By John Henson and Les Dixon for the Times-Tribune
The Knox Central Panthers remained unbeaten at 3-0 on the season by upending Harlan Tuesday, 74-64.
Knox Central led 16-14 after one quarter and 29-24 at halftime despite having standout sophomore guard Matt Barger sitting out the second quarter with two fouls.
“He came out with a lot of energy, ran the court, had deflections and set the tone,” Knox Central coach Brian Evans said. “It was good for us to play that quarter without him, but we sure are a lot better with him.
“It was a good win for us, especially on the road,” he added. “I thought Harlan played well, and they had a player (Nathan Young) who got real hot shooting the ball in the fourth quarter. We had done a pretty good job defensively until he lit us up in the fourth quarter. Matthew Barger was in foul trouble and didn’t play much in the first half. When he came back in the second half he gave us a real lift on both ends of the court. He really got our transition game going and he was very active on defense for most of the half. Chad Marsee led us in rebounding with nine, and he also had 18 points.”
Barger scored eight straight points in the third quarter to spark an 11-0 run that gave the Panthers a 44-28 lead midway through the period.
Baskets by Leighton Piper and Caleb Hogue cut the deficit to 12 early in the fourth quarter before senior guard Nathan Young took over, scoring 10 points in a three-minute span as Harlan got as close as eight.
Nathan Young turned in 13 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to lead the comeback effort.
“I scouted Harlan last week and knew this would be a difficult game,” Evans said. “They play really hard and are going to get tougher as the season goes on. (Nathan Young) was incredible shooting the ball. He almost willed them back in the fourth quarter. We are fortunate to win this game.”
The loss dropped Harlan to 0-3, but the Dragons have played three of the region's top five teams.
“I’m very proud of our team,” Harlan coach David Parks said. “We played hard and never quit. We played well at times. Knox Central is a very good team. We have played three pretty tough teams to start the season. I am not the least bit discouraged. We will be fine.”
Barger led Knox Central with 22 points, while Jeffrey Adams contributed 19 and Chad Marsee added 18.
“Jeffrey Adams shot the ball well and did a nice job running our offense while Matthew was on the bench with fouls,” Evans said. “Jacob Wilburn grabbed six rebounds and played a good game for us, too. We have several areas that we have got to improve on, but for the most part we are making good progress right now. This Friday’s game at Boyle County will be another good test for our team.”
Knox Central 74, Harlan 64
Knox Central 16 13 23 22 74
Harlan 14 10 15 25 64
Knox Central (74) — Dustin Hensley 9, Jeffrey Adams 19, Chad Marsee 18, Matthew Barger 22, Jacob Wilburn 4, Tobie Merida 1.
Harlan (64) — Eric Young 0, David Allen 7, Isaiah Johnson 8, Nathan Young 25, Aaron Simpson 7, Drew Parks 8, Caleb Hogue 2, Dylan McNeil 1, Manny Davis 4, Leighton Piper 2.