HAZARD — The Harlan County Black Bears’ holiday tournament struggles followed them from Berea to Hazard on Thursday. The Bears dropped their fourth game in five outings over the past week. This time, Harlan County fell 69-59 to 14th Region contender Breathitt County in the opening night of play in the TECO Coal Commodore Classic at Perry Central High School.
Harlan County took an early lead against the Bobcats. A pair of Cody Bumgardner free throws were sandwiched by a pair of baskets from Zach Caldwell as the Bears went up 6-2. The offense stalled from that point, and Harlan County was only able to manage one point in the next eight minutes. Breathitt capitalized on the Bears’ offensive woes. The Bobcats outscored Harlan County 14-1 in the final six minutes of the opening period to take a 16-7 advantage.
Harlan County continued to struggle at the offensive end to open the second quarter. The Black Bears were held scoreless for the first 1:30 before freshman Cameron Carmical scored on a jumper to make it 21-9. However, the Bobcats continued to pull away in the period. Breathitt senior standout Wesley Noble recorded 10 of his game-high 27 points in the second quarter to lead the Bobcats to a 35-17 advantage at the half.
“Until the kids start playing with more urgency and effort we are going to struggle. It’s not as important to them as it should be,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones.
The Black Bears were much more competitive in the second half, chipping away at the lead throughout the final 16 minutes. Harlan County got as close as 13 points on three occasions in the third quarter, including after a Bumgardner layup that made it 45-32. Noble closed the period with a basket to make it a 15-point game heading into the final period.
A 3-pointer from Zach Wilson closed the gap to 12 with 1:54 remaining. N oble made it 63-49 when Breathitt turned to the bench. The Bears capitalized by scoring 10 straight points in just 1:17 to reduce the deficit to four. That was as close as they got. Harlan County was forced to foul in the final 37 seconds in an attempt to get closer, but the Bobcats hit six-of-eight free throw attempts down the stretch to hold on for the win.
“The kids fought hard at the end to get back in the game. We are just making too many mistakes right now,” Jones said.
Harlan County (6-5) and Breathitt County (6-2) each continue action in the TECO Coal Commodore Classic at Perry Central today.
— — —
Breathitt County (69) —Wes Noble 27, Glenn Campbell 5, Braxton Whitmore 8, Chris Baker 15, Luke Chaney 9, Justin Baker 1, Dylan Burton 2, Ethan Little 0, Eric Lane 2, James Strong 0, James Collins 0, Jon Gilbert 0.
Harlan County (59) — Cody Bumgardner 12, Trey Sanders 0, Zach Caldwell 7, Scotty Bailey 5, Fred Massey 2, Cameron Carmical 17, Treyce Spurlock 6, Zach Wilson 10, Jared Sizemore 0.