LOG MOUNTAIN —The Bell County Bobcats celebrated homecoming with a 57-47 win over Cumberland Gap on Thursday.
Junior guard Tyler Potter scored 23 points while forward Josh Asher added 17 and freshman guard Chase Woolum chipped in with nine for Bell. The win brings the Bobcats within one game of .500 at 11-12 on the season.
“They played hard. Cumberland Gap is a scrappy team. It’s out of region, out of state and we didn’t know much about them,” Bell coach Lewis Morris said. “We know Ernie Mack does a good job over there and he’s got a lot of seniors. They play hard, execute well and do a good job. We scrapped enough to come out with a win.”
The Panthers were led by senior forward Nathan Hatmaker’s 16 points while Trevor Graves added nine, Isaac Daniels eight and Blake Franklin seven.
There are two sides to every story and for Cumberland Gap that story is about a group of young men that have had to learn too early that there are more important things than basketball. Junior Ryan Logan Marcum was killed in a traffic accident on his way to the Panthers’ game at Claiborne Monday night. Marcum played baseball with several members of the CGHS basketball team and they played Thursday after attending his visitation.
“We just left the funeral home, went to eat as a team and came straight up here to play. I’m proud of these kids because they came out and gave everything they had,” said Cumberland Gap coach Ernie Clawson. “Their shots weren’t falling and offensively we didn’t play very well in terms of scoring, but defensively our effort was there. We played hard enough defensively to win the game, our shots just weren’t falling.
“With everything they’ve had to deal with this week — and they’ve still had to go play basketball, we couldn’t cancel the games — I’m extremely proud of them for just trying to stay focused. That’s tough. For some of them that was their best friend. As a coach, it’s my job to try to keep them focused but in a situation like this it’s sad. Our heart and prayers go out to the Marcum family, we love them dearly. The kids love them dearly, too. They wore wrist bands for Ryan tonight.”
Playing with heavy hearts, the Panthers got off to a slow start. Hatmaker scored five points in the first quarter, but other than that Cumberland Gap was limited to just single baskets from Isaac Daniels and Blake Franklin.
Meanwhile, Bell got six points from Potter and four from Woolum in the first period. Asher added three free throws and Zach Partin and Tan Hudson also made baskets as the Bobcats opened up a 17-9 lead after one quarter.
Asher scored five of his points in the second period, but the Panthers got into the flow of things and made a bit of a run. Graves scored seven in the quarter, Hatmaker four, Blake Arnold hit a 3 and Matt Wade added a basket as they closed to within 31-25 by halftime.
A putback from Hatmaker and a runner in the lane from Graves got Cumberland Gap as close as 33-29 with 6:03 left in the third quarter, but the Bobcats answered with an 11-2 run to take control of the game. Potter and Asher scored all 13 Bell points in the period. A 3 from Asher pushed the lead to 40-31 and a Potter bucket made it 44-31 by around the 3:00 mark.
Baskets from Franklin, Daniels and Jordan Bullins brought Cumberland Gap within 44-37 after three.
Potter opened the fourth with a 3 and the Panthers weren’t able to get closer than six the rest of the way. They had some chances as the Bobcats turned the ball over four times over the final three minutes, but the Panthers weren’t able to convert them into points.
“Luckily we limited them to one shot and made them work a little clock. When we’ve got some young kids in there and teams are jumping us a little bit we get it to the right spots sometimes but then we make bad decisions,” Morris said. “That’s why I brought (Jake) Patterson in, just to settle them down a little bit. We’ve been working on it, but it takes time for the young kids that haven’t been in those situations to figure out how to attack and when to pass. When you’re a freshman sometimes you get caught up. But they’ll get better at it.”
Hatmaker’s basket with 1:46 to play made it 50-44, but Asher, Potter and Woolum combined to hit seven of eight free throws down the stretch as the Bobcats held on.
Bell County will be back in action tonight as they host Knox Central on Old Bell High Night. They’ll play the second game of the double-header and tip off at around 7:30 p.m.
Cumberland Gap (15-9) will visit Chuckey-Doak for a makeup game and their regular season finale on Saturday. The winner of that game will earn the number two seed for next week’s District 2-AA tournament.
“If we win we’re the number two, if we lose we’re the number three. We’re going up there Saturday night to win,” Clawson said. “I think our kids are getting their focus back and we will be ready to play Saturday night. We’re going up there to win and get that second seed.”
— — —
Cumb. Gap……9…16…12…10 — 47
Bell County….17…14…13…13 — 57
CUMBERLAND GAP (47): Nathan Hatmaker 16, Trevor Graves 9, Isaac Daniels 8, Blake Franklin 7, Blake Arnold 3, Matt Wade 2, Jordan Bullins 2, Jordan King 0, Austin Anderson 0.
BELL COUNTY (57): Tyler Potter 23, Josh Asher 17, Chase Woolum 9, Zach Partin 4, Cody Ferguson 2, Tan Hudson 2, Ben Collett 0, Peyton Collett 0, Jake Patterson 0.