Noah’s legendary performance advances Harlan County to Sweet 16 semis

Published 8:52 am Saturday, March 23, 2024

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By John Henson and Matt Cizek

A Sweet Sixteen hoops legend was born in the final three minutes of regulation in the Harlan County Black Bears’ quarterfinal game Friday against Campbell County.

Harlan County senior guard Trent Noah showed basketball fans around the state what those in 

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the mountains knew a long time ago when he scored all 13 points as HCHS wiped out a 64-56 deficit with a 13-5 run that forced overtime. The Bears were unstoppable in the extra period, scoring the first 13 points on the way to an 85-71 win. Noah finished with 48 points for the fourth-highest total in tourney history, trailing Wayland’s Kelly Coleman, who scored 68 and 50 in two 1956 games, and Clay County’s Richie Farmer, who scored 51 in the 1988 finals.

“I’ve been coming to the state tournament my whole life, and I saw Chris Lofton and Richie Farmer and Allan Houston,” said Campbell County coach Brent Sowder. “I told him in the handshake line after the game that he became a legend tonight. He hit tough, contested shots, and I wasn’t that upset with our defense.”

Campbell County, the 10th Region Champions, led by as many as 16 points on three occasions in the third quarter, The Camels hit 10 of 22 3-point attempts In the first three quarters, but only one of 10 in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“They shot the ball so well. I was impressed with their team,” Harlan County coach Kyle Jones said. “We didn’t know a lot about them and had seen only one film.”

Noah hit a 3, then converted a three-point play on consecutive possessions to cut the deficit to two. Campbell’s Garyn Jackson hit two free throws on successive possessions sandwiched around a Noah 3. Noah hit one of two at the line but was called for a lane violation when he missed the second shot. Nathan Smith hit one of two at the line with 51.1 seconds left for a three-point lead that Noah wiped out with his seventh and final 3 of the night with 43 seconds to play.

Campbell held for one shot, but Broc Sorgenfrei missed a 3 in the closing seconds. Noah’s 3 from halfcourt off the rebound was off the mark.

“I can’t even describe it,” Jones said. “We were down with about three minutes to go. These guys said, ‘Look, we’re good, just keep chipping away. They may get a little tight once the momentum swings.’”

“I don’t even remember, to be honest,” Noah said about his clutch shot from the KHSAA Sweet 16 logo. “I just turned around, Maddox threw it to me, I put it up and I (saw) it go in. It was a spectacular feeling, for sure.”

Harlan County blew the game open in overtime as sophomore Reggie Cottrell hit his only 3 of the night to start a 13-0 run.

“Maddox (Huff) told me to shoot it and it went in,” said Cottrell.

Huff, who finished with 22 points, hit four free throws and so did Noah, while Brody Napier added two as the lead grew to 82-69 before Xavier Francher scored with 40 seconds left. Huff finished the scoring with a free throw followed by a basket after he missed the second attempt from the line.

Sorgenfrei scored 17 and Jackson added 16 for the 27-7 Camels. Nathan Smith contributed 12 points.

The Camels slowed the pace in the fourth quarter and seemed to lose momentum.

“There are moments in the fourth quarter and overtime I will relive the rest of my life,” Sowder said. “I wish we had stayed in attack mode a little longer.”

Great Crossing 83, Magoffin County 48

The #1-ranked Great Crossing Warhawks (36-1) started fast and never looked back, leading wire-to-wire in a dominant 83-48 victory. 

Junior Vince Dawson led the team with 18 points and joined other starters in sitting for much of the second half after the team built a 35+ point lead. Fellow junior Malachi Moreno finished with a double-double, totaling 16 points and 15 rebounds. 

The Warhawks won the rebounding battle 48-27, finished with 22 assists to Magoffin County’s 12, and forced 15 turnovers to the Hornets’ 9. 

Magoffin County (22-14) was led by 12 points from sophomore Walker Russell and senior Ethan Salyer, concluding a year that saw the team win its first-ever 15th Region Championship. 

Lyon County 80, Adair County 65 

The Lyons (33-3), ranked #2 by several polls this season, defeated Adair County 80-65 to advance past the Elite Eight for the first time in their last three attempts. 

Travis Perry, named 2023 Mr. Basketball, led the way with 18 points while Bray Kirk and Brady Shoulder had 18. Shoulders finished with a double-double, leading the team with 13 rebounds. 

The Lyons outrebounded the Indians 42-34, forced 11 turnovers against only 4 of their own, and had 42 points in the paint to Adair County’s 26. 

For the Indians, who kept the Lyons to just a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter but were outscored 44-22 combined in the second and third quarters, Connor Loy and Dawson Gilbert tied for a team-high 14 points. The Indians finished the season at 29-7 after winning the school’s first 5th Region Championship since 2009. 

Evangel Christian 57, Trinity 46 

The Eagles (31-6), winners of the 6th Region, defeated Trinity 57-46 in a battle of Jefferson County schools to advance to the Final Four for the first time in school history. 

Senior Kyran Tilley led the Eagles with 20 points, while senior Christian Doerr finished just behind with 19. Junior Ben Mukadi led the team in rebounds with 11. 

The Eagles forced 13 turnovers against only 7 of their own, finished with a 26.7% three-point shooting percentage against an 18.2% from Trinity, and won the rebounding battle 32-30. 

The Shamrocks (27-8), who battled back into the game after falling behind by 12 early in the second quarter, were led by 15 points from senior Alex Johnson. Fellow senior Andrae Vasser exited the game with a leg injury in the third quarter and did not return. It was the Shamrocks’ first 7th Region Championship since 2019. 

Saturday’s semifinal matchups will feature Great Crossing vs. Lyon County at 11:00 a.m. and Evangel Christian vs. Harlan County at 1:30 p.m. 

The winners of each game will face off in the 2023 KHSAA State Championship Game at 7:30 p.m. at Rupp Arena.