PINEVILLE – The numerous 13th Region coaches in attendance at Pineville on Monday were likely impressed by Harlan County’s 73-46 rout of the Mountain Lions. However, the only opinion that matters for the Black Bears is that of Mike Jones, and the veteran coach isn’t ready to shower his team with praise just yet.
“Close. We are not going to be satisfied,” Jones said with a smile when asked if his team made the kind of statement he is looking for. “We talked about that in the locker room. There were a lot of coaches and they came to see how they performed. I told them we needed to show them what this team is made of. We want to prove that every day in practice and every time we step out on the floor.”
Harlan County was anything but impressive for much of the first half. Pineville missed just three shots in the opening period to jump out to a five-point advantage. The Mountain Lions controlled the paint, with center John Simpson and forwards Byron David Ahser and Jacob Skinner combining for 16 points in the opening period. Harlan County sophomore Zach Caldwell had five points as the Bears kept pace.
“We did a really good job to start out. It was not bad in the first half. But, we came out in the second half and Harlan County made some adjustments and we didn’t answer our call,” said Pineville coach J.D. Strange.
The Bears’ defensive performance improved from that point, limitingPineville to just 27 points the rest of the way. A basket from Simpson put the Mountain Lions up 21-14 to open the second period, but Harlan County began to climb back from that point.
Senior Aaron Caldwell started the comeback effort with a basket underneath, and fellow senior Chad Massingill score five straight to tie the game at 21. Massingill scored 11 of Harlan County’s 16 points in the period as the Bears took the lead. Senior Tyler Brewer emphatically closed the run with a dunk following a steal. Pineville ended the half with three straight points to close the gap to 30-28 at the half.
Harlan County put together perhaps its best quarter of the young season in the third. The Bears forced nine turnovers as they took a 14-point lead.
“We were in position to defend better. We got out of position a lot in the first quarter. We made a really good run there in the third quarter,” Jones said.
The Bears looked inside early and ofter in the third, and Aaron Caldwell and sophomore Tyler Miller took full advantage. Caldwell had eight points and Miller added five, while grabbing three rebounds.
“We are trying to get our kids to understand we have to have a good post game. When we do that and those kids score, it takes pressure off of them out on the floor.”
The Bears continued to add to their lead in the fourth quarter. Harlan County scored the first 13 points of the final period to push its lead to 62-35. A trey from senior Alex Sergent made it 65-38 with 3:17 left in the fourth quarter before both teams began to substitute.
“Out kids weren’t reacting to their pressure. We got caught standing and watching rather than reacting and helping,” Strange said. “Harlan County has a great basketball team. They have great perimeter people and just out-manned us tonight.”
Sergent and Massingill each had 13 points to pace the Bears, while Brewer had 11 and Caldwell added 10. Miller rounded out the starting lineup with nine points.
— — —
Harlan County (73) – Tyler Brewer 11, Alex Sergent 13, Chad Massingill 13, Aaron Caldwell 10, Tyler Miller 9, Zach Caldwell 5, James Bond 4, Fred Massey 1, Cody Bumgarner 2, Zack Wilson 5.
Pineville (46) – Jared Philpot 5, Cody Collett 7, Jacob Skinner 9, Byron David Asher 8, John Simpson 6, Connor Ford 4, Isaac Longworth 5, John Robbins 2, Nate Wilder 0, Dalton Ledbetter 0.