By John Henson
In a 63-35 loss at Log Mountain in January, the Harlan County Black Bears showed just how bad a young team can look when they aren’t ready to play.
In a 57-48 win Tuesday at home, the Black Bears showed just how good they can be when they play hard and play together.
Harlan County (12-12 overall, 4-2 district) showed good patience on offense and had a solid effort defensively despite a 27-point outburst by Bell star Tyler Potter, perhaps the 13th Region’s best shooter.
“It was a good win against a good team, especially after the way we got thumped before. We needed to prove to ourselves that we could do this,” Harlan County coach Mike Jones. “Offensively, we helped each other. We did a much better job of that tonight. We did a better job of going from one thing to another, depending on what they were doing defensively.”
Potter and Tyler Patterson accounted for all but one of the Bobcats’ 12 field goals in a 26 percent (12 of 47) shooting performance. Bell shot over 50 percent from the field in the previous game.
“We’ve shot like that the last two weeks. We’re just not playing well right now,” Bell County coach Lewis Morris said. “We’re in a little funk. We have to play our way out of it. I think we will.”
“(Potter) hit some unbelievable shots. He can score,” Jones said. “Overall, I thought we did a much better job defensively.”
Freshman guard Cameron Carmical had a breakout performance in a big game, scoring 20 points, including three of five from the 3-point line, as he provided the outside threat the Bears have lacked through much of the year.
“We know he’s capable of doing that, and we know (Treyce) Spurlock is capable of doing that, and our older kids are capable of doing that,” Jones said. “We’ve been waiting for our kids to start shooting the ball a little bit. We know we are capable of doing that. We just hoped it would come at the right time.”
Junior forward Zach Caldwell provided the physical presence in the post the Bears lacked at Bell with an 11-point, 11-rebound effort. Junior guard Trey Sanders also provided a boost with 10 points.
The Bears also won the battle of the boards, 31-26, a stark contrast to the previous game when the Bobcats owned a 33-21 advantage on the glass, leading to numerous second shots.
After several lead changes in the first quarter, Harlan County built a six-point advantage midway through the second period on a 3-pointer by Carmical and a basket by Caldwell. Bell got as close as two on three occasions before the Bears executed well on their final possession of the half, leading to another trey by Carmical for a 27-22 lead at the break.
Potter carried the Bell offense in the third quarter with a pair of 3-pointers, two jumpers and two free throws to account for all but one of the Cats’ points in the period. Bell went up by one midway through the period, but the lead was short lived as Sanders provided a spark off the bench with two straight baskets as HCHS took a 37-35 lead into the final quarter.
Harlan County was clinging to a one-point lead with five minutes left when Carmical grabbed the momentum for the Bears, hitting a 3-pointer from the corner and then working inside for a layup off a dipsy-doodle move around a Bell defender. The Bobcats hit only one of 10 shots through the seven minutes as the deficit grew to nine. A Potter 3-pointer pulled Bell within two possessions with 46 seconds left before Sanders and Cody Bumgardner put the game away at the free throw line.
“Harlan County played a good game,” Morris said. “We just have to get ready for the district tournament. I hope we can take care of business against Harlan on Friday and go into the district with a couple of wins and see what happens.”
Harlan County travels to East Ridge on Thursday.
Bell County pulled away in the second half for a 49-31 win in the junior varsity game. Trent Lefevers led the Bobcats with 10 points. Donavan Napier added nine, followed by Jacob Hunley with eight, Vic Morris with seven, Cody Carnes with six, Ethan Gambrel with five, Dalton Callebs with four.
David Turner scored seven points and Jared Sizemore, WIlliam Bowling and Malik Simmons each added six to lead the 10-2 Black Bears. Josh Hunting and Joey Swanner contributed four and two points, respectively.
BELL COUNTY (14-10)
Chase Woolum 0-6 5-6 5, Tyler Potter 8-21 8-10 27, Jake Patterson 3-9 3-4 9, Ben Collett 0-6 2-2 2, Zach Partin 0-2 1-2 1, Josh Asher 1-3 2-2 4, Cody Ferguson 0-0 0-2 0, Donovan Napier 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 12-47 21-28 48.
HARLAN COUNTY (12-12)
Cody Bumgardner 1-6 2-6 4, Cameron Carmical 4-11 9-11 20, Treyce Spurlock 4-8 0-0 8, Zach Caldwell 4-8 3-6 11, Scotty Bailey 2-2 0-0 4, Trey Sanders 3-4 4-5 10, Cody Brewer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-38 18-28 57.
Bell County 10 12 13 13 — 48
Harlan County 11 16 10 20 — 57
3-point goals: Bell County 3-16 (Potter 3-9, Asher 0-1, Woolum 0-2, Patterson 0-4), Harlan County 3-7 (Carmical 3-5, Spurlock 0-1, Sanders 0-1). Rebounds: Bell County 26 (Patterson 10, Asher 4, Collett 3, Partin 3, Woolum 2, Potter 2, Ferguson 2), Harlan County 31 (Caldwell 11, Bailey 7, Bumgardner 4, Spurlock 4, Sanders 3, Carmical 2). Turnovers: Bell County 2, Harlan County 9. Fouled out: Bell County (Partin), Harlan County (Bailey).