Bears slay Dragons to win district crown

Published 3:21 pm Monday, February 27, 2023

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By Paul Lunsford

Contributing Writer

Trent Noah is nearing 2,500 career points in his junior season at Harlan County.

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Noah’s latest scoring outburst of 35 points was more than the Black Bears (27-5) needed in a 72-62 win over Harlan (24-7) in Friday’s 52nd District Tournament finals at Middlesboro High School.

Noah hit 10 of 15 from the field, connected on 12 of 13 free throws (11 in the fourth quarter), and he grabbed 20 rebounds for the victorious Black Bears.

It was HC’s third win over the Green Dragons this season.

Harlan managed to hold Black Bears senior guard Daniel Carmical to two points on the night.

The Black Bears shot 41 percent from the field on 22 of 51 shooting. Harlan hit 24 of 63 for 38 percent.

Harlan County’s free throws made a difference as the Bears were 23 of 31 compared to 10 of 17 for the Dragons.

Although county bragging rights were on the line, it was also a battle of two of the top 25 teams in the state’s RPI. The Black Bears were ranked sixth, and Harlan was 16th.

Sophomore guard Maddox Huff poured in 16 points for the Bears. Caleb Johnson tossed in seven points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Jonah Swanner scored six and Jaycee Carter finished with four points. Reggie Cottrell added two.

The Green Dragons were led in scoring by junior guard Kyler McLendon with 18 points. He struggled from the field, hitting seven of 21.

Eighth-grade guard Trenton Cole followed with 16 points, hitting all four of Harlan’s 3-pointers. The Dragons were just four of 23 from behind the arc.

Senior guard Jaedyn Gist scored 15 points for Harlan. Will Austin contributed eight points and Kaleb McLendon added five. Hunter Clem, Dylan Cox, Nate Montanaro and Matthew Pennington all played but failed to score.

Harlan County jumped out to an 18-10 lead after one quarter. The Green Dragons cut the deficit to 32-30 at halftime.

The Black Bears held a 48-47 edge after the third quarter.

HC connected on 17 of 20 from the free throw line in the last period.

The Dragons went nearly six minutes without a field in the quarter.

The Black Bears outrebounded Harlan 39-30. Gist and Austin each grabbed 10 boards for the Green Dragons.

HCHS put the game away in the fourth period by outscoring the Dragons 24-15.

Both teams will represent the 52nd District in the 13th Region Tournament in The Arena at Corbin this week.

Harlan County will play Corbin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. This will be the first team the Bears and Redhounds have met all season.

Harlan meets North Laurel Wednesday at 6 p.m. The Dragons have played North Laurel – the defending region champions – this season.

Noah was the Most Valuable Player for the tournament. Huff, Carmical, Swanner and Carter were selected to the all-tournament team. From Harlan Cole, Austin, Gist and Kyler McLendon were all named. Blake Burnett and Dawson Woolum were named to the all-tournament team from Bell County. Middlesboro’s Jerimah Beck and Trey King were also named.

The Bobcats finished the season with a 15-16 record, while the Yellow Jackets were 9-22.