After seemingly righting the ship with district routs of Middlesboro and Harlan last week, Harlan County took a step back with an upset loss to Barbourville on Monday. The visiting Tigers led by as many as 12 points in the second half before escaping with a 56-53 victory over the Black Bears.
“Any time I have every played Mike Jones over the years his teams are always well prepared. I just thought we made the plays when we had to and maybe got an offensive rebound when we needed to,” said Barbourville coach Dinky Phipps. “We didn’t really force anything. It’s probably the best we have played all year.”
Barbourville’s Devon Mills and Alexander Phipps opened the game with back-to-back 3-pointers as the Tigers jumped out to a 6-0 lead. Senior Chad Massingill put the Bears on the scoreboard with a basket in the lane. Massingill had eight points in the first quarter, including six straight for Harlan County to put his team up 10-9. After three free throws from Mills, Aaron Caldwell scored on a putback to tie it at 12. Barbourville’s Jason Mills closed the first quarter scoring to make it 14-12.
The Tigers pulled away in the second quarter. Devon Mills had seven of hig game-high 24 points in the period, and and Jason Mills added five as the lead grew to 10 at the break. A basket from Caldwell put Harlan County up 17-16 early in the period, but Barbourville outscored the Bears by 11 from that point to make it 29-19 into the half.
“We just didn’t come out ready to play. This is the type of thing that can happen in two weeks if you don’t come out on the floor ready to play. Not to take anything away from Barbourville, they deserved to win the game because they did more things right than we did,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones. “If this doesn’t serve as anything else besides a loss maybe it will serve notice to our kids of what can happen against anybody if you’re not ready to play.”
The Bears were much more energized to open the second half. Senior Alex Sergent had eight points, including a pair of treys, as Harlan County pulled even at the end of the third. Massingill hit a layup off of a steal to give the Bears a two-point lead with 37 seconds left in the quarter, but Devon Mills answered with a basket with just six seconds remaining to tie it at 40.
The teams exchanged leads five times in a back and forth fourth quarter. After a pair of free throws from Jason Mills gave the Tigers a 50-48 lead, Sergent appeared to put the Bears up for good when he drained a 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining. However, Devon Mills was fouled in the backcourt on the ensuing inbound, and Massingill was charged with a technical foul on the play.
Devon Mills missed the front end of a bonus situation, but Jason Mills hit the two technical free throws to put Barbourville back up by one with six seconds left.
“Usually it is Devon shooting, but tonight Jason had stepped up there and hit two before and I was putting him back up there in that situation,” said Phipps.
With Barbourville retaining possession, the Bears were forced to foul. Devon Mills then made it a three point game with a pair of free throws with two seconds left. Harlan County’s Tyler Miller found Sergent for a 3-point shot on the Bears’ final possession, but the contested runner was hard off the front of the rim as time expired.
“If they do this two weeks from tonight their season is over. We were not ready to play when we came out of the locker room. We were not mentally into the game or aggressive,” said Jones.
Harlan County (19-5) returns to action Wednesday at Lee, Va. Barbourville (14-10) will host Leslie County today.
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Barebourville (56) —Tanner Moore 1, Devon Mills 24, Alexander Phipps 14, Zack Strong 0, Jason Mills 17, Jacob Rose 0, Kevin Engle 0.
Harlan County (53) — Tyler Brewer 5, Alex Sergent 13, Chad Massingill 17, Aaron Caldwell 8, Tyler Miller 10, Cody Bumgardner 0, Zach Caldwell 0, Fred Massey 0, James Bond 0.