Cumberland Gap built an early first quarter lead over Bell during Friday’s game and never looked back. The Lady Panthers outscored the Lady Cats in three of four quarters en route to a 59-41 victory.
“We played last week and got off to a terrible start, and I just challenged them. I said I’m going to hold you accountable, and we’re going to get after it and play man-to-man and that’s all we’re going to do,” said Cumberland Gap coach Dennis Cline. “They’re starting to play really hard. Our mantra since last February has been be better today than you were yesterday, be better tomorrow than you were today. From game one to game two to game three, we’ve gotten a lot better.”
“We’re starting to play harder. They’re starting to come together, and they’re starting to become a team. If it carries on, we will be OK. I’m really proud of them.”
Cumberland Gap excelled on the boards throughout the game creating several second chance opportunities on offense. On defense, the Lady Panthers battled hard to decrease Bell’s second chance points.
“I stressed it at halftime…we’re going to give them one contested shot and then the rebound is ours,” said Cline “We’re going to box out, we’re going to go get it and purse the ball. That’s what we’re stressing.”
Hayli England paced Cumberland Gap offensively with 17 points. Alyssa Pierce finished the game with 10 points.
The end of the game was tough for Bell County, who was coming into the game just a few days after claiming a double-digit victory over OBI.
“There’s just so many things that we got to learn right now. We played hard tonight,” said Bell coach David Teague. “You dig yourself a hole first, and then you have to exert so much energy to try and get back into the game. Then a mistake here or there just costs you.”
Caleigh Collett and Brittany Davis led the way for the Lady Cats. Collett finished the game with 11 points, while Davis ended with 10.
Cumberland Gap jumped out to a 16-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Lady Panthers extended the lead to 21-8 following baskets from Brittney Cupp.
After back-and-forth baskets, Bell cut the lead to 10 with a basket by Brea Browning that brought the score to 23-13 with little over three minutes remaining in the half.
Cumberland Gap returned the lead to 13 after a layup by England and a free throw from Pierce that increased the lead to 26-13. The Lady Panthers finished the second outscoring Bell 7-4 to take a 33-17 lead into halftime.
After trailing by as much as 20 in the third quarter, the Lady Cats clawed their way back into the ball game. After back-to-back baskets by Cumberland Gap, Abby Harris hit two free throws to cut the lead to 40-22 with 4:26 remaining in the third.
Following Harris’ free throws, Bell went on an 8-2 run that narrowed the lead to 42-30. A 3-pointer by England halted the Lady Cats’ momentum and increased the lead to 45-30.
Bell narrowed the lead to 11 (45-34) in the final moments of the quarter before a Brook McMichael putback basket at the buzzer gave the Lady Panthers a 47-34 lead heading into the fourth.
Cumberland Gap outscored Bell County 12-7 in the final quarter to walk away with an 18-point victory.
Bell County (1-1) returned to action on Saturday with a game against Clay County (0-1) before traveling to Harlan County (1-0) on Tuesday.
Cumberland Gap will travel to Greeneville on Dec. 9.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN