Jackets pull away for 44-31 victory over Bell County
Earlier this season, it was the Lady Jackets that broke a nearly decade-long losing streak to Bell County. On Friday, the Middlesboro boys team finally ended their losing woes to the in-county rival Bobcats. In what was a back-and-forth game the entire night, the Jackets used a strong fourth quarter attack to pull away for a 44-31 victory.
The last time Middlesboro defeated Bell County was during the 2012-13 season, when the Russell Thompson-led Yellow Jackets handed the Bobcats a 63-62 loss in the district tournament.
“They did a good job fighting. They battled and played hard on defense, and they were banging inside,” said Middlesboro coach Lewis Morris. “We started moving in the second half. The first half it was a lot of individual dribbling and a lot of selfish play. Second half, we came out and really moved the basketball well. It was good ball movement…and we got good shots.
“It’s a good win for them. I don’t know how long it’s been since they beat Bell County. It’s a rivalry. It’s good for the school and it’s good for the kids. It’s always a battle. I’ve been on both sides of it. It really don’t matter. You know it when you play it — it’s going to be a wire-to-wire game and the kids are going to play hard.”
It was a team effort for Middlesboro during what was a scrappy game. Trey Brock and Jabari Kyle tied for a game-high 12 points. Scott Overbay and Mykel Griffin both tallied six points on the night.
For Bell County, missed free throws seemed to make the difference. The team went 10-for-24 from the charity stripe. London Stephney paced the team with 10 points while going 1-for-9. Isaac Collett finished with seven points after hitting two 3-pointers and going 1-for-2 at the line.
“We had a terrible night shooting. We had a lot of good looks that didn’t fall, and we’re not going to win too many games when we go 10-for-24 from the foul line with about six of those being at the front end of bonuses,” said Bobcat coach Frankie Smith. “My hats off to Middlesboro. They played a great game…They deserved to win the game.”
Bell County got off to a strong start in the first taking a 6-2 lead on a Stephney free throw with 3:35 remaining in the period. Middlesboro battled back to tie the game at 6-6 following a layup from Kyle and a pair of free throws from TJ Patterson.
The Bobcats ended the quarter with back-to-back baskets from Stephney and Phipps to take a 10-6 lead into the second.
Bell started the second with a 3-pointer from Collett that increased their lead to 13-6. The Jackets tied the game at 13-13 after Griffin capped a 7-0 run with a layup with just under six minutes to play in the half.
The two teams continued to battle throughout the remainder of the half with Brock hitting a jumper at the buzzer to narrow the Bell County lead to 19-18.
Middlesboro began seizing control of the game in the third quarter. The Jackets grabbed a 25-22 lead midway through the quarter and never relinquished it. The Bobcats had a chance to regain the lead near the end of the third but went 2-for-6 down the stretch to narrow the deficit to 29-26 heading into the final period.
Brock opened the fourth with a pair of free throws to increase the Jacket lead to 31-26. Cameron Burnett hit two free throws to narrow the lead to three (31-28), but that was as close as Bell would come to taking the lead.
Middlesboro outscored the Bobcats 13-3 during the remainder of the quarter to take home a 13-point victory.
Middlesboro (12-10) will travel to Corbin (15-5) at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.
Bell County (13-10) will travel to Harlan (15-8) at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.