For at least one half Saturday, the Harlan County Black Bears showed they are capable of playing with any team in the state when they put it all together. The Bears led No. 11 Montgomery County after two quarters before falling 94-77 to the visiting Indians.
“We talked before the game about our kids stepping up for the rest of the year and showing people what we are capable of doing. It’s getting to the point where you can’t lose one of these little battles. it’s time to put it all together and win the war,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones. “In the first half, not just because we were ahead, we basically did a good job overall.”
Forwards Aaron Caldwell and Tyler Miller each had five points to lead six Harlan County scorers in a back and forth first quarter. The teams exchanged leads six times in the opening period. A four-point play from Montgomery County (24-4) standout Omar Prewitt gave the Indians their largest lead of the quarter at 20-13, but Caldwell answered with a three-point play on the opposite end to close the gap to four. Zach Caldwell followed with a free throw and Alex Sergent hit a one-handed floater in the lane to pull Harlan County (20-6) to within one. Prewitt closed the period with a dunk as time expired, but he was given a technical foul for hanging on the rim. Sergent hit both free throws to make it 22-21.
The teams continued to trade baskets in the second quarter. Tyler Miller put Harlan County up with a dunk to open the period. Miller, Tyler Brewer and Chad Massingill each had six points as the Bears took a one-point lead into the half. After four straight Montgomery County free throws, Tyler Brewer tied the game with a nasty dunk over the 6-4 Prewitt. Brewer stole the ball near midcourt and raced in for the slam over the William & Mary commit. Brewer was also fouled on the play and hit the free throw to make it 26-26.
After five lead changes, Aaron Caldwell closed the first half scoring with a basket off the glass to put Harlan County up 41-40 at the break.
A bucket from Brewer gave the Bears a two-point lead midway through the third quarter, but Prewitt and Darius Jones combined for three straight 3-pointers in 49 seconds to quickly put the Indians back on top. Harlan County was unable to recover from the outburst. Montgomery County outscored the Bears 9-5 in the final three minutes of the third to push its lead to 11 points.
“Even though we made some mistakes we weren’t satisfied with. We went into the locker room and talked out two different things that would change the complexion of the game in our favor, and we came out in the third quarter and didn’t do either one of them. We have to be able to follow a game plan for four quarters,” Jones said.
A three-point play from Brewer made it a three-point game with 4:24 remaining, but the Indians took control from that point. Montgomery County scored 22 points in the final four minutes to pull away with the win.
‘They are an outstanding team and deserving of their ranking. But, we don’t look at moral victories. There is no such thing as one just because of the way we played in the first half,” Jones said. “That’s the reason the game is 32 minutes long.”
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Fred Massey and Zach Caldwell each had 11 points to lead Harlan County to a 47-41 victory over Montgomery County in the junior varsity contest. Zach Wilson had 10 points for the Black Bears. Cody Bumgardner recorded eight points. Trey Sanders contributed five points and Josh Lee added two.
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Montgomery County (94) — Tyler Jones 2, Xavier Piersal 4, Omar Prewitt 33, Darius Jones 18, Bryan Wallace 28, Shelby Combs 5, Tanner Combs 0, Samuel Hodgson 4, Lance Lockridge 0.
Harlan County (77) — Tyler Brewer 22, Alex Sergent 6, Chad Massingill 11, Tyler Miller 23, Aaron Caldwell 12, Cody Bumgardner 2, Zach Caldwell 1, James Bond 0, Fred Massey 0.