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Bears’ luck ends as Barbourville coasts to victory

BARBOURVILLE — Dancing on the edge of disaster last week in come-from-behind district wins over Middlesboro and Harlan, the Harlan County Black Bears tried to push their luck once again Monday at Barbourville.

Barbourville was in no mood to play that game after a season spent working, and usually succeeding, to prove its doubters wrong. The Tigers grabbed an early lead and proceeded to pound Harlan County into submission on the way to a 77-51 rout. The 16-7 Tigers ran the floor extremely well, converting layups much of the night while shooting a blistering 63 percent (29 of 46) from the field.

“We played really well. We shared the ball and played team basketball,” said first-year Barbourville coach Cody Messer. “We were nowhere to be found in the preseason rankings, but these guys really bought into the team concept and we talked all season about the kind of effort we needed. Our seniors have given us great leadership all year.”

Harlan County (18-6) suffered its worst loss of the season and left coach Michael Jones shaking his head after the beating.

“You could tell we weren’t ready to play before the game and it showed,” Jones said. “Barbourville outplayed us, outworked us and outcoached us. We couldn’t guard anyone off the dribble. Maybe this is what we needed.”

All the Tigers played well, but sophomore guard Matthew Gray was especially good as he hit 11 of 12 shots in a 32-point performance. Junior forward Shawn Vaughn added 12 points.

“Matthew went through a little slump during the All “A” tourney, which is a bad time for it, but he’s been playing really well lately,” Messer said.

Senior guard Alex Pace scored 25 points and sophomore guard James Smith added 15 for the Bears, who played without junior guard Taylor Spurlock due to a leg injury that is expected to sideline him for a week.

After an early 5-5 tie, Barbourville reeled off 11 unanswered points to build a 16-7 by the end of the opening quarter. Gray and Vaughn each had two baskets in the quarter to lead the Tigers. Harlan County missed eight of 10 shots in the period.

Barbourville hit its first five shots in the second quarter and extended its advantage to 26-10 midway through the period. The Bears battled back to within eight after picking up the pressure on defense, but a 3-pointer by Gray to close the half pushed the Tigers’ lead to 31-17 at the break.

The Tigers hit six of eight shots in the quarter, led by Gray, who hit all five of his shots in the half.

Harlan County missed its first five shots in the third quarter as the Barbourville grew to 24 points before Smith reeled off five straight to help HCHS cut the deficit to 50-31 heading into the final period. Gray and Vaughn each had two baskets in the period as Barbourville hit seven of 13 shots.

Harlan County travels to Perry Central on Thursday. Barbourville plays host to Red Bird on Tuesday.

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Freshman guard Jackson Huff hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter as Harlan County took control of the junior varsity game on the way to a 47-41 victory.

Huff led the 7-3 Bears with 24 points. Alex Nantz and James Gray scored six each. Caleb Reynolds tossed in five. Jayden Ward added four. Adam Boggs scored two.

Matthew Smith scored 14 points and Dylan Moore added 11 for the Tigers.

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Barbourville 77, Harlan County 51

HARLAN COUNTY (18-6)

James Smith 5-18 3-4 15, Patrick Bynum 0-0 0-0 0, Alex Pace 8-20 6-7 25, Tyler Cole 0-2 1-2 1, Gabe Price 1-2 0-1 2, Josh Turner 0-2 0-0 0, Jacob Wilson 2-5 0-0 6, Jackson Huff 1-3 0-0 2, Elisha Smallwood 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-52 10-14 51.

BARBOURVILLE (16-7)

J.D. McVey 3-7 2-2 8, Matthew Gray 11-12 7-7 32, Shawn Vaughn 6-10 0-0 12, Jacob Helton 2-5 2-4 6, Connor Bain 3-6 2-2 8, Dakota Tye 3-4 3-4 9, Dylan Bingham 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Collins 1-1 0-0 2, Dylan Moore 0-1 0-0 0, Joseph Smith 0-0 0-0 0, J.T. Hall 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 29-46 16-19 77.

Harlan County 7 10 14 20 — 51

Barbourville 16 15 19 27 — 77

3-point goals: Harlan County 7-26 (Pace 3-8, Wilson 2-5, Smith 2-11, Huff 0-2), Barbourville 3-4 (Gray 3-3, Helton 0-1). Rebounds: Harlan County 14 (Pace 4, Cole 3, Smith 2, Price 2, Turner 1, Wilson 1, Huff 1), Barbourville 31 (Vaughn 8, McVey 5, Helton 5, Bain 5, Gray 4, Tye 2, Collins 1, Smith 1). Turnovers: Harlan County 9, Barbourville 10. Fouled out: Harlan County (Price). Technical fouls: Harlan County (Pace), Barbourville (Gray).