A game delayed approximately a half hour when the Bell County bus transporting the team was stopped on U.S. 119 due to a crash near Pineville stayed on slow motion most of the night Tuesday as Harlan County jumped to an early lead and coasted to a 59-29 win over the visiting Bobcats.
The Bears shot only 34 percent (18 of 53) from the field as they were unable to match their strong performance Saturday in a win over defending 5th Region champ Taylor County at North Laurel.
“I told them at halftime, it felt like we were the ones who had been sitting on a bus for over an hour,” Harlan County coach Michael Jones said. “We weren’t sharp tonight, especially offensively. We can draw up the best offense in the world, but if we keep missing layups it won’t matter. We can’t play a good game and relax the next one.”
Senior guards Cameron Carmical and Treyce Spurlock again led the 3-0 Bears, scoring 16 and 14 points, respectively. Senior center David Turner continued to dominate the boards as he had 13 rebounds to go with his eight points.
“We’re doing a good job rebounding and for the most part on defense, except for some rotations,” Jones said. “We just have to get better offensively.”
Bell County fell to 0-4 as sophomore center Tyler Partin was the only Bobcat in double figures with 10 points.
“We’re young with a lot of freshman and sophomores who haven’t played a lot,” Bell County coach Lewis Morris said. “We have to figure out a way to put up some points. They do their best, and they’ll get better as the year goes on.”
A Spurlock 3-pointer and two putbacks by Turner gave Harlan County a 7-0 lead in the opening two and a half minutes of the first quarter, but both offenses struggled the rest of the period as the Bears took a 9-4 lead into the second quarter.
Bell County could manage only one basket in the next period, but the Bears shot a frigid 20 percent (three of 15) and struggled to build a 24-9 lead at halftime.
Two free throws and a 3-pointer by Carmical stretched the Bears’ lead to 31-13 midway through the third quarter. Andrew Creech came off the bench to provide a lift late in the period with a basket and 3-pointer to make the score 38-19.
“Andrew has been knocking those shots down in practice. We just have to get him playing with more confidence,” Jones said. “I have all the confidence in the world in him. He was a big spark for us tonight, especially the third quarter
Carmical and Spurlock took over in the fourth quarter, teaming for 10 points as the lead grew to 50-24 before both coaches went to their reserves. Paul Stapleton hit a 3-pointer and Patrick Bynum and Gabe Price each had baskets as the Bears continued to pull away.
“We’ve done pretty well defensively, at least until we get tired,” Morris said. “Harlan County has some big, strong guys. We did a good job on the first shot, but we gave them too many opportunities. We just need some age and experience.”
Both teams return to district action Friday as Harlan County plays at Middlesboro and Bell County plays host to Harlan.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134