An almost flawless second quarter gave the Harlan County Black Bears enough of a cushion to survive a bad third quarter as visiting Breathitt County cut a 17-point halftime deficit to five in the fourth quarter before HCHS was able to pull away again for a 71-58 victory on Saturday afternoon in the Black Bears Classic.
The 5-0 Bears did everything right in building a big lead, hitting 10 of 13 shots from the field in the second quarter while carving up Breathitt County’s press for numerous layups.
“We changed our press offense in the second quarter and it worked,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We got in the right position and made nice passes and found people wide open. It was a good second quarter.”
“They are clicking on all cylinders, and they have a lot more mature team than I have,” said first-year Breathitt County coach Robert Paul Amis. “You can tell they’ve played together a lot, and they are well coached. Coach Jones made some great adjustments against our presses. He was ready for us and outcoached me tonight.”
Junior guards Treyce Spurlock and Cameron Carmical led the Bears with 20 and 16 points, respectively. Sophomore forward Tyrese Simmons added 13 points.
Ethan Little, a junior, guard, led the 3-2 Bobcats with 13 points.
After three ties in the opening four minutes, Harlan County closed the first quarter with an 11-2 run on baskets by Andrew Creech and Carmical and a 3-pointer by Spurlock to go up 17-10.
Simmons and Carmical each had three baskets in the second period while Lamar Burkhart and Spurlock contributed two each as the Bears outscored Breathitt 24-14 to build a 41-24 advantage.
The third quarter was a much different story as Harlan County hit only one of eight shots from the field and turned the ball over six times. Little hit three straight shots in a personal 8-0 run, including two 3-pointers, as the Bobcats got as close as five and trailed 50-43 going into the fourth period after two free throws by Spurlock to close the quarter.
“We can’t come out of the locker room and score one field goal for an entire quarter,” Jones said. “Our execution was terrible on both offense and defense. We have to correct that Monday.”
“I had to peel the paint off the walls and make some adjustments,” Amis said. “I went to a triangle and two against their two best players and it helped. We also changed our rotation a little. The intensity picked up a lot and got us back into the game.”
The lead alternated between five and seven points for the first three minutes of the fourth quarter before Drew Nolan hit a 3-pointer and Simmons followed with a steal and dunk to push the lead back out to 11. One basket by David Turner followed by two from Drew Nolan gave Harlan County a 13-point advantage with two minutes left.
Turner, who led the Bears with nine rebounds despite foul problems, and Simmons, who missed only one shot, both had big games.
“Ty and David have been very consistent,” Jones said. “They have done a great job defensively, and they’ve knocked down big shots. They are big keys for us. We have to have that.”
Harlan County returns to action Tuesday at home against Barbourville.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134