Photo by Mark Hoskins

Harlan County senior guard Drew Nolan looked for an opening against two Clay County defenders in the Southeastern Kentucky Conference Panorama on Tuesday in Manchester. Nolan scored 25 points in th Bears’ 97-82 win.

Bears overcome slow start, down Clay

MANCHESTER — From a 12-point deficit in the first quarter to a 30-point lead in the third quarter and then down to a 10-point advantage late in the same period, the Harlan County Black Bears experienced quite a few ups and downs on Tuesday in their Southeastern Kentucky Conference Panorama game at Clay County.

Harlan County overcame the slow start with an impressive shooting display and transition game and them held off a Clay County comeback attempt to win 97-82.

Junior forward Alex Pace scored 26 points and senior guard Drew Nolan added 25 for the defending regional champions, who played without senior forward Tyrese Simmons, who is still active with the HCHS football team scheduled to play Friday at Madison Southern in the 5A state semifinals. Gabe Price and Andrew Creech added 10 and nine points, respectively, for the Bears.

Sophomore guard Jacob Curry scored 20 points to lead Clay County. Senior center Ryan Rogers tossed in 16 points and freshman guard Conner Robinson came off the bench to add 15 points. Jakob Begley chipped in with 10 points.

Curry and Rogers helped Clay race to an 18-6 lead before the HCHS offense finally came to life with the help of some added energy on the defensive end when Patrick Bynum, Taylor Spurlock and Tyler Cole entered the game. Nolan hit two 3-pointers and Pace added one on three straight possessions to cap a 14-0 run that put Harlan County. Bynum had five rebounds in a four-minute stretch and closed the period with a free throw to put the Bears up 24-23.

Harlan County was red hot the second quarter, outscoring Clay 31-8 to go up 55-31 at the half. Creech had three baskets in an 11-0 run to put the Bears in control. Senior center Lamar Burkhart hit a 3-pointer to spark an 18-4 run to close the half. Spurlock had two baskets and Pace hit two 3-pointers to close the surge by the Bears.

The Bears’ lead grew to 30, at 63-33, on baskets by Pace and Nolan. Clay responded with a run of its own, outscoring Harlan County 28-8 to get as close as 10 late in the period before a free throw by Nolan and basket by Spurlock pushed the lead to 74-61 going into the fourth quarter.

Two straight 3-pointers by Nolan extended the Bears’ advantage back to 18 points before both teams went to their reserves to close the scrimmage.

Harlan County will play Garrard County on Saturday in a scrimmage at South Laurel and will open its regular season schedule on Dec. 1 at Letcher Central. Clay County will open its season on Nov. 28 at home against Harlan.

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Harlan County (97) — Andrew Creech 9, Drew Nolan 25, Gabe Price 10, Alex Pace 26, Lamar Burkhart 7, Taylor Spurlock 6, Patrick Bynum 8, Tyler Cole 2, Alex Nantz 1, Matthew Simpson 1, Michael Simpson 2.

Clay County (82) — Jacob Curry 20, Jakob Begley 10, Timmy Bowling 2, Zack Bingham 2, Ryan Rogers 16, Conner Robinson 15, Conner Farmer 5, Evan Langdon 7, Wayne Estep 3, Triston Smith 2.