There Harlan County Black Bears certainly have the talent to win the 13th Region Tournament — whether they have the toughness is still uncertain. The Bears were unsuccessful in their latest opportunity to show they are ready for a run to Rupp Arena, falling 74-70 to visiting Corbin in a matchup of two of the region’s top teams.
Harlan County lead for nearly 29 of the 32 minutes Monday before falling behind in the fourth quarter. The Black Bears entered the final period with a nine-point lead — eight minutes later they exited with a loss.
“I’m really concerned about our kids’ toughness. They just out-toughed us. When we got our hands on a rebound they just took it. They beat us to every ball,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones. “We just got outplayed. They deserved to win the game. Our kids are going to have to be tougher. We had one or two players that showed a little emotion. You could tell their kids wanted it with the emotion they were playing with.”
The Bears had several opportunities to extend their lead early in the fourth quarter, but opened by missing five straight attempts from the free-throw line. After three straight Corbin baskets, senior Chad Massingill stopped the skid with a layup off of a steal to put Harlan County up 59-54. The lead was at four midway through the period, following a pair of free throws from senior Tyler Brewer. However, the Redhounds responded with five straight points, capped by a layup from Zach Farley to take their first lead with 3:29 remaining in the contest.
Harlan County regained the lead on a offensive rebound putback from sophomore Tyler Miller, but Hunter Grubb answered with a trey on the ensuing possession to put the Hounds up by two. Three free throws from Farley and one from Kaleb Maguet made it 70-64 with 48 seconds left and the Bears were unable to overcome the deficit.
Brewer had six points in the first quarter as the Bears took a two-point lead. Harlan County led by as much as six in the opening period, but Hunter Grubb recorded seven of his 16 points as the Corbin kept pace.
The Black Bears went inside in the second quarter on their way to a 45-34 advantage at the half. Miller tossed in eight of his team-high 19 points in the period, while senior forward Aaron Caldwell had six points and sophomore forward Zach Caldwell added four. The post trio combined for 42 points and 19 rebounds.
Miller had five more points in the third quarter to keep Harlan County in front by nine.
“It comes down to mental. These kids are playing 16 minutes and taking off 16 minutes. You aren’t going to win many games playing like that,” said Jones. “Until we put a complete game together and play with a little emotion like it matters — if they are saving anything I hope they find it by next Monday night, or it could be over by Monday night.”
Harlan County (20-7) closes out the regular season Thursday at home against Whitley County. Corbin (21-6) will travel to Harlan on Friday.
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Corbin (74) — Zach Farley 11, Kaleb Maguet 5, Trevor Hill 10, Hunter Grubb 16, Robbie Igo 9, Joey Shelton 3, Zach Henson 0, Kevin Goins 17, Connor Hopkins 0, Taylor Waddle 0.
Harlan County (70) — Tyler Brewer 15, Alex Sergent 0, Chad Massingill 9, Aaron Caldwell 15, Tyler Miller 19, Zach Caldwell 8, Cody Bumgardner 4, James Bond 0, Fred Massey 0.