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Black Bears nip Bell in another district thriller

Another district matchup meant another district thriller on Tuesday as Harlan County ran its district mark to 4-0 in a game that followed a similar pattern to the other three as the Bears were pushed to the final seconds by visiting Bell County before emerging with a 62-57 victory.

The Bears led by seven at halftime but Bell fought back with an extremely patient approach on offense and took a one-point lead going into the final period on a 3-pointer by senior guard London Stephney The Bobcats led by as many as four in the fourth quarter as Dalton Stepp, Dawson Woolum and Andrew Caldwell each hit 3-pointers. The Bears closed with a 9-2 run over the final 2:30, helped by two Bell turnovers, to pull away for the win.

“They did a good job being patient against our zone,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We only had six field goals in the second half, so to be able to gut out a win says a lot about our bunch. (Bell) deserves credit for being so patient and shooting well. This was a good win.”

“I thought being down seven at halftime, the boys executed very well in the third and fourth quarters to get back in the game,” Bell County coach Brad Sizemore said. “Harlan County has a really good team with some length. We moved the ball and took what was there and made some open 3s. The kids played well. We just have to figure out how to close some of these games out. I was pleased with what we did overall.”

Eighth-grade point guard Trent Noah hit his first seven shots and finished with 24 points to lead the 13-5 Bears. Taylor Spurlock and Tyler Cole added 11 points each.

Cameron Burnett, a sophomore forward, led the Bobcats with 22 points. Stephney added 15.

Noah hit three of four at the line to give HCHS a three-point lead with 19 seconds left. Jacob Wilson then blocked a 3-pointer by Stephney with just under three seconds left. Noah drew a foul on the rebound and hit two more free throws to put the game away.

There were several lead changes early with Harlan County closing the period up 16-15 as Noah accounted for four of the Bears’ six field goals in the period. Noah added three more baskets in the second quarter, hitting seven of eight shots in the half, as the Bears extended their advantage to 35-28 by halftime.

“It’s all because he’s getting more comfortable and he’s being aggressive,” Jones said of Noah. “When he gets down in the lane, he’s a matchup problem, then they put their best defender on him and that opens up things for Taylor (Spurlock) and Tyler (Cole). We have to keep all of them being aggressive.”

“The tricky thing about him at the point is that he’s a lot bigger than you think he is out there,” Sizemore said. “He’s got good control of his body with his ability to take bumps and make shots in the lane. He is really composed for an eighth-grader. Hopefully, if we play them again, we can do a better job of guarding him.”

Harlan County improved to 4-0 in district competition and moved within one win of clinching the top seed. Bell County fell to 2-2 in the district.

“We’re not really worried about a seed at this point, because I don’t know if there is an advantage,” Sizemore said. “We’ll have to play.a good game to get out no matter who we have. I feel Harlan County has the best team, with no district losses, but, hopefully, anybody can beat anybody on a given night. We have to continue to improve over the next five weeks.”

Harlan County returns to action Friday at Corbin. Bell County will play host to Oneida Baptist on Thursday.

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HCHS 62 Bell County 57

BELL COUNTY (6-9)

London Stephney 5-13 4-6 15, Dawson Woolum 2-5 0-0 6, Andrew Caldwell 2-6 0-0 6, Cameron Burnett 7-12 7-7 22, Jon Wilson 1-1 0-0 2, Dalton Stepp 2-5 0-0 6, Brandon Baker 0-0 0-0 0, Carter McCune 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-42 11-13 57.

HARLAN COUNTY (13-5)

Trent Noah 7-10 7-8 24, Taylor Spurlock 3-7 5-6 11, Jackson Huff 2-2 0-0 5, Tyler Cole 4-6 3-3 11, Jacob Wilson 2-7 2-2 7, Josh Turner 2-3 0-0 4, Hunter Helton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-35 17-19 62.

Bell County 15 13 16 13 — 57

Harlan County 16 19 8 19 — 62

3-point goals: Bell County 8-16 (Caldwell 2-3, Woolum 2-4, Stepp 2-4, Burnett 1-1, Stephney 1-4), Harlan County 5-13 (Noah 3-5, Huff 1-1, Wilson 1-4, Cole 0-1, Spurlock 0-2), Rebounds: Bell County 11 (Caldwell 4, Burnett 4, Stephney 1, Woolum 1, Stepp 1), Harlan County 19 (Wilson 7, Noah 4, Spurlock 4, Cole 1, Huff 1, Turner 1, Helton 1). Fouled out: Bell County (Burnett), Harlan County (Spurlock).