It came down to an ill-timed jumper when Cumberland Gap traveled to Bell County on Tuesday. With the Lady Cats up by three points and the clock quickly counting down, Brittney Cupp grabbed a rebound and instinctively put the ball in the basket to cut the lead to one with less than a second remaining. With little time left, Bell County escaped with a 38-37 victory.
“We were trying to set a double screen. If the ball did go inside and we rebounded it, we wanted to throw it back out,” said Cumberland Gap coach Dennis Cline. “A big kid inside, instincts are if you get the ball put it back up. She scored it, but we just didn’t have enough time to get an inbounds.”
“I don’t fault the kids at all. That’s just a lot of instincts. They executed well. We just didn’t get the shot off that we wanted.”
Clutch free throws down the stretch helped propel the Lady Cats to victory. Caleigh Collett was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line with under two minutes. Two of those free throws helped give Bell County the three-point cushion with 24 seconds remaining in the game.
“I told the girls before the game, they should be excited to play tonight. We hadn’t played at home in almost a month,” said Bell coach David Teague. “Cumberland Gap is kind of a rivalry game because you’re close. You want to bounce back and play better than you did the last time.”
“I was proud of my girls. I told them after the game that was as proud as I’ve been with them all year. They just battled and fought.”
Collett paced the Lady Cats with 15 points while shooting 33 percent from long range. She went a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. Bethany Miracle was one point shy of a double-double after tallying nine points and 15 rebounds.
Hayley Wilson registered a team-high 15 points for Cumberland Gap after scoring nine points from 3-point range. Cupp added seven points to the scoreboard for the Lady Panthers.
“Hayley (Wilson) started making a few shots, Hannah (Heath) made a shot from three, and we started pulling away,” said Cline. “We shot the ball poorly, and Bell County shot it better up here than they did at our place. As far as our girls, I was really pleased. We just didn’t shoot it well.”
Cumberland Gap scored 16 points in the third quarter to tie the game at 27-27 heading into the final quarter. Wilson led the Lady Panthers in the quarter scoring 10 points.
Cumberland Gap opened the fourth with back-to-back 3-pointers from Wilson and Hanna Heath to give themselves a 33-27 lead. After free throws from Alex Brock, Brook McMichael scored to give the Lady Panthers a 35-29 lead.
The Lady Cats answered with back-to-back baskets from Miracle and Ashley Middleton to narrow the deficit to 35-33. Bell tied the game at 35-35 with 1:53 remaining after Collett hit two free throws.
Abby Harris hit a free throw with 49 seconds to gain a 36-35 lead. Collett converted the one-and-one with 24.1 seconds remaining to take a 38-35 lead.
With time running out, Cumberland Gap couldn’t find an open shot on the perimeter. Cupp ended up scoring right before the buzzer, and the Lady Cats walked away with a one-point victory.
Bell County (6-8) returns to action at 7:30 p.m. on Friday when the team makes the trip up U.S. 25E to battle Middlesboro (5-5).
Cumberland Gap will battle Chuckey-Doak on Friday.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN