The nightcap of the 13th Region Boys Tournament features two teams that have flown under the radar for most of the season. Mike Jones’ Harlan County Black Bears are hoping to improve on the 13th Region’s best record at 28-3 when they face off against an up-and-coming Lynn Camp team.
Lynn Camp (18-11) surprised many by leading 13th Region Boys Tournament favorite Knox Central for three and a half quarters before falling 64-57 in last week’s 51st District Tournament championship game.
“The big thing for us is to make sure we don’t quit,” Lynn Camp assistant coach Cody Messer said. “We deserve to be here just like anyone else that is here. I believe we turned the non-believers into believers (after our game against Knox Central).
“We are playing hard and we have shown that we’re not going to quit. I think that’s that’s a big thing for us coming into this tournament, making sure we don’t quit, while continuing to prove the skeptics wrong.”
Harlan County coach Michael Jones stated he will make sure his team doesn’t underestimate Lynn Camp, while hoping his team continues to fly under the radar.
“We have flown under the radar, and that’s fine with us,” he said. “We’ve got a 28-3 record, and no one believes we can win this tournament, but our kids are confident. It’s region tournament time, and anything can happen. It motivates our kids being under the radar. I’m not a social media guy, but our kids are. I told them that rankings don’t mean anything. It’s just someone’s opinion. What means the most is who is standing at the end and that’s our goal.”
The Black Bears are going to have to find a way to slow down the Lynn Camp trio of Bruce Hopkins, Tanner Boggs and Marcus Hollin. Jacob Bundy is a threat from the outside and is considered one of the best long-range shooters in the 13th Region.
“They’ve got a good ball club,” Jones said. “Knox Central had been rolling, and any time you can play Knox Central as close as they did that means you’re a good ball team. They’ve got two or three really good players. Our task as coaches is to get our kids mentally focused on Lynn Camp and not worry about anything down the future. They’ve got some good athletes, and they are better than what people think. I’ve got my job cut out for me to get these kids of mine to focus on one game at a time.”
Jones’ Black Bears are pretty darn good, too.
Harlan County is led by seniors Carmeron Carmical and Treyce Spurlock, while Tyrese Simmons and Andrew Creech are big threats also. The Black Bears have had to deal with injuries to key players, though, but Messer admitted his players have their hands full.
“Harlan County is very good,” he said. “They’re going to be a tough team to play. They are well-coached and well-disciplined. They’re a veteran team with a lot of talented players. They’ve played in the tournament, and that’s where they’re going to have an edge on us. But we will get a game plan together, and, hopefully, be able to execute the game plan.”
“I told my guys that we have nothing to lose. We are going to com out and play to the best of our ability and see how the ball bounces.”
A rematch of last season’s 13th Region Boys Tournament between defending region champion South Laurel and Clay County will take place today in first round action of the 13th Region Boys Tournament.
The Cardinals, who many considered the top team in the region at the end of January, comes limping into today’s contest winning only two out of their last eight games while dealing with injuries and one of the toughest slates in the state.
Even with South Laurel’s recent struggles, Clay County coach Glenn Gray knows his team will have its hands full when the game tips off today.
“South Laurel is a tough team, but to win this thing you’ve got to play the good teams at some point any way,” he said. “This is a big game for us. We just need to show up and do what we know we can do and play hard.”
The two teams faced each other on Jan. 12 in Manchester with South Laurel coming away with a 71-63 win. Jared Grubb led the way with a game-high 27 points on 9-of-16 shooting while J.J. Ramey added 14 points and Matthew Cromer and Ryan Anders each scored seven points apiece.
“The key for us is to not let Jared Grubb go wild,” Gray said. “He’s a very nice player, and came take over a game. Ramey is another key, too. We can’t let him get open because he’s a very good shooter. This is a tough matchup for us, and I know we’ve got our hands full.
“If we can get it to the pace that we want, I believe our inside game can do well. We’ve got to create a defensive disadvantage for them because they create some disadvantages for us on our defensive end, so it’s just a matter of wills, and we’ll see who wins it.”
South Laurel assistant coach Trey Smith likes his team’s chances of winning today and throughout the tournament, but to do so he said the Cards needs to get back to playing solid defense.
“I think we have a shot at winning this, but we’ve got to take things one game at a time,” he said. “Right now, our focus is on Clay County. It’s all about who is making the shots at the right time. This year, I believe it’s going to be the team that peaks at the right time, and I definitely think we’ve got the opportunity to do that. We have a lot of high-character guys that do things the right way, and I think that’s going to bode for us well.”
“Clay County is a very good team,” Smith added. “They do a lot of things that will cause problems for us. They’ve got a good kid in the post that can play. We’ve got to do some things to try and take him away. We’ve also got to hit shots. That’s what it’s going to come down to. We’ve got to get back to what makes us good, and that was defensive play. We got off to a good start to the season because we were playing very good defense at that time. We can be dangerous when we lock in.”
Many feel the Tigers are going to win, the inside play of Ryan Rogers and Lucas Gabbard has to answer the call. Gabbard had 19 points and 17 rebounds during the two teams’ only meeting while Rogers added 12 points and three rebounds.
“We’ve have the type of team this season that on any given night we could be anybody, and on any given night we could be beaten,” Gray said. “So, we need to be more consistent. We’ve got to take care of the ball, and shoot better, and not turn the ball over, then I like our chances.”