Harlan County junior Fred Massey helped to save the Black Bears from a district upset on Thursday. Middlesboro led by eight in the third quarter before the forward turned in several big plays to turn the tide and HCHS pulled away late for a 70-60 win.
“When (Fred) is going hard on both ends of the floor he shows a lot of emotion,” Harlan County coach Mike Jones said. “It’s a good district win. I saw Middlesboro play the other night and they were much better tonight.”
Middlesboro appeared to be in control in the third quarter, leading by as many as eight after a basket from senior Donnie Foister. Junior Zach Caldwell started an 11-0 Harlan County run with a basket underneath. Massey took over from that point. He reduced the deficit to four with a putback off of an offensive rebound and then set up the final score by forcing a jump ball. Caldwell capitalized on the play by draining a trey to make it 50-49 with 37 seconds left in the period.
Harlan County outscored Middlesboro 21-10 in the final eight minutes to pull away with the win. Massey turned in seven of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter to pace the Black Bears.
“They are athletic and strong and quick to the ball,” said Middlesboro coach Russell Thompson. “We had a chance to win until the last minute or so when we folded under their pressure. That’s positive though because we’ll get better and handle those situations better. Guys are getting experience who have just watched in the past. Our guys are buying into their roles and what we have to do as a team. I’m really proud of the effort they showed tonight.”
Massey led five Harlan County players to score in double figures. Caldwell had 12 points. Junior Trey Sanders recorded 11 points, and junior Cody Bumgardner and freshman Treyce Spurlock each added 10 points.
“We like that balance. They realize the ones playing the best will be playing the most,” Jones said. “I think they realize they have to play well to be in there at crunch time.”
Foister led all players with 28 points in the game while Austin Poindexter came off the bench for 15 and Major Edwards added nine.
It was just a three point game after Foister scored with 1:31 remaining, but that was as close as the Jackets got. Harlan County outscored Middlesboro 9-2 in the final 90 seconds to open the district slate with a win.
Harlan County led 16-9 after one period. Foister had 11 points in the second quarter to send the Jackets into the half with a 34-28 advantage.
“I think we outplayed them for two quarters and they outplayed us for two quarters,” Thompson said. “It was a closer game than the final score showed. It was a battle. They picked up the pressure the last three minutes and we struggled to get a shot. They are a physical and quick team. We had trouble getting the ball to Foister and Poindexter during that stretch.”
Harlan County (3-0 overall, 1-0 district) returns to action Saturday at home in the Black Bears Classic. Middlesboro (1-3 overall, 0-1 district) will host Red Bird on Monday.
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Harlan County (70) — Cody Bumgardner 10, Trey Sanders 11, Zach Caldwell 12, Fred Massey 17, Scotty Bailey 2, Treyce Spurlock 10, Cameron Carmical 3, Zack Wilson 5, Josh Lee 0.
Middlesboro (60) — Brandon Hale 0, Donnie Foister 28, Tyshon Kinkade 2, Major Edwards 9, Tyler Prater 4, Austin Poindexter 15, Justin Miracle 2, Abhishek Singh 0.