Bell County weathered a fourth-quarter storm on Tuesday to pick up their eighth victory of the year. The Bobcats held an 11-point lead over Middlesboro before the Jackets rallied in the fourth quarter to narrow the deficit to as little as one down the stretch. Two clutch free throws allowed Bell County to hold on for a 41-38 victory over Middlesboro.
“We had way too many turnovers. Middlesboro battled and just kept battling,” said Bobcat coach Lewis Morris. “I give them credit. They did a good job. They controlled the ball, and their guards did a good job of getting to the foul line. We got in foul trouble. We’re just lucky to hang on to win.”
“We’ll take it. It’s a district win, and any time you can go on the road and get one you’re happy. I’ll was just disappointed in our focus tonight. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Jackets had an opportunity to get the game into overtime but was forced to shoot a contested three at the buzzer that bounced off the rim. It’s the third time this season Middlesboro has lost by a single possession with the other two coming against Pineville and Jackson City.
“I absolutely love this basketball team. Their grit, determination and never say die personality is going to get them somewhere in their life. It’s going to get us somewhere on the basketball court,” said Middlesboro coach Isaac Wilson. “These guys are young and we’ve got a young basketball team. Last year, I feel like that is what we were trying to instill and this year I’m seeing it.”
“There is a lot of little things we can clean up. We can talk about offensive rebounds, and we can talk about foul shots. They shot quite a few more foul shots than us, but at the end of the day if we make ours it doesn’t matter. That’s what we try to point out to these kids — that we are focusing now on the little things that happen in basketball.”
Tyler Partin led the way for Bell with 12 points while going 8-of-16 from the free-throw line. Victor Morris and Colby Frazier both finished the game with eight points. Kyle Burnett and Dalton Callebs scored six points apiece.
For Middlesboro, Nick Poindexter paced the offense scoring 11 points off the bench. Christian Hubbard also finished the game in double figures with 10 points while going 8-for-14 from the charity stripe.
Jabari Kyle and Tyler Wilson finished the game with five and four points, respectively.
“This team has improved a heck of a lot,” said coach Wilson. “I don’t believe in moral victories at all. I’m really upset about the loss tonight, but I know my kids and they’re going to be just fine.”
Bell County entered the fourth with a 29-18 lead. The Jackets struck first in the final quarter with a Wilson steal and layup to cut the lead to 29-20. Hubbard added a free throw to narrow the deficit to eight.
With 5:57 remaining in the game, Frazier was fouled on a steal attempt by Wilson. Following the call, coach Wilson received a technical. Frazier hit one of his two free throws before Morris went 2-for-2 on the technical free throws to increase the Bell lead to 32-21.
The two teams traded points after that before free throws from Davis and a layup from Tanner Brush cut the lead to 34-27.
After two free throws from Partin, the Jackets went on a 6-0 run with points coming from Poindexter, Kyle and Wilson. The run narrowed the lead to 36-33 with 2:17 remaining in the game.
The Bobcats quickly rebounded with two free throws from Partin that increased the Bell lead to five. Consecutive foul shots from Hubbard brought the score to 38-36 with 1:34 remaining.
Morris hit a free throw to increase the lead to 39-36 with 54 seconds remaining.
With the clock winding down, Poindexter cut the lead to 39-38 on a layup with 13.4 seconds remaining.
With time running out, Middlesboro was forced to foul Callebs following the inbound pass. The senior guard hit both free throws to give Bell the three-point lead.
Middlesboro moved the ball around looking for an open shot but couldn’t find one. Hubbard was forced to take a contested three at the buzzer that bounced off the rim.
Bell County (8-10) will host Knox Central (11-4) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Middlesboro (2-11) will travel to Oneida Baptist Institute at 6 p.m. on Saturday to square off against Lynn Camp (8-6) in the opening round of the 13th Region All A Classic.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN