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Jackets dominate glass in win over Harlan County

MIDDLESBORO — Success, for the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets, is all about effort, according to coach Lewis Morris.

The Jackets didn’t have that effort in the first half as visiting Harlan County built an 11-point lead with an explosion of 3-pointers that put the Bears in position for their ninth straight victory. Middlesboro found the intensity in the second half, both on the defensive end and on the boards. The Jackets owned a 30-21 advantage on the boards, leading to numerous second-chance opportunities down the stretch as Middlesboro used a late 11-2 run to really for a 59-55 victory.

“The first half we didn’t play with a lot of energy and it showed. We’re a team that if we don’t play with a lot of energy we don’t have a chance. They hit a bunch of shots, and they are hard to guard. They are hard to deal with when they hit three or four in a row like they did the first half. Coach (Michael) Jones does a good job with them,” Morris said. “The second half we played with a lot of energy and went to the boards. That helped a whole lot. Second-chance points are big in high school basketball.”

“They killed us on the offensive boards at the end of the game. They were just tougher than us tonight from the offensive end to the defensive end. They just outplayed us,” Jones said.

It was the first regular season district loss in five seasons for the Black Bears, who fell to 15-6 overall and 4-1 in district action.

“We’ll see how they respond in practice,” Jones said when asked if the loss could help inspire his team. “We had won four district games this year but almost blew double-digit leads in all of them. We could have lost all four of them. We’re just not finishing games and putting people away like we need to.”

The Jackets have also played well of late with a recent victory over North Laurel In addition to knocking off Harlan County The Jackets improved to 14-7 overall and won their first district game against three losses.

“We’re playing better at times, but at times we do things we can’t do to beat good teams,” Morris said. “We are competing a lot better, but we still have a long way to go.”

Senior guards Jabari Kyle and Trey Brock led the Jackets with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Senior forward T.J. Patterson added 12 points.

The Bears were led by senior guard Taylor Spurlock with 17 points. Tyler Cole and Jackson Huff added 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Middlesboro grabbed a 6-0 before the Bears reeled off 15 unanswered points on the way to building a 19-8 lead late in the period as all five Harlan County starters hit 3-pointers. The Bears were up by nine going into the second quarter and extende their advantage to 27-15 as Spurlock and Huff hit treys. The Jackets pulled within eight, at 30-22, by halftime.

The Jackets hit seven of 12 shots in the third quarter and cut the deficit to 42-40 by the end of the period as Brock scored the final four points of the period.

A Spurlock basket with 5:45 left pushed the Bears’ lead back to seven, but it proved to be the final field goal of the game for HCHS. The Jackets responded with a 9-2 run and pulled even at 51 on Jordan Davis’ 3-pointer with 3:32 to play. Patterson and Brock each hit two free throws to extend the lead to five after each pulled down crucial offensive rebounds.

Harlan County returns to action Saturday at Buckhorn against Owsley County. Middlesboro plays host to Pineville on Friday.

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Middlesboro 59, Harlan County 55

HARLAN COUNTY (15-6)

Trent Noah 3-8 0-0 8, Taylor Spurlock 5-13 5-6 17, Jackson Huff 4-8 0-0 11, Tyler Cole 3-8 4-4 12, Jacob Wilson 2-5 0-0 5, Josh Turner 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter Helton 1-1 0-0 2, Elisha Smallwood 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-43 9-10 55.

MIDDLESBORO (14-7)

Jabari Kyle 6-14 2-4 15, Jordan Davis 2-5 1-2 7, Trey Brock 4-10 6-8 14, T.J. Patterson 3-6 6-9 12, Jay Tyler West 3-5 0-0 6, Eric Helton 2-4 0-0 5, Bryson Barnard 0-3 0-0 0, Cayden Grigsby 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-47 15-23 59.

Harlan County 19 11 12 13 — 55

Middlesboro 10 12 18 19 — 59

3-point goals: Harlan County 10-21 (Huff 3-6, Spurlock 2-3, Cole 2-4, Noah 2-5, Wilson 1-3), Middlesboro 4-14 (Davis 2-4, Helton 1-2, Kyle 1-4, Brock 0-2, Barnard 0-2). Rebounds: Harlan County 21 (Spurlock 7, Noah 4, Cole 3, Wilson 3, Turner 2, Huff 1, Smallwood 1), Middlesboro 30 (Brock 10, Patterson 9, Helton 4, Kyle 3, Davis 2 West 2). Turnovers: Harlan County 10, Middlesboro 10. Fouled out: Harlan County (Noah).