Bears knock off 16th Region’s top team on a record-breaking night

Published 3:49 pm Monday, February 19, 2024

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By John Henson

Contributing Sports Writer

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With seven games against teams ranked in the Courier-Journal’s preseason top 25 list, not to mention several top out-of-state squads in tournaments in Bristol and Louisville, Harlan County coach Kyle Jones wanted to make sure he had his squad ready for the postseason.

It appears the Bears survived the brutal schedule in fine fashion, improving to 5-2 against those top 25 teams with a 93-75 victory Saturday over visiting Boyd County. The night will long be remembered as the game where Trent Noah broke Charles Thomas’ county scoring record with a 38-point night that gave him 3,375 points.

The Bears got off to a great start, building a 44-28 halftime lead by hitting 12 of 16 shots in the second quarter while holding Boyd to 10 of 29 shooting in the first half.

“I told them that I feel we played the best first half on both ends as well as we have all year,” Jones said. “That’s a good sign at the end of the year.”

Playing tough competition was also a reason behind Boyd County making the trip. The Lions are ranked first in the 16th Region.

“This was good for us,” Boyd County coach Randy Anderson said. “We play a pretty tough schedule, but we don’t see teams like this night in and night out. I told our guys if our goals are to get through our region and get to Rupp this is what you have to deal with. I thought mentally we came in a little tentative early. They took a lead because of that. We missed an awful lot of open shots early. That’s what you have to do to play against teams the caliber of this in a four-game tournament. I think this woke our kids up because they only outscored us two in the second half. If you take care of the start it’s a whole new game.”

Noah hit 15 of 23 shots in his 38-point, 11-rebound night, but he was far from a one-man show. Sophomore guard Reggie Cottrell hit 10 of 12 shots and finished with 22 points while Maddox Huff connected on seven of 13 in scoring 16.

“That’s the difference in our team this year,” Jones said. “We’re guarding hard and we have other kids who are making contributions. We have to continue having that going forward, but I’m really pleased with our team tonight.”

Junior guard Cole Hicks hit 10 of the Lions’ 14 3-pointers and finished with 34 points.

“I’m thankful for coach Jones. Last year when we couldn’t find games, he was willing to come to Boyd County,” Anderson said. “When we got halfway over Pine Mountain, I looked at my assistant and said ‘this was a great idea last year wasn’t it.’ They run a class program and are very physical. Trent is as good as advertised, and they have a really nice team. They are really solid.”

Harlan County returns to action Tuesday at home against Knox Central before closing the regular season Thursday at Whitley County.

Bears come out on fire on the way to victory over Pineville

In a season filled with offensive highlights on their way to a ranking as one of the state’s top teams, the Harlan County Black Bears may have topped them all in building a 65-32 halftime lead Tuesday on the way to a 95-68 victory over visiting Pineville.

Harlan County shot 71 percent (25 of 35) in the first half on the way to a 60 percent (37 of 62) night overall that included 64 percent (14 of 22) from the 3-point line. The Bears started a running clock in the opening two minutes of the third quarter against a Pineville team ranked seventh in the 13th Region in the RPI ratings and sat their starters when the period ended.

“They are a heck of a ball team if they are shooting like that, contested or uncontested,” Pineville coach Brad Levy said. “Not many teams are going to beat them. They are a really good team. We told our kids at halftime that we gave up 65, and I know it sounds stupid and crazy, but I thought it was some of the best defense we’ve played in a long time. We were there on a lot of shots, and some non-shooters hit 3s. I thought we played well and accomplished some things we were trying to tonight. We have to keep trying to get better.”

“I felt we played about as well as we could offensively the first half,” Harlan County coach Kyle Jones said. “We shot the ball really well. We kind of relaxed a little the third quarter, and that will happen no matter how much you tell kids. We played well overalll though, and I was glad we got to play everyone.”

Senior guard Trent Noah moved within 29 points of Charles Thomas’ county scoring record with a 38-point night on 13-of-17 shooting that included eight 3-pointers. Maddox Huff 17 added points and 10 rebounds. Jaycee Carter and Reggie Cottrell chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively, as the Bears improved to 23-4 overall and remained unbeaten against 13th Region competition.

Pineville was led by junior guards Sawyer Thomas and Ashton Moser with 19 and 17 points, respectively. Senior forward Logunn Littles contributed 16 for the 17-7 Lions.

The Lions hit seven of 14 shots in the first quarter, but it wasn’t enough to match HC’s 12-of-18 as Noah, Caleb Johnson and Cottrell had three baskets each as the Bears took a 26-16 lead.

Harlan County took it to another level in the second period, hitting 13 of 17 shots in scoring 39 points. Noah hit six of seven shots and Huff connected on five of six.

Noah hit four of six shots in the third quarter and Carter connected on both of his attempts as the Bears’ lead grew to 87-56 by the end of the period. Thompson and Moser each had three baskets for the Lions, who hit nine-of-14 shots in a back-and-forth quarter played at breakneck speed.

Levy hopes the challenge provided by the Bears will help his team in the postseason.

“We could have gone to play any kind of team, but wanted a challenge so we go on the road and play a top 10 team in the state,” he said.