HAZARD – Harlan County won’t be playing in the championship of the WYMT Mountain Classic, but the Black Bears showed they are a clear favorite to capture the 13th Region title on Thursday. Harlan County never trailed on its way to a 58-47 victory over regional contender Clay County in the WYMT consolation bracket at Perry Central.
“It’s good to bounce back and have a win after you play like we did last night,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones. ”A sign of good team is to build off this the next game and get better.”
Harlan County wasted little time erasing memories of Wednesday’s loss to Hazard, opening the contest on a 10-0 run to take control. Senior’s Alex Sergent and James Bond each had five points, including a 3-pointer, in the opening period to power the start. A three-point play from Clay’s Blake Smith reduced the deficit to six late in the quarter, but Bond closed with a basket to make it 18-10.
After struggling to hang on to the ball Wednesday, Harlan County was much improved against the Tigers. The Bears didn’t have a turnover in the first quarter and finished with just nine in the contest.
Six Bears reached the scoring column in the second quarter as the lead grew to 12 at the half. Aaron Caldwell led the way with four points. The senior forward finished with 17 points to lead all scorers.
Harlan County went just 2-for-13 from the field in the third quarter as Clay closed to within eight. However, the Bears limited Clay to just eight on the opposite end. The Tigers trailed by 11 late in the period, but Wes Wolfe closed the quarter with three straight points to make it 37-29.
Harlan County quickly overcame the shooting slump with a 21 point outburst in the fourth quarter. Caldwell had 11 points and three rebounds in the final period as the Bears cruised to the win. Stephon Lyttle put in an offensive rebound to open the period and pull the Tigers to within eight, but they were never able to get any closer.
“We didn’t finish the way I would like to. We made too many silly turnovers, but I though our defense was pretty good tonight,” Jones said. “We just have to be able to finish a little bit better. But, I’m proud of the kids. They did bounce back from last night.”
Harlan County (15-3) will face North Laurel in the fifth-place game of the WYMT Classic on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Jaguars defeated Betsy Layne on Thursday. Clay County (11-6) will travel to North Laurel on Jan. 18.
Harlan County (58) – Tyler Brewer 10, Alex Sergent 12, Chad Massingill 2, Aaron Caldwell 17, Tyler Miller 7, James Bond 6, Zach Caldwell 4, Cody Bumgardner 0, Trey Sanders 0, Zack Wilson 0.
Clay County (47) – Tydler McDaniel 13, Blake Smith 5, Jarrod Rice 0, Marty Bowling 5, Stephon Lyttle 17, Travis Smith 0, Wes Wolfe 7.