PIKEVILLE, KY — Bracken County is off to their best start in almost 40 years after beating Paul Laurence Dunbar of Lexington 74-68 late Tuesday night. The Polar Bears are 8-1 after beating the Bulldogs in the first round of the Pikeville Invitational Tournament (PIT).
Bracken County came into the game as the 9th-best 3-point shooting team in the state, with 79 threes made at 40.9%. Blake Reed was 2nd in the state with 34 threes, and Chase Archibald followed in 4th place with 30.
The hot-handed Polar Bears made 8 of 17 threes against Dunbar, Blake Reed made 5, and Chase Archibald made 2. Dunbar made 8 threes of their own but on 27 attempts. Nick Spaulding made 4 of them.
Dunbar started the game off hot themselves and jumped out to an 11-4 lead with 3:28 in the first quarter.
Bracken County would take the lead back a minute later as part of a 13-0 run. The Polar Bears led at the end of one, 17-14.
Bracken County would keep the momentum going. The Polar Bears got up 24-14, their largest lead of the game, at the 6:44 mark. Spaulding and Reed/Archibald would trade four threes in a row, making it a 30-20 Polar Bears with 4:43 til the half.
Dunbar would close the gap on an 11-3 run to end the half down 33-31.
The Bulldogs took a 37-35 lead a minute into the third thanks to back-to-back threes by Max and Mason VanDyke. Bracken County would retake the lead with a minute left before Dunbar would eventually tie it up at 48 heading into the final 8 minutes.
The fourth quarter is where Blake Reed and Bracken County showed their clutch free throw shooting ability. Blake Reed was 8/8 in the quarter, and Cayden Reed was 4/4 from the line.
The lead changed 8 times in the fourth quarter. Bracken County would all but seal the game after a Blake Reed steal and wide-open transition layup to put the Polar Bears up 68-63 with just under a minute left.
Blake Reed finished with 41 points. He is the states leading scorer averaging 33.1 points per game. The junior is now 78 away from 3,000 career points.
Cayden Reed hit the final four free throws and points for Bracken County in the last 60 seconds to give the Polar Bears a 74-68 win.
Cayden Reed finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Cayden Reed is averaging 17.9 points and 8.1 rebounds, and Chase Archibald is averaging 12.8 points per game.
Bracken County will now face Harlan at 8:30 pm in the semifinals. The game is a rematch of last year’s All “A” State Tournament quarterfinal game, where Harlan beat Bracken County 63-58 in overtime at EKU.
Harlan is coached by Derrick Akal, whose son, Jordan Akal, scored 28 points in their last meeting. While Akal graduated, the Green Dragons still return an experienced lineup that is off to an 8-0 start. They beat Ashland 80-63 in the opening round of the PIT.
Polar Bears (74) — B. Reed 41 (12/12 FT, 4 threes), C. Reed 15 (10 rebounds), Norton 6, Archibald 6, Jefferson 4, Combess 2.
Bulldogs (68) — Spaulding 24 (4 threes), Max VanDyke 21, Mason VanDyke 9, Hilt 8, Gadd 4, Haggard 2.
Field Goal: Bracken 24/45 (53.3%) – Dunbar 28/59 (47.5%)
3-Point: Bracken 8/17 (47.1%) – Dunbar 8/27 (29.6%)
Free Throw: Bracken 18/23 (78.3%) – Dunbar 4/6 (66.7%)
Rebounds: Bracken 33, Dunbar 30
Assists: Bracken 10, Dunbar 15
Turnovers: Bracken 16, Dunbar 13
Steals: Bracken 7, Dunbar 5