LOG MOUNTAIN — Rivalries don’t get much more intense than the Bell County-Knox Central match-up, especially considering the teams are in different districts. That intensity was on display once again Friday and the Bobcats were able to hold off the Panthers for a 51-43 win on Old Bell High Night.
“It’s been big for the last four or five years,” Bell coach Lewis Morris said of the rivalry. “I remember when Ben (Madon) and John Dudley (Hilton) played we were still playing in football at that time and there was a lot of emotion with it. It’s good when you’re close and playing teams, there needs to be that rivalry. You shouldn’t like them when you’re playing them and you have to go out there with that mindset that you’re not going to back down.”
It was a balanced scoring effort for the Bobcats. Juniors Tyler Potter and Jake Patterson scored 13 points each to lead the way and freshman Zach Partin came off the bench for 11.
Knox Central was led by Jeff Adams with 11 points while senior center Tobie Merida finished with nine points but was held to just three rebounds in the game. Nathan Cole added eight points and Dustin Hensley seven for the Panthers.
“My freshmen came in and did a really good job. Jake did a good job on their big boy to be six-foot tall guarding him, he kept him pushed out. I thought they all did good,” Morris added.
Knox took a quick 2-0 lead on a layup from Jacob Wilburn, but Bell answered with a 3-pointer from freshman Chase Woolum and maintained the lead for most of the game.
Patterson scored five points in the first and Bell led 8-6 after one.
Potter and Partin scored four points apiece in the second quarter and Josh Asher knocked down a 3 as the Bobcat lead grew to 24-15 by halftime.
Bell led by as many as 12 early in the third quarter, but Knox Central came roaring back. Adams scored six of his points in the third while Merida and Cole added four each. An Adams basket in transition after a Merida block gave the Panthers their first lead since the early going late in the period.
Partin hit a jumper just ahead of the third-quarter buzzer to put the Bobcats back on top at 33-32 going into the fourth and they never trailed again.
Peyton Collett hit two free throws early in the fourth and baskets from Potter and Patterson made it 39-34. An Adams 3 got Knox within two points midway through the final quarter but the Bobcats answered every run. Potter scored on a nice feed from Woolum at the 3:12 mark and a Partin basket off an offensive rebound pushed the lead to 44-39 with 1:25 to play.
“I think that’s the best Chase Woolum has played at point guard all year long. He really handled the ball and made good decisions,” Morris said. “They did a good job defensively on Potter and the other kids stepped up. That’s what it takes.”
Bell got late baskets from Potter and Patterson off long rebounds from missed Knox 3-pointers as they went on to win by eight.
“(Knox) has got a really good team and they’re going to be even better once they get their other big guy back. It was a good win for us,” Morris added.
Bell County (12-12) will host Barbourville on Tuesday. Knox Central (13-12) returns to action Monday at home against Harlan. They’ll play at Middlesboro on Tuesday.
— — —
Knox Central….6….9…17…11 — 43
Bell County…….8…16…9…18 — 51
KNOX CENTRAL (43): Jeff Adams 11, Tobie Merida 9, Nathan Cole 8, Dustin Hensley 7, Matt Barger 4, Jacob Wilburn 4, Jared Hall 0, Dallas Yeager 0.
BELL COUNTY (51): Tyler Potter 13, Jake Patterson 13, Zach Partin 11, Josh Asher 6, Chase Woolum 3, Ben Collett 3, Peyton Collett 2, Cody Ferguson 0, Tan Hudson 0.