John Henson | Daily Enterprise

Seth Conn prepared to set up the Pike Central offense as Harlan County’s Patrick Bynum defended in Saturday’s game at HCHS. The Bears held on for 56-54 win to improve to 18-7 on the season.

Bears’ defense comes up big late in win over Hawks

After losing hard-fought games against Pikeville and Corbin over the last seven days, the Harlan County Black Bears needed a defensive stop in the worst way with a two-point lead in the final seconds Saturday at home against Pike Central.

Harlan County came up with the stop despite two timeouts by the Hawks in the final 23 seconds as standout senior forward Christian Mounts missed a 3-pointer to give the Bears a 56-54 victory.

“I told them that those last two possessions were as good as we’ve played this year. We just have to do it every time,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “I was proud of their effort.”

Senior forward Tyrese Simmons and junior guard Alex Pace each scored 13 points to lead the 18-7 Bears, who held on despite scoring only six points in the fourth quarter after playing well on offense in the first three periods.

Pike Central (22-7) was led by Mounts with 20 points. Brady Adkins and Seth Conn added 12 and 11 points, respectively. The Hawks, who are among the favorites in the 15th Region, hit 11 of 23 from beyond the 3-point line.

“They have a very good team, long and athletic. They’ve won 22 games and just beat a good Pikeville team, so we knew had to play well,” Jones said. “For the most part, we did a good job. We had some mental lapses, but to get back on track and get a win is a good momentum-builder going into next week.”

Sophomore guard Taylor Spurlock, who moved into the starting lineup when Drew Nolan suffered a knee injury, hit three shots in the opening quarter and Pace added two 3-pointers to help the Bears build a 17-13 lead.

Pike Central hit four 3-pointers in the second quarter, including two each by Mounts and Adkins. The Bears stayed ahead by hitting six of 10 shots, including two by senior center Lamar Burkhart, and closed with a 6-0 run to build a 34-27 advantage.

Harlan County’s lead grew to 11 points midway through the third quarter on baskets by Pace, Andrew Creech, Burkhart and Simmons and maintained a 50-41 advantage going into the final period.

The Bears still led by nine midway through the fourth quarter when Pike Central went on an 8-0 run on 3-pointers by Conn and Mounts to get as close as one. Pace and Pike Central’s L.J. Missick traded baskets before Gabe Price hit one of two at the line for a two-point lead with 48.7 seconds left. Pike Central held for one shot and Mounts missed with Patrick Bynum coming up with the rebound to preserve the win.

It was the final home game for the five HCHS seniors — Creech, Simmons, Burkhart, Nolan and A.J. Simmons.

“I’m proud of these seniors for helping establish something that we hope to keep going for years and years,” Jones said. “To win against a team like this in their last game in this gym is special.”

Harlan County’s game set for Tuesday at Cumberland Gap, Tenn., was canceled. The Black Bears will close their regular season schedule Thursday at Cordia.

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Freshman guard Tyler Cole scored 24 points to lead Harlan County in a 58-33 junior varsity victory.

Matthew Simpson added 15 points for the 4-6 Bears. Michael Simpson tossed in nine, followed by Isaac Taulbee with three, Kobe Burkhart, Hunter Helton and Alex Nantz with two each and Logan Blanton with one.

Anthony Palotta, Jake Young and Marcus Layne each scored nine points to lead the Hawks. Logan Wood and Bryce Adkins added four and two points, respectively.

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Harlan County 56, Pike Central 54

PIKE CENTRAL (22-7)

Seth Conn 4-8 0-0 11, Brady Adkins 4-7 0-0 12, Austin Charles 1-1 1-1 3, Christian Mounts 8-17 0-0 20, L.J. Missick 2-7 1-2 5, Desean Penn 1-2 1-1 3, Anthony Palotta 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-47 3-4 54.

HARLAN COUNTY (18-7)

Andrew Creech 2-8 2-2 6, Taylor Spurlock 4-8 0-0 9, Alex Pace 4-8 3-5 13, Tyrese Simmons 4-7 5-7 13, Lamar Burkhart 3-5 0-0 7, Gabe Price 0-1 5-6 5, Patrick Bynum 1-2 1-2 3. Totals: 18-39 16-22 56.

Pike Central 13 14 14 13 — 54

Harlan County 17 17 16 6 — 56

3-point goals: Pike Central 11-23 (Adkins 4-7, Mounts 4-10, Conn 3-6), Harlan County 4-12 (Pace 2-2, Burkhart 1-3, Spurlock 1-4, Simmons 0-1, Creech 0-2) Rebounds: Pike Central 16 (Missick 7, Conn 5, Mounts 3, Penn 1), Harlan County 26 (Creech 6, Simmons 6, Burkhart 6, Pace 3, Bynum 3, Spurlock 2). Turnovers: Pike Central 9, Harlan County 8. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: PIke Central (bench).