By John Middleton
For The Times-Tribune
HARLAN — Harlan County hasn't played its best basketball in recent weeks, but the Black Bears reminded everyone Thursday they are more than capable of putting together a run that ends in Rupp Arena.
Harlan County snapped a three-game home losing skid on Senior Night with a 60-29 rout of Whitley County.
“We are just as good a team right now as we were at the first of the year when we were 11-0. We have just lost some close games. We have some bad luck where we didn’t make a play or two at the end of the game,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones. “We don't want our fans to give up on these kids.”
The Bears got off to a slow start in the first quarter. Boston Bryant had six straight Whitley County points to put the Colonels on top by two midway through the opening period. Chad Massingill responded with five straight points of his own to put Harlan County up 11-8.
The Black Bears limited Whitley to five points in the second quarter as they began to pull away. Tyler Miller had eight points and Alex Sergent added five in the period as the lead grew to 17 points at the half. Miller, a sophomore forward, continued his strong play and finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
It was Aaron Caldwell’s turn to take over in the post in the third quarter. The senior forward had six points and four rebounds in the period as the lead grew to 41-22.
The Bears continued to dominate on the interior in the fourth quarter. Harlan County’s post players combined for 15 points and eight rebounds in the final eight minutes as the Bears cruised to the win. Harlan County controlled the boards throughout Thursday's contest, outrebounding Whitley County, 37-17.
The Bears also turned in arguably their best defensive performance of the season in limiting Whitley County to just 29 points and 11 made shots. Whitley's output is the fewest by a Harlan County opponent this season, and the least amount scored by the Colonels all year.
“It’s hard to say too much negative when you hold somebody like Whitley County to 29 points. They have played right with Corbin, they beat South Laurel and Knox Central only beat them by three,” Jones said.