Opening the game with his Green Dragons in a triangle-and-two defense, Harlan coach David Parks was determined to make someone else besides Harlan County stars Treyce Spurlock and Cameron Carmical beat him in a 52nd District showdown at HCHS.
Someone else went by the names of Andrew Creech and Tyrese Simmons on Thursday.
The sophomore guards, standouts on the HCHS freshman team a year ago who saw little varsity action, each scored 13 points, helping the Bears pull away in the second half for a 72-44 victory
“Some of these guys are growing up fast, and we need that for us to be a really good team,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “They have matured so much since we played all those games this summer. We’ll keep getting better. We’re 7-0, and we’re not playing that well yet.
Harlan (4-5) kept the game close for much of the first half. After falling behind 8-0, the Dragons battled back to within one behind freshman forward Kilian Ledford, who had three baskets in the period, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 15-14 going into the second quarter.
Harlan took the lead on two occasions early in the second period on baskets by Robby Curry and Trent McKenzie. Carmical, who led the Bears with 15 points, came to the rescue with the seven straight points. Spurlock capped the run with a putback that gave Harlan County a 10-point cushion, a lead the Bears maintained going into the second half.
“I don’t know how well we played on Cameron, but I thought we did a good job on Treyce,” said Harlan coach David Parks. “They are hard to deal with. Those other kids are good players, but they are somewhat overshadowed by those two.”
“They did a fair job on Treyce and Cameron, and I told those kids in the locker room I am proud of how they sacrificed for the team,” Jones said. “It shows maturity on their part.”
Harlan County then made some changes at halftime that blew the game open.
“We adjusted our offense at halftime, overloading one side of the floor,” Jones said. “It got Ty open, and then David (Turner) was able to step in there for a couple of baskets. It’s not something we practiced, but the kids did a good job.”
The adjustment freed Simmons, who wore the Dragons out on the baseline as he hit four of five shots to spark a 21-3 run that also included a jumper and 3-pointer by Creech. Harlan County hit seven of 11 shots in the period while outrebounding Harlan 7-0. The Dragons, who have no one taller than the 6-foot-1 Ledford, were outrebounded 25-14 in the game.
“We play hard, but we do some young, silly things from time to time,” Parks said. “They have a good team, and we’re 5-10, 5-10 and 6-foot, but that’s no excuse. We have to get in there and battle for the ball, and we didn’t do that. I knew this would be the toughest part of our schedule. We have to try to dig ourselves out tomorrow.”
The Bears scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to push the lead to 66-30 and start a running close less than two minutes into the period. Sophomore forward Lamar Burkhart had two straight baskets as HCHS took its biggest lead at 70-33.
Senior guard Drew Parks, who tied Ledford and Noah Busroe for the team lead with 10 points, hit a couple of 3-pointers and two free throws as Harlan closed the game with an 11-2 run.
Harlan returns to action Friday at home against Central (Va.). Harlan County travels to Hilton Head, S.C. on Monday for the Seahawk Holiday Classic.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134