LOG MOUNTAIN – After being embarrassed at Harlan County, the Bell County Lady Cats weren’t about to allow that to happen on their home floor in Friday’s 52nd District rematch. The Lady Cats made just enough plays down the stretch to hold off the visiting Lady Bears 52-47.
Bell’s Paige Robbins turned in the perhaps the game’s biggest play without even taking a shot. With Bell up by just one, the senior forward grabbed an offensive board with 32 seconds left, leading to a pair of free throws from sophomore standout Maci Morris with 23 seconds remaining. Morris had eight of her game-high 20 points in the final period to power the Lady Cats.
“We were looking to get her the ball toward the end there. She facilitates a lot for us. I thought she had some good passes there at the end to hit some people on the baseline, and we have all the confidence in her to step up and make free throws,” said Bell County coach David Teague.
Katrina Johnson gave the Lady Cats a five-point lead early in the fourth quarter with a layup. Brooklyn Massingill closed the gap to two with a 3-pointer and Sarah Evans followed with a layup to tie the game at 40. The Lady Cats keyed on Evans throughout the night, limiting the senior center to just four points and two rebounds.
“We had worked on how we wanted to defend her in the post – keeping a body on her and giving that help. I thought Paige did a tremendous job, as did Kelli Smith and Sarah Collins,” Teague said.
Harlan County tied the game twice in the final period, but the Lady Bears were never able to take the lead, as Bell County answered each time. The final tie came off of a free-throw-line jumper from Keisha Mimes, but Collins got behind the zone for a layup on the opposite end to give the lead back to Bell.
Morris opened the game with a pair of free throws and Smith followed with a trey as Bell scored the first five points. A free-throw line jumper from Morris put the Lady Cats up 7-2, but Harlan County responded with a pair of baskets. Madison Cornett scored underneath and Lauren Lee hit a jumper with eight seconds left to reduce the deficit one. Robbins closed the period with a free throw to make it 8-6.
Mimes tied the game with a pair of free throws less than one minute into the second quarter. Bella Noe followed with a basket off of an offensive rebound from Kaitlyn Stittums as Harlan County took a brief lead. Bell County responded with an 8-0 run to make it 16-12. Morgan Garnett drained a 3-pointer and Jessica Sanders followed with a three-point play close the run. The Lady Bears answered with four straight points to close the half. Massingill hit a layup and Noe added a leaner off the glass to tie the game at 16 at the break.
“I thought we played hard and some people stepped up and hit some big shots for us. I saw a lot of positives,” said Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan.
Bell County took the lead in the third quarter thanks in part to a 3-point barrage. Morgan Garnett and Jessica Sanders combined for four treys in the third period as Bell took a seven-point advantage into the final quarter.
“They made some deep shots. We played well defensively. The problem was we were trading baskets and didn’t get stops when we needed to. We gave up an offensive rebound here or there that was crucial,” Nolan said.
Harlan County (18-3) returns to action Monday at home against Barbourville, while Bell County(17-3) will host Clay County.
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Bell County (52) – Jessica Sanders 11, Morgan Garnett 9, Maci Morris 20, Kelli Smith 3, Paige Robbins 3, Sarah Collins 4, Katrina Johnson 2.
Harlan County (47) – Kaitlyn Stittums 6, Brooklyn Massingill 12, Lauren Lee 9, Bella Noe 8, Sarah Evans 4, Madison Cornett 2, Keisha Mimes 6.