Harlan County pulled away in the second half Friday to dispatch a scrappy Leslie County squad and remain the lone undefeated team in the 13th Region. The Black Bears outscored Leslie by 19 points in the final two quarters on their way to a 83-60 win over the 14th Region foe.
Harlan County got off to a strong start on both ends of the floor. The Bears’s press forced Leslie County into turnovers in its first six possessions of the game. Meanwhile, seven players combined for 24 points on the opposite end. Senior Alex Sergent had eight of his game-high 25 points in the first quarter as Harlan County took a 14-point lead. Tyler Miller added six points in the first. The sophomore forward finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“Tyler has been playing hard. He has been giving the effort all along. Tonight, he was able to stay out of foul trouble and stay in the game,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones.
The Eagles didn’t go away quietly, and rallied in the second quarter. Harlan County led 31-22 midway through the period when Leslie’s Austin Sizemore caught fire from the perimeter. Sizemore hit three treys in the final four minutes of the half to help cut the deficit to just four at the break.
“We will take the win. You have to give Leslie County credit, they didn’t fold when we jumped out early. They built some confidence and started playing really well,” Jones said.
Harlan County regained control in the third quarter. Miller scored on the Bears’ first possession, and Sergent followed with a 3-pointer to quickly push the lead to nine points. A free throw from Miller made it 47-35, before Tyler Brewer took over. The senior point guard finished off an alley-oop with a dunk to start a run that saw him score eight of Harlan County’s final 10 points of the period. Brewer finished with 14 points to surpass 1,000 in his career.
The Bears continued to pull away in the fourth quarter. Sergent had 11 points to power a 26-point outburst in the final period. A pair of free throws from Leslie’s Blake Bray closed the gap to eight early in the quarter. However, Miller quickly put the Bears back up by double-digits with a putback on an offensive rebound. Miller’s basket started a 10-1 run that put the game out of reach.
Despite forcing 25 turnovers, Jones wasn’t pleased with the number of easy baskets the Eagles got throughout the contest.
“We were out of sync offensively several times and we weren’t pleased with our defense. We gave up too many easy shots,” he said. “We practiced hard on recovering back on defense. A lot of that is the effort wasn’t as good as it has been, and we have to be more mature than that. It’s a lack of being mentally into the game like we should have been.”
Harlan County (6-0) will travel to South Laurel today, while Leslie County (1-5) will host Middlesboro on Monday.
Zach Caldwell and Trey Sanders each had 11 points as Harlan County cruised to a 52-16 win in the junior varsity contest.
Zack Wilson recorded nine points in the win. Cody Bumgardner added eight points. Dallas Howard had seven points. Tate Napier contributed three points. Josh Lee had two points, and Patrick Smallwood added one point.
Josh Bray paced the Eagles with 11 points.
Harlan County (81) — Tyler Brewer 14, Alex Sergent 25, Chad Massingill 3, Aaron Caldwell 8, Tyler Miller 14, Zach Caldwell 0, James Bond 5, Cody Bumgardner 12, Zack Wilson 2, Trey Sanders 0, Dallas Howard 0, Kolby Vanover 0.
Leslie County (60) — Blake Bray 4, Austin Sizemore 14, Arlin Couch 22, Tristen Collett 5, Blake Asher 5, Josh Bray 2, Brandon Bentley 6, Jacob Eldridge 2, Cody Sizemore 0.