The Bobcats held the Jackets without a field goal for nearly the first six minutes of the game as they jumped out to a 14-1 lead.
Middlesboro made a little bit of run late in the first and early in the second quarter to get within nine points, but it was all Bell from there. The Bobcats led 42-20 by the half and by as many as 44 before holding on to win by 30.
“Bell County played extremely well. I thought their defense was excellent and they shot the ball extremely well,” said Middlesboro coach Bill Jones. “Our hats off to them, they played very hard.”
Junior guard Ben Madon led the early onslaught with eight points, while senior forward Keith Lowe added two baskets and Kyle Lee one. Madon’s 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining in the first made the score 14-1.
“They came out and did what they had to do. They played hard, aggressive, contained the ball, did a good job defensively,” Bell coach Lewis Morris said. “We hit shots and got some momentum and it just kept carrying forward.”
A free throw from senior forward Levon Poindexter was all the offense the Jackets could muster until Chad Cowan scored after grabbing an offensive rebound to make it 14-3 with a little over two minutes to play in the first.
Blaine Green would hit a pair of free throws and two baskets before the end of the period. But the Bobcats got one 3-pointer from Justin Patterson and another from John Dudley Hilton at the buzzer to take a 22-10 lead into the second quarter.
A three-point play from Green on the first possession of the second period brought Middlesboro back within nine and the score was 24-14 when Madon picked up his third foul on a charge with 6:34 left in the half.
But the Jackets failed to take advantage as they missed four straight free throws as well as several chances to score from close range.
Kyle Lee scored on a feed from Bryan Robbins, Tanner Lefevers knocked down a 3-pointer, Robbins converted a three-point play and another 3 from Lefevers pushed the Bobcat lead to 35-14 midway through the period and Middlesboro was never able to get back in the game.
Robbins was making just his second appearance of the season after recovering from a stress fracture in his back. The senior forward was Bell’s leading returning scorer after averaging 11.7 points per game last year.
Morris said that after only practicing with the team a couple of times Robbins is currently providing a boost in depth and at 6-5 give the team another big that opponents have to match up with.
“He’s still getting the rust off, but he’s someone that they have to put a body on. It helps our depth more than anything,” Morris said. “We can play a little bit more up-tempo. We can move a little bit more and go with a little more size — It just gives you a better rotation so you can afford to do those things and handle foul trouble a little bit better.”
Bell put the game away by out-scoring Middlesboro 24-4 in the third quarter. Madon put up six points in the frame while Robbins and Lee added four each.
Poindexter scored the only basket for the Jackets in the third as they again failed to convert numerous opportunities near the basket and hit just 2-of-7 free throws in the period.
“We missed probably 20 layups and 14 free throws, it was like we had never been in a gym,” Jones said. “All we can do is try and put it behind us. We’ve got to forget about this one — as hard as that may be — move forward, try to correct our mistakes as much as we can, and get re-focused for Tuesday.”
Green led Middlesboro with 11 points while Cowan finished with 9.
Sophomores Nick Capps and Josh Lewis scored five and four points, respectively, in the fourth quarter for the Jackets. With both teams playing mostly reserves MHS out-scored Bell 19-7 in the final period.
Middlesboro (3-17, 1-5 district) will be celebrating senior night when they host Whitley County on Tuesday.
Eleven different players scored for the Bobcats and four reached double figures, led by Madon’s 14. Lee and Lefevers added 12 each and Lowe 10. Robbins finished with seven.
Bell County (10-11, 5-0) is scheduled to visit Apollo this afternoon and will try to wrap up a perfect district regular season on Monday as they host Harlan in a make-up game at 7:30 p.m.
Morris said he wasn’t putting too much stock in his Bobcats’ dominating performance.
“It was one of those games, like we haven’t had. . . It was a win, that’s all it is. We’ve go to keep working and hopefully we can continue to get in better shape and we’ll be all right once we get into the district (tournament).
“We want to win, that’s why you play the game. But (being undefeated in the district) doesn’t mean a whole lot,” he said. “Come tournament time you’ve got to play that first game in the district, and if you don’t play well in it bad things can happen.”
— — —
Bell County 22 20 24 7 — 73
Middlesboro 10 10 4 19 — 43
BELL COUNTY (73): Ben Madon 14, Tanner Lefevers 12, Kyle Lee 12, Keith Lowe 10, Bryan Robbins 7, Justin Patterson 6, John Dudley Hilton 3, Ricky Pletcher 3, Matt Raines 2, Joe Collett 2, Corey Oslonian 2, Tyler Green 0.
MIDDLESBORO (43): Blaine Green 11, Chad Cowan 9, Levon Poindexter 5, Michael Wilson 5, Nick Capps 5, Josh Lewis 4, Austin Baker 2, Zach Gilbert 2, Brandon Lewis 0, Timmy Helton 0, Cameron Rancher 0, Logan Miracle 0, Derek Smith 0.