Bart Williams has grown accustomed to seeing 2-3 zones with his Pikeville Panthers featuring a pair of talented, but inconsistent, sophomore guards who have struggled to consistently hit perimeter shots.
Pikeville found the answer to Harlan County’s 2-3 in the third quarter of Saturday afternoon’s game at HCHS, hitting seven of its eight first shots to turn a five-point deficit into a five-point lead on the way to a 61-55 victory.
“The 2-3 zone has killed us all year. It’s no secret in the 15th Region,” Williams said. “We missed so many easy shots in the first half, but we shot a lot better the third quarter. We just hit shots.”
The guard tandem of Blaine May and Rider Johnson teamed for 35 points as Blaine connected on three of five 3-pointers for 19 points and Johnson added 16 points, including five of six from the free throw line.
“Our sophomore guards are getting better every day,” Williams said. “They got some confidence in the third quarter, and I thought they handled the ball well late in the game. They hit some free throws and made some plays.”
The story was all too familiar for the Black Bears, who fell to 11-12 one day after finally getting back to the .500 mark with three straight wins. Harlan County played hard and played well in a win two nights earlier at Harlan but had to hold off an upset bid on Friday at Oneida Baptist in a lackluster effort. The Bears weren’t as lucky on Saturday.
“Pikeville shot the ball real well in the third quarter, but we didn’t compete today,” Harlan County assistant coach Michael Jones said. “We can’t just show up to play against certain teams. We have to play hard for 32 minutes, and we didn’t do that today.”
Junior forward Zach Caldwell had 14 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Bears, sparking a late run with three baskets in the fourth quarter. Freshman guard Cameron Carmical added 14 points, and junior guard Cody Bumgardner contributed 13.
The Bears trailed by nine before going on a 7-1 run sparked by Caldwell, who missed on two opportunities to complete three-point plays. Caldwell had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer from the corner with 20 seconds left, but it was off the mark. The Bears shot only 13 percent (two of 16) from beyond the 3-point line.
HCHS took a 12-10 lead after one quarter, but it probably should have been more with Pikeville missing 13 of 17 shots from the field. The Panthers dominated the offensive glass in the quarter, leading to nine more shots than the Bears.
Four free throws by Bailey sandwiched around a basket by Caldwell gave Harlan County its biggest lead at six points with 4:55 left in the second quarter. Pikeville went up by one with a 6-0 run sparked by May and Johnson, but Carmical hit four free throws to close the half as HCHS took a 29-24 lead into the break.
Harlan County closes its district schedule Tuesday at home against Bell County.
The Harlan County junior varsity team connected on 12 of 14 free throws in the fourth, including a six-of-six effort by freshman center David Turner, to rally for a 59-54 win in the junior varsity game.
Turner led the 10-1 Bears with 16 points. Freshman guard Jared Sizemore and sophomore guard Cody Brewer added 12 each. William Bowling tossed in seven. Malik Simmons scored six. Joey Swanner added four. Josh Hunting contributed two.
Mikey McDonald scored 15 and Tanner Thompson added 10 to lead Pikeville (9-5).
Ryder Johnson 5-12 5-6 16, Blaine May 7-14 2-5 19, Jacob Hamilton 1-7 2-4 4, Gaige Ray 2-5 2-2 6, Zach Huffman 4-8 6-9 14, Zach Thacker 0-0 2-2 2, Mikey McDonald 0-2 0-0 0, Connor Risner 0-1 0-0 0, Drew Walters 0-1 0-0 0, Peyton Hamilton 0-0 0-0 0,Tanner Roop 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-49 19-28 61.
HARLAN COUNTY (11-12)
Cody Bumgardner 4-8 5-6 13, Cameron Carmical 4-15 5-6 14, Treyce Spurlock 1-3 4-4 6, Zach Caldwell 5-13 4-6 15, Scotty Bailey 0-0 5-6 5, Trey Sanders 1-4 0-0 2, Cody Brewer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-43 23-28 55.
Pikeville 10 14 21 16 — 61
Harlan County 12 17 11 15 — 55
3-point goals: Pikeville 4-14 (May 3-5, Johnson 1-3, McDonald 0-1, Hamilton 0-5), Harlan County 2-16 (Carmical 1-5, Caldwell 1-8, Sanders 0-1, Bumgardner 0-2). Rebounds: Pikeville 29 (Huffman 9, Johnson 4, J. Hamilton 4, Ray 4, May 3, Thacker 3, P. Hamilton 1, Risner 1), Harlan County 31 (Caldwell 11, Bailey 10, Carmical 4, Spurlock 4, Sanders 1, Brewer 1). Turnovers: Pikeville 7, Harlan County 8. Fouled out: Pikeville (Thacker), Harlan County (Sanders, Spurlock). Technical fouls: Pikeville (May).