The Harlan County Black Bears and Lady Bears learned their path through the 13th Region Tournament at Saturday’s draw.
A pair of boys contests will tip-off the tournament on Monday at Harlan County High School. 50th District champion Corbin (24-6) will take on 52nd District runner-up Middlesboro (15-13) in the opening contest. The Redhounds downed Middlesboro 68-51 at home in early January.
49th District champ Clay County (23-6) will face 51st District runner-up Barbourville (19-11) in Monday’s late game. The two teams did not meet during the regular season.
Harlan County (23-7) will start the action on Tuesday. The Black Bears will face 50th District runner-up South Laurel (13-16) in the first contest.
“You have to play somebody. They are playing well right now. We just have to be ready to play. When it comes this time of the year you can’t have a preference on who you would rather play, because if they weren’t pretty good they wouldn’t be here,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones. “We are just going to have to take it one game at a time. Our kids have had the goal all along to win this thing, and in order to do that you have to win that first game.”
Harlan County won 44-32 at South Laurel in December.
“It’s going to be tough. They are the home team on their home floor. We will have our hands full. We weren’t at full strength the last time we played them. We played them hard, but they are just so big inside,” said South Laurel coach Jeff Davis. “You have to watch Sergent on the perimeter and Brewer is a handful. We know what we have got, but I expect our guys to be ready for the challenge.”
Jones said he hopes his team will receive a boost from playing in front of the home crowd.
“I thought our crowd was really good down in the district. Our student section was really good. We want to get our crowd here and try to take advantage of this thing being on our home floor,” he said. “I thought that was really a big boost for us down there in the district tournament, and I think that will be very important.”
51st District champion Knox Central (17-13) will meet 49th District runner-up North Laurel (15-15) in the final opening round contest. The Jaguars downed Knox 63-47 in the regular season finale.
“Everybody that is here is capable of beating somebody else. That’s what makes these first round games really intriguing,” Jones said.
The girls tournament will open with a matchup of two regional contenders, as 49th District champion Clay County (26-5) will face 50th District runner-up Whitley County (19-10). The Lady Colonels defeated Clay 58-55 early in the season, but enter the tournament with several key injuries.
52nd District champion Bell County (25-5) will take on 51st District runner-up Lynn Camp (23-9) in Wednesday’s nightcap. The teams did not play during the regular season.
Harlan County (25-6) will start the the final day of the first round. The Lady Bears will take on 51st District champion Barbourville (21-10) in Thursday’s first game. Harlan County defeated Barbourville in both meetings this season.
“We have played a couple of times this year, so we are very familiar with each other. They have a very experienced team. They shoot the ball well and they push the ball hard, so we have to play good transition defense,” said Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan. “It is a tough matchup. Hopefully, our kids will be ready to play Thursday night.”
The Lady Bears were a perfect 11-0 at home during the regular season, and Nolan hopes that streak will continue one more week.
“The biggest thing for our kids is we were undefeated at home. That was our primary goal, because we knew we were hosting a regional. I think our kids take great pride in that, and hopefully it will motivate us to take it to another level.”
50th District champ Corbin (24-8) will face 49th District runner-up North Laurel (6-25) in the final first round contest. The Lady Hounds downed North 62-22 during the regular season.
“Any one of those teams are capable of beating or upsetting somebody on any given night, so you have to be ready to play,” Nolan said. “Our region is very tough. I would put our region up against just about any other in the state.”
Tournament pairings include:
6:15 p.m. —Corbin (24-6) vs Middlesboro (15-13)
7:45 p.m. —Clay County (23-6) vs Barbourville (19-11)
6:15 p.m. — Harlan County (23-7) vs South Laurel (13-16)
7:45 p.m. — Knox Central (17-13) vs North Laurel (15-15)
6:15 p..m. — Corbin/Middlesboro winner vs Clay County/Barbourville winner
7:45 p.m. — Harlan County/South Laurel winner vs Knox Central/North laurel winner
7:30 p.m. — Championship
— — —
6:15 p.m. —Clay County (26-5) vs Whitley County (19-10)
7:45 p.m. — Bell County (25-5) vs Lynn Camp (23-9)
6:15 p.m. — Barbourville (21-10) vs Harlan County (25-6)
7:45 p.m. — Corbin (24-8) vs North Laurel (6-25)
12:30 p..m. — Clay County/Whitley County winner vs Bell County/Lynn Camp winner
2 p.m. — Barbourville/Harlan County winner vs Corbin/North laurel winner
7 p.m. — Championship