Eleven different Bobcats reached the scoring column, led by senior guard Ryan Whitaker with 27 points.
The Jackets hung close for about a quarter and a half. Sophomores Nick Smith and Antwan Brown combined for 15 early points and freshman Blaine Green long two-pointer brought Middlesboro to within 25-22 with just over five minutes to go in the first half.
Bell County seized control of the game from that point on, outscoring the Jackets 20-7 to end the second quarter and take a 45-29 lead into the half.
Whitaker scored six points during the run, while Trey Goins and Bryce Mickey added four each.
“I didn't really feel like defensively we played well in the first half,” said Bobcat coach Eddie Whitaker. “We had a couple of players up top trapping well and some other guys behind them loafing. If you're going to extend your defense, you've got to have five guys out on the floor committed to it and working hard.
“We were willing to be up a little bit and trade baskets with them. I fussed at them a little bit at halftime and we did a better job in the second half.”
Goins sank a 3-pointer and Zachery hit a floater in the lane as Bell extended their lead to 50-31early in the third.
Middlesboro senior Tyler Hatmaker scored seven straight points on a free throw and two 3s, including one from about 25-feet that brought the Jackets to within 50-38 with 4:36 to go in the third. But that was as close as the score would get.
Whitaker answered with a 3-point-play and followed that up with a steal and a reverse layup. Josh Whitaker and Robert Warren scored the last six points of the period as the Bobcat lead grew to 61-40.
With both team substituting heavily in the fourth, Bell pulled away to the 27-point win.
“Bell County is tops in the district and probably one of the top two teams in the region and they played extremely well,” Jones said. “It's good experience to come in an take a good, old fashioned whuping and that's exactly what we did tonight. Hopefully we'll learn from that and our mistakes.”
Bell County hit 18-of-37 shots in the first half and thrived on the glass with 21 offensive rebounds in the game. They were balanced on offense as Josh Whitaker (12), Goins (12) and Zachery (10) joined Ryan Whitaker in double figures
“I thought offensively we played pretty well. Ryan shot the ball well and we moved the ball well at times,” coach Whitaker said. “But we've got to get better on the defensive end. I guess I just expect better than what they gave us tonight.”
Bobcat senior Bryce Mickey left the game late in the second quarter with an ankle injury. After going up with a spectacular one-handed dunk, he landed on someone's foot and rolled his ankle. Whitaker said he the injury was being treated as a sprain and Mickey was taken for x-rays as a precaution.
Smith led Middlesboro with 16 points, while Green added 13.
“The good news is that yesterday I got six players back that hadn't practiced in about week,” Jones said. “They tried. They're just trying to get their conditioning back and get back into the swing of things.”
Bell County (19-4, 9-0) will try to complete a perfect district season on Friday when they visit Cumberland. Middlesboro (6-15, 2-6) host Knox Central on Thursday before traveling to Evarts on Friday.
- - -
Middlesboro 13 16 11 14 - 54
Bell County 18 27 16 20 - 81
MIDDLESBORO (54): Nick Smith 16, Blaine Green 13, Antwan Brown 8, Tyler Hatmaker 7, Daniel Griffin 3, Josh Treece 2, Kipper House 2, Chad Cowan 2, Matt Powers 1.
BELL COUNTY (81): Ryan Whitaker 27, Josh Whitaker 12, Trey Goins 12, Shawnta Zachery 10, Robert Warren 4, Bryce Mickey 4, Bryan Robbins 4, Kyle Nelson 2, Jordan Turner 2, John Brock 2, Keith Lowe 2.