Bears complete regular season district sweep with rout of Harlan

Published 3:57 pm Monday, February 12, 2024

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By John Henson

Contributing Sports Writer

With six wins by an average of 31 points, the Harlan County Black Bears completed a dominating run through their regular season district schedule by coasting past Harlan 83-52 on Friday.

The 22-4 Bears placed four players in double figures and put together a strong defensive effort, especially in the first half, as they built a 47-18 lead by holding Harlan star Kyler McLendon to three-of-12 shooting

“I was real pleased with the first half,” Harlan County coach Kyle Jones said. “We got up trying to coast in the second half, and you can’t do that. You can’t do that and be a good team. I am glad we got a win because we lost two in a row against good teams. (Kyler) McLendon and (Trent) Cole are good players and hard to guard.”

“I thought they beat us in every area – transition offense and offense and transition defense and defense. They won all four,” Harlan coach Derrick Akal said. “I have to do a better job preparing us, and I did not. We weren’t prepared and that’s all on the coach.”

With former Harlan star Charles Thomas, the 1995 Mr. Basketball, in attendance, Harlan County senior Trent Noah moved within 67 points of breaking Thomas’ county scoring record with a 27-point, 18-rebound performance. Maddox Huff added 16 points, Brody Napier came off the bench to score 15, while Reggie Cottrell added 14 in addition to guarding McLendon much of the night.

“That’s what we have to have. We have other guys who can score, and one of the reasons we’ve been successful is the improvement of our role guys,” Jones said. “Brody stepped up and had a big game. Reggie was chasing one of the toughest guys to guard in the region, and he did a good job. Reggie is an athlete, and the sky is the limit for him if he keeps working.”
McLendon scored 27 and Cole added 21 for the 6-15 Green Dragons, who fell to 2-3 in district action.

Harlan County took control by hitting 10 of 16 shots in the first quarter, led by three baskets each from Noah and Huff and two from Cottrell. The Bears had success pushing the tempo with Noah igniting the offense with rebounds and outlet passes. Noah had seven rebounds and four baskets in the second quarter as the HCHS lead grew to 47-18 by halftime.

The game was delayed as officials huddled when Noah was hit by Harlan junior center Hunter Clem, apparently with a forearm, after Noah tipped in a missed shot. Clem was assessed a technical for a flagrant foul and ejected, igniting an 8-0 run for the Bears.

Napier provided a spark in the quarter as he hit three of five shots.

McLendon heated up in the third quarter after his slow start and teamed with Cole as Harlan won the quarter 18-14 to cut the deficit to 61-36. Cottrell and Huff each had two baskets in the quarter for the Bears.

Noah had three baskets and Napier added two as the Bears pushed their lead back to 30 with 2:19 left before both teams went to their reserves.

Harlan plays at Bell County on Monday in a girls/boys district doubleheader. Harlan County plays host to Pineville on Tuesday.