Harlan Daily Enterprise
HARLAN — Not being able to win the close games hurt the Bell County Bobcats last season. While closing out remains a work in progress, the Bobcats made the plays they needed to on Tuesday to pull out a 40-39 win at Harlan in the district opener for both teams. It was the second straight tight game Bell County won after trailing in the fourth quarter.
Senior guard Tyler Potter scored a game-high 21 points, including two big shots in the final eight minutes, and came up with a steal in the final 10 seconds to seal the win for Bell.
“(Tyler) is a senior. He has played for three years, and he does a lot for us,” said Bobcat coach Lewis Morris. “We put ourselves in a bad situation missing layups and free throws. But, you have to give Harlan city credit. They did a great job. Their post players hurt us a lot with putbacks and rebounds.”
The Dragons and Bobcats exchanged leads five times in a back-and-fourth final period. Forward Leighton Piper gave Harlan a 31-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter with an offensive rebound and putback with 2:02 left in the third quarter.
Harlan junior Tyler Miller put up a floater in the lane to give the Dragons a one-point lead with 3:01 remaining, but Potter drained a 3-pointer on the opposite end to put the Bobcats up 38-36. Miller then found senior Aaron Simpson underneath for basket to tie the game with 1:32 remaining.
“Aaron is hard to deal with when he gets the ball in the post. He is a wonderful kid. I think he will build from this. With him and Miller — they are hard to deal with in the post. Both of them are very good players,” said Harlan coach David Parks. “If we can just hit a few shots out on the perimeter we will be O.K.”
Jake Patterson put Bell back on top with a pair of free throws with 28 seconds remaining in the contest. Miller had an opportunity to tie the game with eight seconds left, but he missed the first of two free throws. After Potter missed a free throw on the opposite end, the Dragons had one final shot, but Miller’s half-court heave was no good.
Potter had six of his points in the first quarter as Bell jumped out to a 13-10 lead. Harlan sophomore Drew Parks recorded five points in the opening period as the Dragons trailed 13-10.
Harlan outscored Bell 15-11 in the second quarter to take a one-point lead into the half. Miller led the way with seven of his team-high 13 points coming in the quarter.
There was little offense in the third quarter. The two teams combined for just 12 points as the Dragons maintained a one-point lead.
“I thought if we played well we could beat them. But, I knew we would have to play well. We couldn’t make turnovers and had to make some shots,” said Parks. “We were right there the whole night. They just did a couple of things at the end there, and we got lost a couple of times.”
Harlan (1-1 overall, 0-1 district) will travel to Lynn Camp to take on the Wildcats in the Bowman Classic on Thursday, while Bell County (2-2 overall, 1-0 district) will face Pineville in the Bowman Classic.
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Bell County (40) — Donavan Napier 0, Chase Woolum 4, Tyler Potter 21, Jake Patterson 7, Zach Partin 2, Josh Asher 5, Ben Collett 1, Cody Ferguson 0, Ethan Gambrel 0, Cody Carnes 0.
Harlan (39) — Noah Busroe 0, Drew Parks 8, Caleb Hogue 6, Tyler Miller 13, Aaron Simpson 8, Leighton Piper 4, Manny Davis 0, Jordan Dupar 0, Brandon Osborne 0.