While much of Harlan’s yoouthful lineup is still new to the spotlight that Thursday’s crosstown showdown brought, it was clear the Harlan County Black Bears have been in that situation a few times before. After the early emotions of Thursday’s rivalry contest faded, the Bears steadily pulled away throughout the contest for a 75-55 victory over the Green Dragons.
Harlan stayed close in the first quarter. Freshman Drew Parks had five of his team-high 12 points in the opening period as Harlan trailed by just two. A layup from sophomore Isaiah Johnson gave Harlan its largest lead at 11-6, but Harlan County began to assert itself from that point. Sophomore Tyler Miller tied the game with four straight points, before senior Tyler Brewer put the Bears up with a basket with four seconds remaining.
“I think our kids were a little too emotional. It is alright to be excited about playing, but you have to be excited and under control at the same time,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones. “I thought Harlan did some really good things, and shot the ball real well. For us to still win by 20 is a credit to our kids.”
Harlan County began to pull away in the second quarter. Senior forward Aaron Caldwell had seven points and five boards in the period as the Bears controlled the paint. Harlan trailed by just two late in the second, but Harlan County closed the half on a 10-0 run to take a 36-24 advantage into the break.
“We want to be able to use our post men. But, we missed some shots too. We have to be able to finish better,” Jones said.
The Black Bears extended their lead to 22 in the third quarter. Miller again led the way with nine points. Harlan County outrebounded the Dragons 10-4 in the period, with six coming on the offensive end.
“We did the best we could do early. Offensive rebounds killed us,” said Harlan coach David Parks. “I wanted to make sure we didn’t roll over and die — and we didn’t. We played as hard as we could all night. We are awful young and inexperienced, but we will get better.”
Miller turned in a stellar performance, with 23 points and seven rebounds in the win.
“The thing is they are just so big and strong. We had a hard time with the big kid,” Parks said.
Harlan never seriously threatened in the fourth quarter. A trey from Leighton Piper closed the gap to 18, but the Green Dragons were unable to get any closer.
Harlan County (14-1) will face Lincoln County at Lexington Catholic on Saturday. Harlan (4-11) will travel to June Buchanan.
Harlan County (75) — Tyler Brewer 14, Alex Sergent 14, Chad Massingill 2, Aaron Caldwell 9, Tyler Miller 23, Zach Caldwell 6, James Bond 0, Fred Masssey 0, Cody Bumgardner 7.
Harlan (55) — Drew parks 12, Caleb Hogue 4, Manny Davis 4, Leighton Piper 5, Aaron Simpson 10, Dakota Morris 0, Nathan Young 4, David Allen 2, Isaiah Johnson 12, Dylan McNiel 2, Tanner Morris 0, Andrew Varney 0.