No Maci Morris, no problem for the Bell County Lady Cats.
Freshman guard Katrina Johnson stepped into the starting line up and led three Lady Cats in double-figures with 17 points Friday as Bell downed Middlesboro 68-47 in 52nd District action.
Morris sat out for the second straight game after being ejected for a flagrant foul during a holiday tournament. Johnson filled the void left by the Lady Cats’ leading scorer by hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter as she scored Bell’s first 11 points as they took an 11-6 lead over the first six minutes of the game.
“I’ve been real proud of them (playing without Morris). We had a couple of girls step up the other night and some others tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Bell coach David Teague. “That’s not going to do anything but help us in the long run. Their effort was great.”
The Lady Jackets actually led it 7-6 on an inside basket from senior forward Carissa Padgett before Johnson knocked down 3s on consecutive possessions to put the Lady Cats in control.
Morgan Garnett and Kelli Smith added baskets as the lead grew to 15-6. Middlesboro got a free throw from Taylor Prater and a layup from Blair Green to get within 15-9 late in the period, but Jess Sanders found Paige Robbins inside for an easy two and the Lady Cats carried a 17-9 lead into the second quarter.
“Normally when you play man-to-man defense a team won’t get good looks at threes. But we just couldn’t seem to find their shooters even in the man-to-man,” Middlesboro coach Elgie Green said. “They’ve got three really good shooters on the perimeter and they were getting good looks. Their post game is solid when they get it in scoring position. They’re just a better team than we are right now.”
A 3 from Smith pushed the Bell lead to 20-9 early in the second, but the Lady Jackets responded with a 10-2 run. Prater and Padgett started it with baskets, Green converted a three-point play and Amanda Biscardi knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 22-19 with 2:23 left in the half.
Garnett, who finished with 16 points, answered with 3 for the Lady Cats and by halftime they were up 30-21.
“We just weren’t smart on defense. I don’t think it was our effort as much as not getting in the right position defensively,” Green added. “Offensively, it didn’t matter what offense we tried to run. We couldn’t get open because we didn’t move hard enough to get open. We just did not play a smart ballgame offensively or defensively.”
The Lady Jackets got a long 2-pointer from Bailey Hensley early in the third quarter and a basket from Taylor Moyers, but Bell County got 3s from Sanders and Johnson to push the lead back to 11 and they would gradually pull away from there.
“If we’re shooting the basketball and our guards are making shots, we tend to flow a lot better offensively. That’s such a big part of what we try to do,” Teague said. “When our guards are going, I feel like they’re as good as anybody around.”
Sanders scored nine of her 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Lady Cats went on to win by 21.
Middlesboro was led by Green’s 13 points, while Padgett added 11 and Hensley seven.
Bell County (12-3, 2-1 in district play) hosts Lee High, Va., Monday and Morris will return to action in that one.
“I feel like we’re at a good spot with our team right now. I stay in their tails constantly on some things we need to continue to work on and get better and they’re trying to buy in,” Teague added. “Lately we’ve really been working on getting better defensively. I think for a while we got to where all we tried to do was out-score people, and we’ve got to get better defensively for those games when we’re not shooting the ball well. I feel like we’ve made some improvements, but we’ve still got a long ways to go.”
Middlesboro (1-12, 0-3) will host Harlan today at 6 p.m. in the first round of the 13th Region All “A” Classic.
— — —
Bell County….17…13…15…23 — 68
Middlesboro….9…12…12…14 — 47
BELL COUNTY (68): Katrina Johnson 17, Morgan Garnett 16, Jess Sanders 14, Paige Robbins 8, Kelli Smith 8, Sarah Collins 3, Jamie Boatright 2, Bethany Miracle 0, Kaitlyn Taylor 0, Caleigh Collett 0, Courtney Cinnamon 0, Alex Brock 0.
MIDDLESBORO (47): Blair Green 13, Carissa Padgett 11, Bailey Hensley 7, Taylor Prater 5, Amanda Biscardi 5, Taylor Moyers 2, Lauren Spurlock 2, Baylie Brunsma 2, Hannah Warren 0, Sophia Knuckles 0, Morgan Thompson 0.