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Bears end skid by rolling past Whitley County

WILLIAMSBURG — Carrying a losing streak into postseason play is never a good idea, but that’s where the Harlan County Black Bears found themselves going into their final regular season game Friday at Whitley County.

The Bears broke out of their three-game skid in a big way, using a 21-0 run in the third quarter to blow it open on the way to a 78-46 victory.

“This has to be a confidence boost for the kids, but we talked after the last three games that the loss doesn’t cost you a district or regional championship. These kids have been mentally strong the last couple of days in practice, and I had a feeling we would respond this way,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said.

The 20-10 Bears had success with Jones’ favorite formula for this year’s squad, driving to the basket to capitalize on their length while opening up the outside for a 12-of-20 night from the 3-point line.

Senior guard Taylor Spurlock was one of three Bears in double figures with 17 points. Tyler Cole and Trent Noah added 14 and 12 points, respectively.

“We did a great job of attacking off the dribble. I really feel this team is hard to guard when they want to go downhill and attack, and we were in attack mode tonight,” Jones said.

Whitley, coming off a 28-point win over Bell County on Tuesday that included 12 3-pointers, was limited to 33 percent shooting (18 of 54) from the field and connected on only seven of 29 from the 3-point line.

“We had a bad shooting night and that is attributed to Harlan County’s length,” Whitley County coach Jerry Overbay said. “We’ve got a bunch of young kids and had a big game Tuesday and came in on an emotional high. It’s a learning curve for us. We just went against a Harlan County team that was shooting the lights out tonight.”

Garrett McNealey, one of five sophomores in the lineup, led the 12-18 Colonels with 14 points.

Up by nine at halftime, Harlan County reeled off 21 unanswered points, led by Spurlock and Noah with seven-of-seven shooting. Whitley missed its first 12 shots from the field and was held scoreless until McNealey hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds.

Freshman Danilel Carmical came off the bench to hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Bears started a running clock. Josh Turner added three baskets and Elisha Smallwood contributed two.

Harlan County hit five 3-pointers in the opening period, led by two from Jacob Wilson, and built a 21-11 lead by the end of the period. Noah had three baskets in the period, including two late on drives to the basket.

The Bears dominated the glass in the second quarter, outrebounding Whiltey 15-2, but couldn’t pull away due to missing seven of 11 shots from the field. Cole carried the HCHS offense in the quarter with three baskets Gray Estes and Ethan Keene each hit 3s for the Colonels, who missed seven of nine from behind the line in the quarter.

Harlan County will play Bell County on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the 52nd District Tournament at HCHS. Whitley County will play South Laurel in the 50th District Tournament.

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Led by 14 points from Jonah Swanner, 12 from Daniel Carmical and 10 from Jeremiah Clem, Harlan County closed its junior varsity season at 12-5 with a 62-57 overtime victory.

Tristan Cooper, James Gray and Josh Sergent each tossed in eight for the Bears. Dylan Hicks scored two.

Ethan Keene scored 23 and Jamie Fuson added 16 for the Colonels.

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Harlan County 78, Whitley County 46

HARLAN COUNTY (19-10)

Trent Noah 6-11 0-1 13, Taylor Spurlock 5-8 4-4 17, Jackson Huff 3-4 0-0 9, Tyler Cole 4-6 6-10 14, Jacob Wilson 2-5 0-0 6, Josh Turner 3-5 0-0 6, Daniel Carmical 3-4 0-0 9, Jonah Swanner 0-1 0-0 0, Elisha Smallwood 2-3 0-0 4, Hunter Helton 0-1 0-2 0, Jeremiah Clem 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 28-49 10-17 78.

WHITLEY COUNTY (12-17)

Jack Estes 3-5 0-0 6, Gray Estes 3-8 0-0 8, Garrett McNealey 6-13 0-1 14, Seth Mills 0-3 0-0 0, Trevor Downs 0-6 2-2 2, Jamie Fuson 2-10 0-0 4, Brayden Mahan 1-2 0-0 2, Ethan Keene 2-6 0-0 6, Cody Senters 1-1 0-0 3, Bryson Potter 0-0 1-2 1, Kory Rowe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-54 3-5 46.

Harlan County 21 11 21 25 — 78

Whitley County 11 12 3 20 — 46

3-point goals: Harlan County 12-20 (Huff 3-3, Spurlock 3-4, Carmical 3-4, Wilson 2-4, Noah 1-2, Cole 0-1, Swanner 0-1, Clem 0-1), Whitley County 7-29 (Keene 2-6, G. Estes 2-7, McNealey 2-7, Senters 1-1, J. Estes 0-1, Mills 0-1, Fuson 0-6). Rebounds: Harlan County 39 (Cole 7, Turner 7, Noah 6, Spurlock 6, Huff 6, Wilson 4, Smallwood 2, Helton 1), Whitley County 18 (Downs 6, Fuson 4, McNealey 3, Mills 2, J. Estes 1, Mahan 1, Potter 1). Turnovers: Harlan County 4, Whitley County 9. Fouled out: None.