HARLAN — No matter the records, you can always count on the annual 52nd District showdown between Harlan County and Bell County to be a war on the hardwood. That wasn’t the case in the latest meeting, as Harlan County cruised to an 83-64 victory over a rebuilding Bell squad on Monday.
“They just took it to us. We are young and have a lot of inexperience, and they just cam out and punched us right in the nose and we let them do it,” Morris said. “Our kids have to grow up. They have to understand that they have to play as hard as they can all the time, and I thought they got punked a little bit tonight. They kind of got scared a little bit out there.”
Harlan County led by as many as nine in the first quarter, but the Bobcats hung around.
Chad Massingill put the Black Bears up 14-5 with 3;01 remaining in the opening period, after a layup off of a steal. However, the Bobcats responded with a 9-2 run, capped by a trey from Tyler Potter to pull to withing two. The teams traded baskets from that point, with Harlan County taking a four-point advantage into the second.
Potter had eight of his team-high 21 points in the first quarter to keep the Bobcats within striking distance.
Massingill attacked the basket throughout the second quarter as Harlan County built a 15-point lead at the half. The senior guard hit all four of his shots in the quarter, with each coming in the paint, for eight of his game-high 22 points.
Harlan County led by as many as 20 in the second quarter, but Bell scored six of the final seven points in the half.
“I thought we had two lapses where we lost focus — at the end of the first half and then at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Those are things we have to work through and correct,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones. “In between that, we played pretty good. We have to be more consistent and not be satisfied with building a big lead. You have to play every possession with the intensity and execution like you are tied.”
Harlan County continued to add to its lead to open the second half. Seven players scored in the period as the margin grew to 15 points. Senior Alex Sergent had the first five points of the period to power the strong start. Harlan County opened the period on a 10-o run, and held the Bobcats scoreless nearly three minutes into the quarter.
Harlan County maintained its lead throughout the fourth quarter, despite sloppy play at times. A trey from Bell’s Jake Patterson cut the deficit to 15, but that was as close as the Bobcats got. James Bond and Zack Wilson came off the bench to combine for nine points in the final period. Wilson finished with 13 points, while Bond contributed 12.
“We had some kids come off the bench and play well. We are capable of having different players lead us in scoring every night, and we think that makes us hard to defend,” Jones said. “When those kids are focused on what they are doing they could start for a lot of people. We are really excited about how our bench has been doing.”
Harlan County (8-0) returns to action Friday in the Hilton Head, S.C. Classic. Bell County (2-4) will host Jackson County today.
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Harlan County (83) — Tyler Brewer 5, Alex Sergent 10, Chad Massingill 22, Aaron Caldwell 9, Tyler Miller 8, Zach Caldwell 4, James Bond 12, Cody Bumgardner 0, Zack Wilson 13, Trey Sanders 0.
Bell County (64) — Jake Patterson 14, Tyler Potter 21, Cody Ferguson 2, Josh Asher 9, Tan Hudson 2, Ben Collett 1, Zach Partin 4, Chase Woolum 7, Tyler Green 2, Peyton Collett 2, Donavan Napier 0, Jacob Hunley 0.