CORBIN — Down two points to Lynn Camp heading into the fourth quarter on Thursday in the opening round of the 13th Region Tournament, the Harlan County Black Bears were in danger of playing a role no team involved in March Madness wants to take.
Instead of being an upset victim, the Bears followed another popular storyline of survive and advance.
HCHS seniors Cameron Carmical, Treyce Spurlock and David Turner accounted for the first 17 points by the Bears in the fourth quarter as they rallied for a 57-52 victory
“You expect seniors to step up when you’re in trouble, and we were definitely in trouble. I was proud of the way they stepped up and took over the game,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “Lynn Camp had a good game plan. I had harped and harped on not overlooking this team. They have a great coach over there in Dinky Phipps and their kids played their tails off.
“We won the game and probably didn’t deserve to win it, but we’ll take it. This time of year it’s survive and advance. We have to go back to work and correct some things before we play a really good team Saturday.”
Carmical and Spurlock each scored 20 points to lead the Bears, who will take a 29-3 record into a semifinal matchup against South Laurel on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Lynn Camp (18-13) showed tremendous patience and discipline against the Bears’ man-to-man defense and had success getting to the basket.
“We made a couple of bad decisions under a minute, and when you’re playing a good ball team like that it will hurt you,” Phipps said. “We wanted to do what we wanted to do to get them one on one and on the baseline. I told them before the game we weren’t going to be shooting the 3. Harlan County plays real good defense, and we wanted to attack the goal. We missed some free throws early, but I’m proud of my kids. They played as hard as they can. Coach Jones does a great job and they have a good shot to win it.”
Marcus Hollin and Tanner Boggs each scored 16 points to lead the Wildcats. Junior center Andrew Jones provided a lift off the bench with 10 points, hitting four of five shots, including both of Lynn Camp’s 3-pointers.
Harlan County shot only 42 percent from the field, but connected on seven of 11 3-pointers for 64 percent, a key factor in the win.
Lynn Camp led by as many as three points in the fourth quarter before Spurlock and Turner each connected on shots to put HCHS back on top. Two straight baskets by Hollin gave the Cats a two-point lead before Spurlock’s 3-pointer with 2:32 left gave Harlan County a 51-50 lead. Hollin answered, but Turner drew a foul with 1:19 left and connected on both shots. Two more free throws by Carmical after he made a steal stretched the lead to three with 23.1 seconds to play. A Tyrese Simmons steal and layup clinched the win for the Bears.
The first quarter featured a series of runs. Harlan County scored the first six points on two Spurlock 3-pointers, then Lynn Camp reeled off 11 straight behind Jones, Bruce Hopkins and Boggs. Five straight points by Carmical pulled HCHS even. Jacob Belew put the Wildcats back on top with two free throws before Alex Pace’s basket off a pass by Carmical tied the game at 13-13 after one quarter.
Turner and Carmical had baskets to put the Bears up by five before Lynn Camp came back again, reeling off six straight points to go up by one. Carmical’s 3-pointer put Harlan County up 25-23 at halftime.
Phipps said his Wildcats, who upset Pineville and threw a scare into Knox Central in the 51st District Tournament, have improved quite a bit since struggling at midseason.
“We got healthy and we play hard,” he said. “With a block out or a missed shot, we could have been playing Saturday. We made a couple of turnovers and they capitalized on them.”
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134