Noah sparks comeback with 43-point effort as HCHS rallies past Clay County

Published 4:11 pm Monday, March 11, 2024

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By John Henson

Contributing Sports Writer

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Trent Noah wasn’t ready to get started on his college basketball career just yet.

Noah, Harlan County’s all-state senior guard, took over midway through the third quarter in the 13th Region Tournament semifinals, just when it appeared the Bears’ season was in danger of ending. Clay County led by as many as nine points in the second half before Noah brought the Bears back with one of the most clutch performances in tournament history. Noah’s 43-point, 15-rebound afternoon helped HCHS advance to a championship showdown on Monday against Corbin with a hard-fought 66-60 victory.

“We didn’t want this to be the last one. We’re not done yet. My teammates and coaches gave all they had, and it’s just awesome to get the win,” Noah said.

“He’s the best player in this state,” said Harlan County coach Kyle Jones. “We knew we had to get stronger after losing to last year Corbin in the regional. To play two teams like have over here this year just shows how far we’ve come. And we have another one Monday night.”

Noah scored 16 of the Bears’ 19 points in the fourth quarter as Harlan County outscored Clay 19-9 in the period despite losing three players to fouls and with sophomore guard Reggie Cottrell basically playing with one hand after suffering a possible broken wrist during the game. Noah’s performance stole the show in what had previous been billed as a battle of brothers with Clay County led by Michael Jones and Harlan County led by Kyle Jones. Both are sons of former coach Mike Jones, who won four 13th Region titles and two All “A” Classic state championships in his storied career.

“We had some unfortunate things happen down the stretch with fouls, but I’m confident in our guys 1 through 15 that they will do the job,” added Noah.

Clay missed its first seven shots from the field in the final quarter and hit only one of eight as Elijah Bundy scored with 35 seconds left to cut the deficit to two points. Noah put the game away from there with a basket, four free throws and a smothering block under the basket when he basically took the ball away from Clay senior forward Hayden Harris on a shot attempt.

Junior guard Maddox Huff finished with 11 points, including perhaps the biggest shot of the night with a 3-pointer with 64 seconds left that pushed a one-point lead to four.

“I’m just so proud of these kids,” said Jones as he was overcome with emotion after the game. “He hadn’t been shooting as well as usual, but he’s shot that shot a million times and has confidence he will hit it. That was huge.”

Freshman forward Adon Grubb led the 24-9 Tigers with 15 points. Harris scored 14 and junior point guard Jerrod Roark added 13.

Two Bundy baskets inside gave Clay an early 4-0 lead, but Huff hit a 3 and Noah dunked off a steal as the Bears took a lead they maintained throughout the opening quarter. Noah scored nine points in the period as the Bears built a 14-11 advantage.

Clay hit seven of its first 10 shots in the second quarter, highlighted by three 3s from Roark, to build a 29-21 lead. HCHS cut the deficit to 36-30 by halftime on baskets by Huff and Jaycee Carter.

Two baskets by Grubb and a 3-pointer from Ethan Jackson helped Clay extend its lead to 43-34 with 4:08 left in the third quarter. Noah and Jaycee Carter sparked a 13-4 run as the Bears cut the deficit to 51-47 going into the final period.

Bears survive upset in region opener

You could break out all the March Madness cliches Thursday after Harlan County survived a massive scare in the first round of the 13th Region Tournament at The Corbin Arena. Harlan County, unbeaten against 13th Region competition and ranked fourth in the state in the RPI system, had to survive and advance with a 38-34 victory over South Laurel.

South Laurel (19-11) controlled the tempo all the way in a defensive struggle the Cardinals are known for under coach Jeff Davis, but it was the Bears who won down the stretch with the defense. After a Colton Rawlings 3-pointer gave the Cardinals a 30-27 lead with seven minutes left, Harlan County held South scoreless until Jordan Mabe hit a 3 with 8.9 seconds left to pull the Cardinals within two with 10 seconds to play.

“You have to win one like that, and you may to win more than one like that. That’s the way it is in tournament time,” Harlan County coach Kyle Jones said. “All of our guys made big plays when it counted whether it was a basket or a rebound or diving on the floor for a loose ball. That’s the kind of effort we have to have to get where we want to go. We didn’t score a lot of points, but we proved tonight we can lock up and guard people.”

Senior guard Trent Noah scored 18 points to lead the 29-4 Bears, including two free throws with 4.2 seconds left to clinch the win. Maddox Huff added 10 points.

Junior forward Jordan Mabe paced the 19-11 Cardinals with 14 points.

South Laurel took its first lead at 7-5 on a basket by Coltonj Rawlings, but the Bears responded with a 5-0 run to close the quarter on a three-point play by Noah and two baskets from Huff.

Harlan County hit only one of seven shots from the field in the second quarter as the Cardinals pulled even at halftime on two free throws each by Jordan Steele and Rawlings.

Carter had the first two baskets of the second half for the Bears and Huff scored in the lane as the Bears took a 21-17 lead. Two Mabe baskets pulled the Cards even before Noah’s 3 made it 24-21 in favor of HC. Jordan Steele and Josh Steele each had baskets in the final 71 seconds of the period to put South on top 27-26.

After South went up by four, Jaycee Carter started a 9-0 run with a 3-pointer. Noah scored the next five points, the only five points over a four-minute stretch. Huff hit one of two at the line with 58.8 seconds left to make it 35-30. Rawlings hit one of two with 40 seconds left, then Noah hit one of two with 19 seconds remaining. Mabe’s 3 made it a two-point game, then the Bears made what almost turned into a fatal mistake with a bad inbounds pass that South stole. Mabe’s potential game-winning 3 was off the mark before Noah hit two at the line to put the game away.