LOG MOUNTAIN — Even if most fans around the 13th Region expected a bigger victory margin than his Black Bears’ 54-47 win Saturday at Bell County, Harlan County coach Michael Jones wasn’t about to complain after watching HCHS lose by an average of 20 points in its last two regular-season games at Bell.
“Since we’ve been a school it’s been a tough place for us to play, and I know the last two years we got beat pretty badly,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We’re just happy to get out of here with a win, whether it’s one or 50.
Harlan County (12-2 overall, 3-0 district) led most of the way but struggled to put the Bobcats away in a slow-paced game that favored the Bobcats. Bell slowed the HCHS offense with a triangle-and-two focused on Harlan County guards Cameron Carmical and Treyce Spurlock.
“Coach (Lewis) Morris had a good gameplan. We’ve seen that defense before with a triangle-and-two trying to take Treyce and Cameron out of the game,” Jones said. “I take responsibility for not getting the kids where they need to be. I think we corrected it at the end. I’ve told them if they go where they are supposed to go, Cameron will find them. It worked out.”
Harlan County had a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter after a jumper by Carmical, but Bell answered with a 10-0 run to pull even. The final four minutes turned into a showdown between Carmical and Bell County’s Zach Partin as the two traded baskets and the lead changed hands four times. Carmical won the battle as he scored 12 of the Bears’ final 14 points and found Drew Nolan for the other basket.
“He just took over, and that’s what good point guards do and what good players do,” Jones said. “We had to go back to our roots with coach (Mike) Jones with the stack and just let him work. He did a great job attacking and getting open. We’ll get back in practice and work on that defense, because I’m sure we’ll see it again.”
Carmical hit eight of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter and scored 14 of his game-high 30 points.
“He wore us out,” Bell County coach Lewis Morris said. “Carmical is hard to guard, especially for around here. He has quickness, handles it well and passes it good. We have to do a better job of taking the ball out of his hands more. We backed off him a little and gave him too much space to take shots. He hit some tough ones, but we didn’t do a good job of what we worked on. We knew what they would do, but we didn’t execute.”
Partin, a senior center, scored 18 points and Jacob Hunley, a senior forward, added 11 for the 7-7 Bobcats. Junior guard Victor Morris contributed 10 points.
Bell led 10-7 after one quarter as the Bears hit only two of 11 shots.
Spurlock, Tyrese Simmons and Carmical each scored in an 8-0 run in the second quarter that put Harlan County on top. Carmical and Spurlock combined to hit five of five shots in the period as HCHS built a 24-18 lead by halftime.
David Turner had a couple of baskets in the third quarter and Andrew Creech closed the period with a 3-pointer that put the Bears up 37-29.
“We just threw it away too much. It wasn’t anything they did,” Morris said. “Carmical is a really good guard, but one person…we just didn’t execute. We have to get better at finishing games. We can’t have mistakes like we did at the end of the game. We had every opportunity in the world. We had too many unforced turnovers, especially early in the game. We’ve seen a lot better pressure than that, and we were throwing it all over the place.”
Harlan County returns to action Tuesday against Buckhorn in the WYMT Mountain Classic. Bell County plays host to Williamsburg on Tuesday.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134