The Bell County Lady Cats celebrated Senior Night on Monday with a 62-46 win over Barbourville.
It was about this time last year that the Lady Tigers upset Bell County and they hung around for most of Monday’s game. The Lady Cats led just 41-35 after three quarters, but scored the first seven points of the fourth and pulled away to win by 16.
“We played well down the stretch. We executed and made some big shots. We started getting the ball to the middle against their zone, we started attacking against their man and we started getting baskets in transitions,” Bell coach David Teague said. “I thought Jess (Sanders) and Maci (Morris) did a good job finding people. I was proud of them for that and that’s something we’ve got to continue to build upon.”
Morris finished with 22 points to lead all players in the game. Sanders and Kelli Smith added ten apiece and Morgan Garnett scored eight. The Lady Cats also got four points each from Kaitlyn Taylor, Katrina Johnson and Sarah Collins.
Barbourville was led by Kara Erslan’s 17 points. Kelsey Erslan and Amber Mills scored eight each and Laken Woolum finished with seven.
The Lady Tigers led 12-11 after one quarter. Kara Erslan and Woolum scored four points in the opening period and the Lady Tigers also got baskets from KK Liford and Mills.
“They’re a very scrappy basketball team. Their bigger girls, those Erslan twins, shoot the ball well out there and once they pull you out it creates driving lanes and makes it a little tougher. We tried to mix up defense until we found something to slow them down a little bit,” Teague said.
Smith scored six points for the Lady Cats in the second quarter and Sanders added five. She and Morris both finished the first half with seven points and Bell County took a 28-22 lead into the half. Mills hit a 3-pointer and made three of six free throws in the period to help Barbourville stay within striking distance.
Teague wasn’t pleased with how his team was executing on the offensive end in the first half and said the team may have been distracted by the Senior Night festivities.
“That focus and intensity has got to be there from the start of the game to the end,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job moving the basketball and moving ourselves on offense. We want to stand around a little too much right now and we’ve got to do a better job over the next couple of day getting that figured out.”
Morris scored the first basket of the third quarter and then found Johnson for a transition layup as the lead quickly went to ten, but the Lady Tigers wouldn’t go away. Kelsey Erslan scored six points in the third quarter and Kara Erslan added four, including a layup at the buzzer that pulled Barbourville within six.
Sanders had started finding holes in the Lady Tiger zone late in the third quarter when she found Smith open for a pair of easy baskets. Garnett hit a 3 early in the fourth and then pulled up for a jumper after a steal. Taylor scored inside off another zip pass from Sanders and the Bell lead was 48-35 with about 6:30 to play.
Barbourville got baskets from Kara and Kelsey Erslan, but Sanders answered by driving in for a layup and converting a three-point play. Morris then scored seven points in less than two minutes to put the game away and the Lady Cats went on to win it by 16.
Bell County (21-4) closes out the regular season on Friday at Whitley County in what could easily be a preview of the 13th Region championship game. The Lady Cats will play host Middlesboro on Monday at 6 p.m. in the first round of the 52nd District Tournament.
Barbourville (13-12) hosts Williamsburg on Friday. The Lady Tigers will play Pineville on Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the first round of the 51st District Tournament at Knox Central.
Prior to Monday’s game the Lady Cats recognized their two seniors: Garnett and Taylor. They were presented with framed game jerseys and posters.
Teague said they have both meant a lot to the program.
“Morgan Garnett is a three-year starter and has been a leader for us the past four years. She’s done a lot of good things for us,” he said. “Kaitlyn Taylor has continued to progress as a player and she’s getting more minutes now as she’s come along.
“I’m sure both of them will accomplish a lot in their lives after high school. They’ve got bright futures ahead of them.”
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BARBOURVILLE (46) — Kara Erslan 17, Amber Mills 8, Kelsey Erslan 8, Laken Woolum 7, KK Liford 4, Anna Daniels 2, Whitney Brown 0, Peyton Erslan 0.
BELL COUNTY (62) — Maci Morris 22, Jess Sanders 10, Kelli Smith 10, Morgan Garnett 8, Kaitlyn Taylor 4, Katrina Johnson 4, Sarah Collins 4, Allison Howard 0, Alex Brock 0, Bethany Miracle 0, Caleigh Collett 0, Kaylia Hoskins 0.