Bell’s unbeaten season comes to an end

Published 11:25 am Wednesday, January 17, 2024

By John Henson

Contributing Writer

LOG MOUNTAIN — From Louisville to Bristol to Corbin, the Harlan County Black Bears have put in the miles to test themselves in hopes of a deep postseason run. They didn’t have to travel as far for their latest challenge on Tuesday against a Bell County squad that was one of only two undefeated teams (Henry Clay) in the state and had moved up to second in the 13th Region behind the Bears.

Harlan County responded in much the same fashion as in previous tests, scoring the first six points and staying in control all the way in a 71-52 that victory that pushed the Bears’ record to 16-2. Defense, rebounding and offensive balance were all strengths as Bell shot only 36 percent (18 of 50) from the field and was outrebounded 40-19.

“That’s a big part of our offense, getting out in transition,” Harlan County coach Kyle Jones said. “We feel we’re at our best when we do that, and the only way to do it is to get rebounds. We pride ourselves on our rebounding.”

“Harlan County did a nice job taking away what we wanted to do on offense,” said Bell County coach Brad Sizemore. “We missed several shots around the rim to start the game and dug ourself a hole. Their length bothered us. We have had a solid couple of weeks, but looked fatigued tonight right out of the gate. We are going to try to regroup and get ready for Boyd County on Friday.”

The Bears placed four in double figures, led by Trent Noah with 24 points and 17 rebounds. Reggie Cottrell added 18 points as he hit seven of 11 shots. Maddox Huff chipped in with 11 points, while Jaycee Carter added 10 rebounds and 10 rebounds.

“We hadn’t had that the last few games, so it was good to see us put four pretty good quarters together and get four back in double figures,” Jones said. “We have to continue work. We’re not satisfied with tonight. We’re glad we won, but we still have a lot to work on.”

Blake Burnett scored 22 points and Cameron Hall added 18 for the 16-1 Bobcats.

Caleb Johnson, Carter, Cottrell and Noah each hit 3-pointers in the opening quarter as the Bears took a 16-8 lead.

Huff and Noah each had three baskets in the second period as the Bears’ lead grew to 15 points midway through the quarter. Hall hit two 3s and Burnett added two baskets as the Bobcats cut the deficit to 38-26 at halftime.

Harlan County blew the game open with an 18-2 run in the third quarter as the Bears found success in transition as Noah and Carter each had four rebounds in the period, resulting in several runouts for quick baskets in transition.

“I felt the first of the game we settled too much. I told them at halftime we were shooting way too many 3s. We want to take open 3s off drives and kicks,” Jones said. “The second half we started attacking the basket and that allowed us to extend the lead out.”

Harlan County led 56-37 after three quarters and extended the margin to 25 points, at 71-46, on a 3 by Huff and basket by Cottrell before Jones turned the game over to his reserves with two minutes left.

Harlan County plays host to Middlesboro on Friday as part of a girls/boys doubleheader. Bell County returns to action Friday against Boyd County in the state 2A tournament.

Scoring summary

Harlan County 71, Bell County 52

HARLAN COUNTY (16-2)

Maddox Huff 5-11 0-0 11, Trent Noah 8-14 6-6 24, Reggie Cottrell 7-11 2-2 18,  Caleb Johnson 1-7 0-0 3, Jaycee Carter 4-5 1-2 10, Brody Napier 2-6 0-0 4, Brennan Blevins 0-0 1-2 1, Shemar Carr 0-0 0-0 0, Landon Brock 0-0 0-0 0, Cole Cornett 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 27-54 10-12 71.

BELL COUNTY (16-1)

Cameron. Hall 6-15 2-4 18, Jaxon Thomas 1-6 0-0 3, Blake Burnett 7-15 6-7 22, Cayden Huff 2-3 0-0 4, Ethan Buell 2-9 1-2 5, Logan Stepp 0-1 0-0 0, Chase Wilder 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-50 9-13 52.

Harlan County 16-22-18-15 — 71

Bell County  8-18-11-15 — 52

3-point goals: Harlan County 7-24 (Cottrell 2-5, Noah 2-6, Carter 1-2, Huff 1-4, Johnson 1-6, Napier 0-1), Bell County 7-21 (Hall 4-8, Burnett 2-4, Thomas 1-5, Stepp 0-1, Buell 0-3) Rebounds: Harlan County 40 (Noah 17, Carer 10, Johnson 5, Napier 4, Huff 2, Cottrell 1, Carr 1), Bell County 19 (Hall 5, Huff 5, Buell 5, Thomas 2, Burnett 1), Turnovers: Harlan County 11, Bell County 8. Fouled out: None.’ Technical fouls: Harlan County (Noah).