second quarter and 10 of 15 (67 percent) during the first half to build a 24-18 lead at the half. Junior center Mykel Griffin, who led the Jackets with 17 points, and junior guard Christian Hubbard, who added 10 points, combined to hit four of five shots in the half.

“They played well and forced us into doing things we’re not comfortable doing, but it’s not things we haven’t worked on,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We talked at halftime about getting some other kids stepping up on defense. I thought Andrew (Creech) and Ty (Simmons) really got after their men on defense, but the other guys were letting their men catch it, so it was all for nothing. It got a little better the second half and we hit some shots. We still have a long way to go, but a win’s a win.”

Creech, a senior point guard who finished with 19 points, had three baskets in the third quarter. Junior guard Alex Pace, who added 17 points, hit two 3-pointers in an 11-0 run midway through third period that put the Bears back in control. Baskets by Drew Nolan and Creech and 3-pointer by Taylor Spurlock to beat the buzzer extended the HCHS lead to 41-30.

After hitting almost everything in the second quarter, the Jackets connected on only one of 10 shots in the third quarter.

“Our guys did a good job. We had a couple out and are limited in numbers,” Middlesboro coach Lewis Morris said. “The third quarter really hurt us, but I thought they played hard. Harlan County hit some shots in the third quarter.

Harlan County extended its advantage to as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter, hitting five of eight shots. Simmons had two baskets in the period while Pace and Lamar Burkhart each hit 3-pointers.

Harlan County will travel to Harlan on Friday for another district doubleheader. Middlesboro is at home against Bell County on Friday.

———

Harlan County 63, Middlesboro 50

HARLAN COUNTY (16-5)

Andrew Creech 6-12 7-9 19, Drew Nolan 3-4 3-4 9, Alex Pace 4-9 6-6 17, Tyrese Simmons 3-3 0-1 6, Lamar Burkhart 2-5 0-2 6, Gabe Price 1-2 0-2 2, Taylor Spurlock 1-2 0-0 3, Patrick Bynum 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-37 17-24 63.

MIDDLESBORO (10-12)

Jordan Davis 3-5 0-0 7, Christian Hubbard 3-11 4-4 10, T.J. Patterson 0-2 6-7 6, Steven Poore 3-3 1-2 8, Mykel Griffin 6-10 4-4 17, Andrew Padgett 1-1 0-0 2, Taylor McClelland 0-0 0-0 0, Ethan Barton 0-1 0-0 0, Bryson Barnard 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Rogers 0-0 0-0 0, Eric Helton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-33 15-17 50.

Harlan County 10 8 23 22 — 63

Middlesboro 9 15 6 20 — 50

3-point goals: Harlan County 6-16 (Pace 3-6, Burkhart 2-5, Spurlock 1-1, Nolan 0-1, Price 0-1, Creech 0-2), Middlesboro 3-7 (Poore 1-1, Davis 1-2, Griffin 1-3, Hubbard 0-1). Rebounds: Harlan County 18 (Creech 4, Simmons 4, Pace 3, Burkhart 2, Price 2, Nolan 1, Spurlock 1, Bynum 1), Middlesboro 18 (Griffin 7, Hubbard 3, Davis 2, Patterson 2, Poore 2, Rogers 1, Helton 1). Turnovers: Harlan County 8, Middlesboro 15. Fouled out: Harlan County (Burkhart), Middlesboro (Davis, Hubbard).