Douglass dominates glass in handing Bears second straight loss

Published 12:40 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024

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By John Henson

Contributing Sports Writer

After watching his Black Bears lose consecutive games for the first time in his two-year stint as coach, Harlan County’s Kyle Jones plans to go in search of the toughness his team displayed in winning 21 of their first 23 this season to earn a ranking as the state’s second best team.

“I’m really upset tonight. We’ve lost two in a row, and I feel we’ve lost two in a row because we were out-toughed. I don’t care who gets mad that I said that because it’s a fact. We got out-toughed the last two games, and I told them we’re going to find ourselves or we’ll find ourselves at the house again during the tournament like last year (against Corbin in the 13th Region Tournament). I’m challenging them that we’ll either get tougher this week in practice or we’ll be sitting at the house and everyone will have their feelings hurt.”

Four days after a loss at Pikeville, Harlan County never led against 11th Region power Frederick Douglass on Saturday afternoon in the Jock Sutherland Classic at Lafayette High School. A long and athletic Douglass squad won the game on the boards by out-rebounding Harlan County 40-23, leading to 16 more shot attempts.

“When we looked at them on film, we told these kids we’re not going to out-jump them. They can out-jump us at every position,” Jones said. “They are a very skilled and athletic team.”

Junior guard Armelo Boone hit 12 of 23 shots, including numerous dunks, in a 28-point, 10-rebound effort to lead the 15-6 Broncos. Sophomore guard DeMarcus Surratt added 22 points. Aveion Chenault contributed 18 points.

The 21-4 Bears were led by senior guard Trent Noah with 30 points and eight rebounds. Maddox Huff added 17 points, and Jaycee Carter chipped in with 10.

Douglass took a 24-16 lead after one quarter and extended the margin to 42-35 by halftime. The Bears shot 57 percent (13 of 23) in the first half, but Douglass capitalized on several second-chance opportunities to stay in control.

Carter and Cottrell each hit back-to-back shots in the third quarter, but the Broncos responded to each Harlan County run, usually with a steal and basket or a putback.

Noah hit five straight tree throws to pull the Bears within five in the fourth quarter, and a 3 that would have cut the deficit to two rattled out just before Boone responded with four straight baskets, including two that ended with dunks, to put the game out of reach.

Harlan County will close its district schedule Friday at Harlan in a girls/boys district doubleheader.

Bears’ 10-game winning streak ends on Fitzer’s tip at Pikeville

A Harlan County winning streak that started in December didn’t survive until February, thanks to an inspired effort last Tuesday from the Pikeville Panthers and a bad night of shooting by the Black Bears.

Senior center Charlie Fitzer tipped in the winning shot at the buzzer as the Panthers edged visiting HCHS 62-60 to break a 10-game winning streak that stretched back to a loss to Kell, Ga., in the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tenn.

“This was huge,” Pikeville coach Elisha Justice said. “Take nothing away from Harlan County. They are still one of the best teams in the state. I think we’ve had defense going for us each and every night, but sometimes we didn’t shoot as well. We tell our guys we want to win even when we don’t shoot well and you do that by playing good defense. They get up to play teams like this. (Harlan County guard) Trent Noah is going to do what he does, but we did a good job of making it tough.”

“I told the kids in the locker room that there are positives when you lose. Maybe it was time for us to get one because we might need to be humbled a little bit,” Harlan County coach Kyle Jones said. “Pikeville played us real physical. There was a lot of contact in this game. I thought one positive was we guarded their tails off the second half and played just as physical as they did. We’re not going to hang our heads. I didn’t go in yelling or screaming. We’ll go watch film on this tomorrow and get back to work Wednesday.”

The Bears shot only 36 percent (20 of 56) and missed 17 of 21 attempts from beyond the 3-point line.

“I don’t know if we struggled to score, but we struggled more than we have,” Jones said. “You’re not always going to score 80, 90 points. We didn’t shoot the ball well.”

Fitzer, at 6-foot-8, caused the Bears problems around the basket with his length.

“He’s been doing that for us all year. He will block some shots, but the ones he doesn’t block he will change,” Justice said, “He gives us a presence in the paint.”

Noah scored 26 and Maddox Huff added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Bears. Reggie Cottrell had nine points and nine rebounds.

Junior guard Ian Onkst scored 24 points to lead the 12-4 Panthers, hitting three 3-pointers in the second quarter as Pikeville took a two-point halftime lead.

“He hit some tough shots,” Justice said. “When he saw one or two go in the basket it kind of got him going, He’s a guy who plays on confidence and that basket started getting bigger to him.”

Pikeville led by as many as eight points in the third quarter before Noah reeled off six straight points to cut the deficit to 49-46.

HCHS appeared to finally take control when Brody Napier hit a 3-pointer to break a tie and then Noah hit one of two at the line for a 56-52 lead with 3:41 tp play. Onkst and Eli Johnson, who finished with 17 points, hit back-to-back 3s to put the Panthers back on top. Jaycee Carter pulled the Bears even, then Johnson and Huff traded baskets before Pikeville held for the last shot. Johnson missed from the outside, but Fitzer, who finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, was there for the tip-in as the final second ticked away.