Bears overcome bad start in win over Breathitt
JACKSON — Only a week into the 2018 season, the Harlan County Black Bears are starting to realize something has changed since last March. Two fired up opponents this weekend have made it clear to the Bears that they now have targets on their backs and prices on their heads as a defending regional champion.
Harlan County held off an inspired Letcher Central squad on Friday and found another tough test Saturday at Breathitt County in the Peggy Moore Classic. The host Bobcats pushed the tempo early and built a 13-point lead in the third quarter, a deficit the Bears wiped out by the end of the period before pulling away in the fourth quarter to win 66-56.
“It comes with the territory and our guys have to be ready to meet that kind of challenge,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “I thought Breathitt County outplayed us the first half and the first half of the third quarter. I was proud of the way we battled after that. We have to have that kind of effort every night.”
After playing to a 17-17 tie after one quarter, Breahitt took control with a 7-0 run to open the second quarter and led by as many as 10 before HCHS cut the deficit to 30-24 at the break.
Harlan County hit only seven of 30 shots from the field in the first half and missed its first seven in the third quarter as Breathitt took its biggest lead at 37-24 with 6:30 to play in the period and still led by nine with 1:30 to play. Alex Pace, who led the Bears with 24 points, sparked a 10-0 run with a putback. Andrew Creech scored off a drive before Pace hit two 3-pointers in the final 16 seconds as the Bears took a 41-40 lead into the final period, scoring the final 13 points of the quarter.
Junior center Cameron Stacy, who hit six of seven shots in a 14-point effort, briefly put Breathitt back ahead with a basket but missed the free throw on a three-point play attempt. Free throws proved to be a key stat as the Bobcats missed 14 of 20 for the game.
Two straight baskets by senior forward Tyrese Simmons, who finished with 13 points and hit four of five shots in the last quarter, put the Bears back on top and in control out of their spread offense. The Bears outscored Breathitt 17-10 over the final four minutes to pull away for the win.
Harlan County (2-0) will open its district schedule Tuesday at Bell County before playing host to Middlesboro on Friday.
“We’ll get back in the gym and work on our offense against a 1-2-2 as we get into our district games next week,” Jones said. “I keep telling them it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We have to continued to develop and get into our roles.”
HARLAN COUNTY (2-0)
Andrew Creech 3-6 3-4 9, Drew Nolan 3-10 3-4 11, Alex Pace 7-17 7-9 24, Tyrese Simmons 5-8 3-4 13, Lamar Burkhart 1-4 2-2 4, Patrick Bynum 0-1 0-0 0, Gabe Price 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Spurlock 1-9 2-4 5, Tyler Cole 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 20-56 20-27 66.
BREATHITT COUNTY (1-2)
Jalen Taulbee 3-7 0-1 6, Kyle Fraley 5-11 2-3 14, Jack Fugate 3-11 0-0 8, Trey Noble 2-5 4-8 8, Cameron Stacy 7-8 0-6 14, Chandler Howard 3-4 0-2 6, Emmanuel Wilson 0-1 0-0 0, Bryant Noble 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 23-49 6-20 56.
Harlan County 17 7 17 25 — 66
Breathitt County 17 13 10 16 — 56
3-point goals: Harlan County 6-17 (Pace 3-8, Nolan 2-4, Spurlock 1-3, Burkhart 0-1, Cole 0-1), Breathitt County 4-17 (Fugate 2-4, Fraley 2-7, T. Noble 0-1, B. Noble 0-2, Taulbee 0-3). Rebounds: Harlan County 40 (Nolan 14, Pace 9, Simmons 7, Creech 4, Spurlock 3, Burkhart 2, Price 1), Breathitt County 30 (Taulbee 11). Turnovers: Harlan County 10, Breathitt County 13. Fouled out: Harlan County (Nolan).