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Bears knock off Montgomery in Bobby Keith Classic

MANCHESTER — On a night of basketball named in honor of a Clay County coaching legend, the Harlan County Black Bears shot free throws and showed the composure of a team that would make Bobby Keith proud.

Harlan County never trailed on Saturday against 10th Region heavyweight Montgomery County but had to hold off a late charge by the Indians to win 71-67 in the second game of the Bobby Keith Classic at Clay County High School. HCHS hit 28 of 32 free throws for the game and connected on 22 of 24 in the fourth quarter as Montgomery rallied from a 16-point deficit to get as close as four in the final minute.

“Everything seems to be pointing in the right direction,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We struggled a little with that early in the season, but we’re too good of a shooting team to do that. We have some things we have to work on, but we’re carrying things from practice to the games, and that’s good to see as a coach.”

Senior guard Taylor Spurlock continued his recent surge with a 26-point effort to lead the 11-5 Bears. Jacob Wilson and Trent Noah added 16 and 15 points, respectively, as HCHS found success attacking the basket.

“We’ve really emphasized that in practice and meetings,” Jones said. “We did a good job of that except for a few minutes in the fourth quarter. We’re going in the right direction though. I think our players understand we’re more effective by getting to the basket.”

Hagan Harrison scored 22 and Austin Eichenberger added 14 to lead the 9-7 Indians, who are coached by Steve Wright, a former state champion coach at South Laurel. Montgomery County came into the season ranked fifth in the 10th Region.

“We told the kids we had to mentally ready for this game,” Jones said. “I thought they came over here ready to play, and I’m proud of them.”

Spurlock had four baskets in the opening quarter and Noah added two as the Bears built a 17-9 lead. Four straight points by Wilson and a basket by Noah stretched the Bears’ advantage to 11. Montgomery got as close as five before Wilson’s basket gave HCHS a 28-21 halftime lead.

Six straight points by Spurlock extended the Bears’ advantage to 16 midway through the third quarter. Montgomery fought back to within 10 before Wilson, Spurlock and Cole scored in a 6-0 run as the lead was at 46-33 going into the final period.

Harrison hit five of six shots in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers, as the Indians’ offense produced 34 points in the period. Montgomery the deficit to four before the teams started trading points as Spurlock, Noah and Huff combined to hit eight straight free throws in the final minute to keep HCHS on top.

Harlan County returns to action Friday at home against Red Bird and will then play host to Harlan on Saturday in a girls/boys doubleheader.

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Harlan County 71, Montgomery County 67

MONTGOMERY COUNTY (9-7)

Dyer 1-1 0-0 3, EIchenberger 5-13 4-5 14, Harrison 8-17 1-4 22, Lovette 3-3 2-3 8, Benton 3-7 0-0 8, Woosley 2-4 0-0 4, Carroll 0-0 0-0 0, Ishmael 3-3 0-0 6, McCormick 0-1 0-0 0, Webb 1-1 1-4 3. Totals: 26-50 8-13 67.

HARLAN COUNTY (11-5)

Trent Noah 4-11 5-7 15, Taylor Spurlock 8-13 9-9 26, Jackson Huff 1-7 3-4 5, Tyler Cole 1-8 7-8 9, Jacob Wilson 5-7 4-4 16, Josh Turner 0-0 0-0 0, Elisha Smallwood 0-2 0-0 0, Jonah Swanner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-48 28-32 71.

Montgomery County 9 12 12 34 — 67

Harlan County 17 11 18 25 — 71

Montgomery County 7-14 (Harrison 5-8, Dyer 1-1, Benton 1-2, Eichenberger 0-3), Harlan County 5-18 (Wilson 2-4, Noah 2-6, Spurlock 1-2, Cole 0-2, Huff 0-4). Rebounds: Montgomery County 21 (Eichenberger 4, Harrison 4, Benton 4, Lovette 3, Woosley 2, Ishmael 2, Ishmael 2), Harlan County 29 (Wilson 8, Noah 7, Huff 6, Cole 4, Spurlock 3, Turner 1). Turnovers: Montgomery County 11, Harlan County 12. Fouled out: Montgomery County (Lovette), Harlan County (Wilson).