LOG MOUNTAIN — Junior forward Jake Patterson hit both ends of the bonus with 2.1 seconds to play Monday and the Bell County Bobcats pulled out a 59-58 win over Middlesboro when Austin Poindexter’s jumper at the buzzer bounced off the back iron.
Patterson led the Bobcats (10-12, 5-1 in district play) with 18 points while Tyler Potter added 12 despite dealing with foul trouble for most of the second half. Bell County also got eight points each from Ben Collett and Josh Asher.
“They never quit. We did some bad things, but I’m proud of them for hanging in there and they did a good job down the stretch not quitting. We had an eight point lead and then we’re down three but they kept fighting. They battled hard and did what we had to and Jake made those free throws at the end,” Bobcat coach Lewis Morris said. “He’s been rehabbing and treating that ankle and tonight is really the first time he’s played in two weeks. He’s probably a little out of shape, but he stepped in there and fought hard and made plays for us.”
Junior guard Donnie Foister led the Jackets (12-10, 1-5) with 20 points while Poindexter added 17 and Michael Wilson 11.
“We played well enough to come up here and beat then on their own floor with our rebounding, our intensity and our defense. We made a big comeback there and we just weren’t able to finish it out,” said Jacket coach Russell Thompson. “We got the ball in the hands of people we wanted to have it and if I had it to do over, I’d probably want it in the same people’s hands.”
Bell opened the second half on a 10-0 run to take a 37-29 lead. A basket from Patterson pushed the advantage to 47-39 with 7:30 remaining and it was still 55-49 after another Patterson bucket at around the 3:15 mark.
From there the Jackets forced four turnovers and scored nine straight points with a Foister layup putting Middlesboro in the lead and a Poindexter basket making the score 58-55 with just 48 seconds on the clock.
“We made extremely too many turnovers. A lot of it is having young kids on the floor and foul trouble. But they’ve got to do a better job of moving the ball and hitting the open spots and not freaking out and just throwing it all over the floor” Morris said. “You’ve got to give Middlesboro credit, they did a good job out of their zone of trapping sporadically and our kids at times just didn’t get ball to middle when they should have.”
When Foister came up with a steal, it appeared as though MHS had the game locked up, but three different Jackets missed the front end of the bonus over the final 35 seconds. Ben Collett drove in for a basket with under 20 seconds left to make it a one-point game.
Zach Partin pulled down a big rebound on Middlesboro’s final missed free throw with 17 seconds to go to set the stage for Bell’s last possession.
The Jackets defended it well as every Bobcat who got the ball found himself swarmed by at least two defenders. Potter passed it from the top of the key over to Patterson along the left wing as the clocked ticked under four seconds. Patterson lost the handle for a beat as he went towards the corner and Middlesboro’s Zach Riddle was called for a reaching foul as he went for the ball with 2.1 seconds left.
“You don’t want to leave it in the hands of the referee. With them in a tough spot and everything, I’d like to see us with our hands up and make them try to hit a shot. At the same time, I’m not going to throw a kid under the bus. Everybody played their tails off and I’m sure if he would have put up a shot we would have got the rebound. You can’t second-guess your kids. He thought he had a chance to tie him up and if he had it would have ended the ball game,” Thompson said.
“You learn in that situation right there probably not to foul, but this is something that possibly we can learn from going into the tournament. Maybe we’ll be better prepared the next time we face them, or anyone in a district game with this much importance.”
Patterson hit both ends of the bonus to give the Bobcats the lead. The Jackets got a good look at a potential game-winner as Poindexter hauled in a long baseball pass from Wilson and put up a 10-foot floater over Peyton Collett from the right wing. But the shot was just a bit strong and bounced off the back of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
The Bobcats opened the game with an 8-2 spurt powered by 3-pointers from Asher and Potter. Middlesboro got one basket from Foister and two from Derek Smith as they quickly closed to 9-8. A three-point play from Poindexter tied the game at 11 with 1:28 to play in the first. Peyton Collett and Wilson traded baskets and a Patterson free throw gave Bell a 14-13 lead after one.
Bell scored the first eight points of the second quarter with Cody Ferguson scoring four straight points to give the Bobcats their biggest lead of the game at 22-13 with 4:50 remaining in the first half. Foister and Poindexter combined to score the next nine points to tie the game at 22 by the 3:10 mark.
Patterson and Poindexter traded 3s and Poindexter hit a pair of free throws late as Middlesboro took a 29-27 lead into the break.
Bell County got baskets from Asher and Potter to open the third quarter, then Chase Woolum and Patterson knocked down 3-pointers for a 37-29 Bobcat lead. Wilson answered by converting a three-point play and Potter sat down with his fourth foul with 5:57 to go in the third quarter but the Bobcats were able to maintain a six-point advantage going into the fourth quarter.
Foister scored nine of his points in the fourth quarter for the Jackets, but Ben Collett scored six and Patterson eight as the Bobcats pulled out the one-point win.
“You win some like that and sometimes you lose some. I told our kids they had nothing to be ashamed of here. They brought the fight to the floor,” Thompson said. “They need to be strong, hold their heads high and continue to grow together as a team so we can progress forward. When we get to that tournament good things can come.”
Middlesboro is scheduled to play at Whitley County this evening in the second game of a double-header at Whitley County. The loss means they finish the district season tied for third with Harlan.
Bell County clinches a first place-tie with Harlan County. Pairings for the 52nd District Tournament will be determined Saturday. The tournament is being held at Harlan this year.
“We want to win every game, but we’ve had our ups and downs. We’re playing a lot of freshmen and a lot of kids that didn’t any varsity experience before this year,” Morris said. “I’m proud of them whatever the reason. They’ve improved a lot from the beginning of the year to now. But we’ve got to do some things better down the stretch as far as execution goes in order to have any chance of getting out of the district.”
The Bobcats are scheduled to return to action on Thursday when they host Cumberland Gap, Tenn.
— — —
Middlesboro…13…16…10…19 — 58
Bell County…..14…13…18…14 — 59
MIDDLESBORO (58): Donnie Foister 20, Austin Poindexter 17, Michael Wilson 11, Derek Smith 6, Boone Bowling 2, Blake Davis 2, Zach Riddle 0, Major Edwards 0, Seth Barton 0.
BELL COUNTY (59): Jake Patterson 18, Tyler Potter 12, Josh Asher 8, Ben Collett 8, Peyton Collett 5, Cody Ferguson 4, Chase Woolum 3, Zach Partin 1.