BARBOURVILLE — Derek Collins had plans to turn the Barbourville Tigers into a running and pressing team in his first year as head coach.
The style appeared to work well for the Tigers early in the year when the won six of their first seven. But when they split 12 games at midseason, Collins had to find something new, which in this case was something old.
“At the start of the year I wanted to run and gun and have a big time,” Collins said after the Tigers’ 72-64 loss Saturday to Harlan County, a much different style of game than Harlan County’s 94-84 win early in the season at HCHS when both teams ran from start to finish.
When Barbourville was upset by Pineville in the 13th Region All “A” Classic, Collins went back to the 2-3 zone that had been a staple of the Tigers’ program for over 30 years under former coach Dinky Phipps.
“We lost a player and a couple of others didn’t shoot that well, so I had to adjust and make changes. I’ve went to slowing things down. We’ve concentrated on defense the last two weeks because we’ve struggled,” Collins said. “I didn’t want to go back to a 2-3, but I had to fall back to a 2-3. The problem I have is they are loafing on defense and giving me 110 on offense. When you do that, it’s hard to beat good teams, and Harlan County is a great team.”
Harlan County (16-4) played well in its halfcourt sets, shooting 50 percent (23 of 46) from the field, showing much more balance than in the earlier game when point guard Cameron Carmical burned the Tigers in transition with a 36-point explosion.
“Offensively, we’re getting used to running stack. We overloaded it some and got things off of it,” said Harlan County coach Michael Jones, who was even more pleased with the Bears’ man-to-man defense.
“I thought defensively we played real well. Those two kids they have, (Brent) Perry and (Markelle) Turner, can play. The job Ty (Simmons) and Drew (Nolan) did on them was excellent,” Jones said. “If we got that kind of defensive effort every night we’d be hard to beat. We had a few breakdowns, but I was pleased overall with our defensive effort.”
After scoring 39 at HCHS, Perry was held to 15 by a strong defensive effort from Simmons.
“He had 39 the last game, so I’ll take 15,” Jones said. “Ty did an excellent job. When he uses his athleticism he can make it hard on people.”
Turner, a sophomore, led all scorers with 27 points, hitting seven straight shots in an 18-point fourth quarter.
Junior guard Treyce Spurlock led the Bears as he scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
“Treyce played a great overall game today,” Jones said. “We talked at Hilton Head (S.C.) that we needed more rebounding out of him, and he’s done a great job helping us there with everything else he does. He also shot the ball well today.”
Nolan added 16 points in his best shooting game of the season as he hit six of eight attempts, including four 3-pointers.
“That’s we saw out of him in the summer and the early practices this year. We knew what Drew is capable of,” Jones said. “Nobody has more confidence in him than me. I hope he’s coming out of his shell. I want him to not think, just shoot. He has to be aggressive offensively.”
“Nolan hurt me. Hit some 3s at key times,” Collins said.
Even though he was slowed by an ankle injury and other ailments, Carmical scored 15 points, including six of six at the free throw line.
“Cameron gutted one out for us today,” Jones said.
Barbourville scored the game’s first five points on a 3-pointer by Tate Carter and a basket off a drive from Turner, prompting an early timeout by Jones.
Harlan County responded with eight straight points on 3-pointers by Carmical and Spurlock sandwiched around a short jumper by David Turner. James Witt pulled the Tigers even with a 3-pointer. The game was also tied at 10 and 12 before a three-point play by Spurlock put the Bears up 15-12 after one quarter.
Harlan County showed patience against the Barbourville zone to start the second quarter and worked for good shots, but the Bears were unable to connect on five attempts around the basket. Two baskets by Perry put Barbourville up by one.
HCHS responded with 3-pointers by Nolan and Carmical and a jumper by Spurlock to build a five-point lead. Turner cut the deficit to three, at 27-24, going into the break.
A jumper by Perry pulled the Tigers within one to start the second half, but HCHS responded with 3-pointers by Nolan and Spurlock, who teamed for 15 points in the period as the Bears built a 45-38 lead after three quarters.
Baskets by Simmons and Nolan gave Harlan County a 10-point lead, but Turner brought Barbourville back as he took over the game during a four-minute stretch. His three-point play and then a layup off a turnover cut the deficit to 63-61 with 1:20 left.
A three-point play by Spurlock turned the momentum back to the Bears. Carmical hit six straight free throws during the final 40 seconds to seal the win.
“My kids are really tired. We had a real tough game against Corbin (triple overtime) and couldn’t get up and down the floor yesterday in practice,” Collins said. “We’ve gone from two guys scoring to trying to get five. We’re trying to get everyone involved offensively and everybody to buy in defensively.
Harlan County returns to action Tuesday at Middlesboro in a girls/boys district doubleheader. The Bears can clinch the top seed in the 52nd District Tournament with a win. Barbourville (11-10) plays Louisville Waggener on Saturday at Pulaski County.
Barbourville overcame a nine-point halftime deficit to win 53-46 in junior varsity action.
Christian Bunch, a sophomore guard, led Barbourville with 22 points. Tanner Mills added 10. Trenton Schall scored seven. Connor Bain contributed six. Creg Gray added five. Jacob Helton scored three.
Sophomore guard Austin Adams led Harlan County with 11 points. Joey Swanner scored eight. Alex Pace and A.J. Simmons tossed in seven each. Gabe Price scored six. Michael Simpson contributed four. Jacob Branson added three.
Connor Bain scored 13 points, Jacob Helton added 12 and Shawn Vaughn contributed 10 as Barbourville won 48-42 in the freshman game.
Michael Simpson led the 7-5 Bears with 10 points. Gabe Price and Jared Hawkins scored nine each. Alex Pace and Matthew Simpson added seven each.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134