HAZARD – Harlan County continued to underwhelm in big games Wednesday, falling to 14th Region foe Hazard in the opening round of the WYMT Mountain Classic at Perry Central. The Bears took a brief lead in the third quarter, but faded in the fourth as the Bulldogs pulled away for a 60-44 win.
“We’re just not playing. We have got some kids that aren’t showing up to play. They are either going to do that or they are going to sit on the bench and watch somebody else,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones. “I’m tired of going through this. There is no excuse for not playing with emotion and going after it hard.”
Alex Sergent put the Bears up by one with a 3-pointer with 2:27 remaining in the third quarter. After an Evan Whitaker free throw, James Bond put Harlan County back on top with jumper with 1:55 left. That was the last lead for the Bears as Matt Thompson drained a pair of treys in the final 1:30 to give Hazard a 38-36 advantage.
A jumper from Bond was sandwiched between a pair of Hazard treys to open the fourth quarter as the deficit grew to six. Chris Hudson pushed Hazard’s lead to 10 with a basket with 3:29 left in the contest. The Bulldogs then hit 9-of-14 free throws stretch to hold off any comeback bid.
“Even as poor as we played we were only down two at halftime,” Jones said. “Then we got a little lead – we went through a spurt there where they got two offensive rebounds and made two 3’s. They went back up on us and we just laid down.”
Hazard piled up 21 points, with just four misses from the field in the final period.
“We did so many things wrong defensively that it is inexcusable, and we’re not going to put up with it anymore,” Jones said. “We have a good record, but what does that mean if we aren’t going to play any better than we are. Something is going to have to give. They are going to have to start playing.”
There were six lead changes in a closely contested first half. A jumper from Sergent gave the Bears a 13-12 lead late in the first quarter, but Hazard’s Tyler Triplett and Jarrod Combs closed the period with two straight baskets to take a three-point lead into the second.
Both teams struggled offensively in the second quarter. Harlan County attempted just six shots in the period, while turning the ball over nine times. The Bears turned the ball over 23 times in the contest.
“That’s unbelievable to have that many turnovers as mature as we are. I’m embarrassed. If these kids aren’t then we’re in trouble,” Jones said.
The Bears trailed by five late in the half, but senior Chad Massingill hit a free throw and added a basket underneath to close the gap to 24-22 at the break.
Harlan County (14-3) returns to action tonight in the consolation bracket against Clay County. Hazard (15-2) will face Perry Central in the semifinals on Friday.
Hazard (60) – Matt Thompson 15, Collier Mobelini 6, Hunter Hardy 3, Evan Whitaker 8, Chris Hudson 12, Tyler Triplett 3, Jordan Olinger 7, Mack Hall 0, Jarrod Combs 2, Griffin Wells 4.
Harlan County (44) – Tyler Brewer 13, Alex Sergent 11, Chad Massingill 7, Aaron Caldwell 2, Tyler Miller 4, Zach Caldwell 0, James Bond 4, Cody Bumgardner 3, Fred Massey 0.