The Bell County Bobcats were at it again on Friday night. They trailed the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets for much of the second half and were down by five in the fourth quarter before pulling out a 48-47 win on Jake Patterson’s 3-pointer with four seconds to play.
Patterson came through in the clutch for a second straight game, he forced overtime with a late 3 in Bell’s win over North Laurel on Tuesday.
“Our kids stepped up and made the plays. We made a couple of bad ones when we had a lead with 40 seconds left and came down and shot a 3. But the kid steps up and makes a big shot at the end. It’s good when you can execute stuff you’ve worked and it pays off,” Bobcat coach Lewis Morris said. “I’m happy with it, we’ve just got to continue to get better. We’ve got a lot of work to do. But it’s good to go through those situations during the season, have that experience in case it comes up in the tournaments.”
It was a playoff atmosphere at MHS and both teams brought plenty of physicality and intensity on defense. While the offensive numbers weren’t pretty, the pride and effort both teams put in protecting the lane and challenging shots was a thing of beauty.
The Bobcats (14-8, 4-0 in 52nd District play) hit just 18 of 54 shot attempts in the game, including 2-of-14 from three-point range. Middlesboro (5-15, 1-3) was 18-of-47 shooting and hit three of 15 from long range. Both teams also struggled from the free throw line with Bell making just 10 of 25 from the line and the Jackets only converted seven of their 18 free throws.
Sophomore Zach Partin led Bell County with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Patterson finished with 12 and 8 while Tyler Potter and Chase Woolum both added ten points and seven boards in the game. The Bobcats enjoyed a 46-35 edge on the glass.
Senior forward Austin Poindexter has a tremendous game for the Jackets with a game-high 23 points and 18 rebounds. Justin Miracle added 11 points off the bench and Brandon Hale added six.
“I thought both teams defended well. The difference for us was Austin Poindexter, the difference for them was offensive rebounding and obviously Patterson hit a big shot there at the end. I felt like we had done enough to maybe win the game,” Middlesboro coach Russell Thompson said.
Poindexter scored six points in the first period as the Jackets took a 10-9 lead. Partin and Woolum combined for all nine Bell points in the quarter.
Poindexter put in seven more and Hale hit a 3 as Middlesboro used a 12-4 run to go up by nine midway through the second quarter. The Bobcats closed the half with a 12-1 run of their own that featured six points from Patterson. Potter’s first points of the night came on a long two-pointer that gave Bell County a 25-23 lead at halftime.
“We just didn’t finish out, we missed several layups. It’s almost like we’re in a little funk, people not moving good. But it’s better now than in a couple weeks,” Morris said. “Middlesboro did a good job. They’re a strong bunch and if you don’t hit shots and don’t execute on offense they’re hard to deal with because they’re so big in there. I give them a lot of credit, we’re just happy we pulled it out.”
A 3 from Miracle tied the game at 28 with about 3:30 to go in the third quarter and Donnie Foister scored his only four points of the game on consecutive transition baskets to put the Jackets back on top. He found Miracle for another trey and a 35-30 lead with 1:05 left in the period and it was 37-32 going into the fourth.
“We had Justin Miracle hit some big shots for us in the second half. Our defense was able to create some easy baskets there and got us out into the lead,” Thompson said. “Donnie created a lot of our scoring chances with his penetration and we told him to just keep attacking. He’s going to have better games than that most nights and Hale has been shooting the ball better than what he did. But the way Bell pressures you, you’ve got to get the ball to the hole and either score it or get it to somebody for an easy basket.”
Potter scored four points as the Bobcats scored the first eight of the final period to go up 40-37 on a Josh Asher putback. There were three ties and four lead changes in the quarter. Poindexter hit a 3 to give Middlesboro a 44-42 lead with 2:18 to play.
Patterson hit one free throw and a Chase Woolum steal led to a Pottter layup to put the Bobcats back in front. Foister gathered a long rebound and took the ball all the way to the hole, his laying wouldn’t go down but Poindexter was there for the putback and a 46-45 Jacket lead.
Poindextter hit one free throw with 31 seconds left to make it a two-point game and Bell called a time out at the 10.9 second mark to set up their final possession.
Potter took the inbounds pass in the backcourt and curled in toward the lane from the top of the key. Middlesboro’s defense collapsed on him and he found Patterson open in the corner for the winning 3.
“We gave Potter a little bit too much attention right there and Patterson stepped up and knocked down the game-winner. I think he did the same thing the second time we played them last year so congratulations to him,” Thompson said.
“We’ve worked on that play in practice and if they take certain things away then something else will open up. (Patterson) was wide open so we kicked it to him,” Morris said. “I didn’t think he played a great game, I think he hit a big shot. He’s got to get more aggressive and be in attack mode a lot more. We need him attacking the basket and looking for his shot, if he’ll do that for a whole game it will make us a lot better team.”
At 4-0 the Bobcats are in the driver’s seat to earn the top seed for the district tournament. But a lot is left to be determined as they still have games at Harlan County (3-2) and at home against Harlan (0-3). Middlesboro is 1-3 and still has home and away games with Harlan.
“To me it’s not going to matter who is one, two, three or four. You’re going to have to beat somebody that’s playing good and there’s not that much difference in any of us. It’s just whoever brings it and executes is going to move on,” Morris said.
Bell County visits South Laurel on Monday and Harlan County on Tuesday before hosting Harlan on Friday.
“We overcame some things and had the lead with ten seconds to go, the only thing that would have been better is if we had the ball,” Thompson said. “We fell a little short, but our kids played hard and represented themselves well. This was an even bigger eye-opener that this district is going to be up for grabs when it comes to the tournament on our home floor.”
Middlesboro visits Lynn Camp on Monday and hosts Whitley County on Tuesday. The Jackets close out the week by playing at Harlan on Thursday and hosting those same Dragons on Saturday.
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BELL COUNTY (48) — Zach Partin 14, Jake Patterson 12, Chase Woolum 10, Tyler Potter 10, Josh Asher 2, Cody Ferguson 0, Ben Collett 0, Cody Carnes 0, Ethan Gambrel 0.
MIDDLESBORO (47) — Austtin Poindexter 23, Brandon Hale 6, Donnie Foister 4, Major Edwards 2, Tyler Prater 0, Justin Miracle 11, Tyshon Kincaide 1, Matthew Mike 0.