It took some late-game heroics but the Bell County Bobcats got the 52nd District Tournament monkey off their backs on Tuesday with a 58-55 win over Harlan.
Chase Woolum knocked down a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:45 to play and Tyler Potter came up with a huge steal after Harlan held the ball to look for a last-second shot. Potter then hit two free throws with eight seconds to go and the win was sealed when Brandon Osborne’s last-second 3 drew iron.
“Both of those were big plays. The kids stepped up and Potter knocked down his free throws and it worked out good. We’re just glad to be moving on,” Bobcat coach Lewis Morris said. “It’s tournament time and anything can happen. We’re advancing, we’re happy.”
The Bobcats had lost big early leads in getting upset by Middlesboro in the first round of each of the last two district tourneys. Tuesday that same scenario was playing out. Bell County led by 13 early in the second quarter before the Green Dragons rallied to make it a tight game throughout the second half.
A three-point play from Manny Davis followed by a steal and layup by Noah Busroe gave Harlan the lead at 50-49 with 6:10 to play. Later Aaron Simpson scored inside and then hit both ends of the bonus to put the Dragons up 54-51 at the 3:08 mark.
Woolum found a crease right down the middle of the Harlan defense and drove in for a layup to make it a one-point game. Busroe hit one of two free throws, then Woolum knocked down an open 3 from left wing off a kick-out from Zach Partin. With 1:45 to play the Bobcats were back in front 56-55.
Harlan called a timeout at the 1:41 mark and coach David Parks decided to hold the ball and wait for one last shot to go for the win.
“I wanted us to control our own destiny and either win it or lose it. If we didn’t score there I was afraid they’d get it out by four or five and I wanted to control what happened with us,” he said. “That’s the reason I did that and who knows if it’s the right or wrong decision.”
As the clock ticked down to about 12 seconds, Busroe started to initiate the final play. But Potter anticipated his first pass and tipped it up in the air. He went up and got the ball and was fouled with 9.9 seconds left.
“We were just trying to get everybody on the floor to stay focused. The crowd was going crazy and you’ve got to keep your mind and stay down and play tight defense. I was just able to make a play somehow,” Potter said.
The Dragons had to foul two more times to send Potter to the line and the senior hit both ends of the bonus to stretch the lead to three. The Bobcats were able to celebrate when Osborne’s shot to tie went begging.
“The last couple of years they’ve had some downs and it was good for them to get over it. Hopefully we can carry it on to the region and get to playing,” Morris said.
“It’s definitely a chip off our shoulder. It gets the nerves off of us and we’re ready to go and see what we can do,” Potter added.
Senior forward Jake Patterson led Bell County with 19 points and sophomore center Zach Partin added 17 points and six rebounds. Woolum finished with nine points and Potter was held to seven as the Dragons kept a chaser on him the entire game.
Simpson, a senior center, finished with 14 points and ten rebounds to lead Harlan while Davis, another senior, added 11 points off the bench. The Dragons also got nine points and five assists from Busroe, Caleb Hogue scored eight and Drew Parks added six.
“We played about as good as we can play. Now we had some miscues here and there, some defensive breakdowns and some offensive breakdowns. But we made up for it with our effort and that was something we had been lacking the last couple of weeks,” Coach Parks said. “Kids don’t want their season to end, especially the seniors, so you’re going to get really good effort this time of year. I couldn’t be prouder of them if we had won.”
Harlan opened up in a diamond-and-one with Jordan Dupar chasing Potter. Patterson took advantage and scored eight straight points after Parks opened the scoring with a 3. Patterson scored eleven in the first quarter and Partin added five as Bell County opened up a 22-12 lead.
Patterson’s third 3-pointer of the game gave the Bobcats their biggest lead at 27-14 about one minute into the second quarter.
A 9-0 spurt got the Dragons back in it. Davis started it with a basket, Parks hit 3 and Busroe drove in for one layup and then converted another after a steal to make it 27-23 with 5:15 to go in the half. A 3 from Hogue and a three-point play from Leighton Piper got Harlan as close as two, but Partin scored six of his points in the second quarter and the Bobcats held a 35-31 lead at the half.
“Patterson hurt us really bad early and we got out and started guarding him better. I felt like we did a really good job on Potter the whole night. The big kid (Partin) hurt us a little, but we just made a couple of adjustments out of the defense were in and it kind of went from there,” Parks said.
“We knew we were going to see what we saw, that diamond-and-one and the triangle. We had worked on it and some of the stuff looked good. We kind of panicked at times when certain people weren’t out there on the floor,” Morris added.
Two baskets from Partin pushed the lead back to eight early in the third quarter. They maintained that cushion until Simpson hit a trey and a pair of offensive rebounds led to a three-point play from Hogue. Two free throws from Dupar tied the game at 43 with 2:59 to go in the third.
Patterson hit one free throw and then came up with a steal and layup and Bell carried a 46-43 lead into the fourth quarter.
Harlan never went away, but the Bobcats were able to make the plays they need to late to pull out the win.
“We were ready for what they threw at us, they just did a good job of out-working us on the boards and they shot the ball good when we were in the zone,” Morris said of the Dragons. “But we did enough and that’s toughness. We had some kids step up and hit some shots and I’m proud of them.”
It was a well-played game on both sides. Harlan hit 20 of 40 shots and only turned the ball over ten times. Bell County hit 23 of 41 shots and only had nine turnovers. Both teams had 20 rebounds in the game.
Harlan ends the season with a record of 15-13.
Bell County (19-10) advances to play host Middlesboro in the 52nd District championship game on Friday at 7 p.m.
— — —
Noah Busroe 3-6 3-7 9, Drew Parks 2-5 0-0 6, Aaron Simpson 5-8 2-2 14, Caleb Hogue 3-5 1-1 8, Jordan Dupar 1-2 2-5 4, Leighton Piper 1-3 1-1 3, Manny Davis 5-10 1-1 11, Brandon Osborne 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 20-40 10-17 55.
BELL COUNTY (19-10)
Chase Woolum 4-5 0-0 9, Tyler Potter 2-5 3-4 7, Zach Partin 8-12 1-1 17, Jake Patterson 6-10 4-5 19, Josh Asher 3-8 0-0 6, Ethan Gambrel 0-0 0-0 0, Ben Collett 0-0 0-0 0, Jacob Hunley 0-1 0-0 0, Cody Ferguson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-41 8-10 58.
|3-point goals: Harlan 5-12 (Parks 2-4, Simpson 2-4, Hogue 1-2, Piper 0-1, Osborne 0-1), Bell 4-12 (Patterson 3-6, Woolum 1-1, Potter 0-2, Asher 0-3). Rebounds: Harlan 20 (Simpson 10, Davis 4), Bell 20 (Partin 6, Patterson 5). Assists: Harlan 10 (Busroe 5), Bell 11 (Woolum 3, Partin 3). Turnovers: Harlan 10, Bell 9. Total fouls: Harlan 10, Bell 14. Fouled out: None.|