By John Middleton for The Times-Tribune
HARLAN — After seemingly righting the ship with district routs of Middlesboro and Harlan last week, Harlan County took a step back with an upset loss to Barbourville on Monday.
The visiting Tigers led by as many as 12 points in the second half before escaping with a 56-53 victory over the Black Bears.
“Any time I have ever played Mike Jones over the years his teams are always well prepared. I just thought we made the plays when we had to and maybe got an offensive rebound when we needed to,” Barbourville coach Dinky Phipps said. “We didn’t really force anything. It’s probably the best we have played all year.”
Barbourville’s Devon Mills and Alexander Phipps opened the game with back-to-back three-pointers as the Tigers jumped out to a 6-0 lead. Senior Chad Massingill put the Bears on the scoreboard with a basket in the lane. Massingill had eight points in the first quarter, including six straight for Harlan County to put his team up 10-9. After three free throws from Mills, Aaron Caldwell scored on a putback to tie it at 12. Barbourville’s Jason Mills closed the first quarter scoring to make it 14-12.
The Tigers pulled away in the second quarter. Devon Mills had seven of his game-high 24 points in the period, and Jason Mills added five as the lead grew to 10 at the break.
A basket from Caldwell put Harlan County up 17-16 early in the period, but Barbourville outscored the Bears by 11 from that point to make it 29-19 into the half.
“We just didn’t come out ready to play. This is the type of thing that can happen in two weeks if you don’t come out on the floor ready to play. Not to take anything away from Barbourville, they deserved to win the game because they did more things right than we did,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones. “If this doesn’t serve as anything else besides a loss maybe it will serve notice to our kids of what can happen against anybody if you’re not ready to play.”
The teams exchanged leads five times in a back and forth fourth quarter. After a pair of free throws from Jason Mills gave the Tigers a 50-48 lead, Sergent appeared to put the Bears up for good when he drained a 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining. However, Devon Mills was fouled in the backcourt on the ensuing inbound, and Massingill was charged with a technical foul on the play.
Barbourville 56, Harlan County 53
Barbourville 14 15 11 16 56
Harlan County 12 7 21 13 53
Barbourville (56) – Moore 1, Devon Mills 24, Phipps 14, Jason Mills 17.
Harlan County (53) – Brewer 5, Sergent 13, Massingill 17, Caldwell 8, Miller 10.