When your team’s best player can score at will and you can limit your opponent’s best player to one basket, chances are pretty good that it will be a fun night of basketball.
That was the story for the Bell County Bobcats on Tuesday in the 52nd District Tournament at Harlan County High School, dominating just about every phase of the game in a surprisingly easy 74-43 win over Harlan.
Bell shot a red hot 65 percent (28 of 43) to earn a spot in Friday’s district championship game against Harlan County.
“We moved the ball well, took good shots and played hard on defense,” Bell County coach Lewis Morris said. “We’ve been moving the ball pretty well and looked pretty sharp the last few games. Hopefully, we can keep it going a little bit.”
Senior center Zach Partin owned the paint, hitting nine of nine shots in a 23-point, 11-rebound effort.
“What we were attempting to do was double Partin and use two guys to keep him off the boards, but even two of our guys couldn’t do it because he’s so big and strong,” Harlan coach David Parks said. “He was tremendous offensively, handling the ball and everything. They just outclassed us in everything.”
“He’s been playing well against good competition the last month or so,” Morris said.
The Bell County defense was also good Peyton Collett and Jacob Hunley took turns making Drew Parks’ last high school game one he’d like to forget. The senior Harlan guard was limited to five points as the Bobcats limited him to five points.
“If you let him get going, he could put four or five on you really quick,” Morris said. “We didn’t want him to get hot. We also tried to chase (Kilian) Ledford as much as possible and make the other guys beat you. Our kids played hard and did a good job.”
“They chased Drew all night, and we couldn’t get him a shot,” Parks said. “Lewis really had them prepared and they played well. It’s tough for us. We knew we’d have to play about perfect to beat them, and when we can’t get shots for the kids capable of making them, it really puts us in a bind.”
The Bobcats also dominated the glass, outrebounding the much smaller, and lighter, Dragons by a margin of 39-12.
“We should have. We’re a lot bigger and a lot stronger than they are,” Morris said. “I thought if we could outrebound them we could win. They don’t have a lot of size, and they’re young in there.”
Junior guard Noah Busroe was the only Dragon in double figures with 11 points. Senior guard Robby Curry added nine as Harlan closed its season at 15-14, one of the program’s best seasons this century. The Dragons have been to the regional tournament only once since the 2000-2001 season.
“We won 15 games, and I’m happy for that,” Parks said. “I hope we’re headed in the right direction. It’s not for a lack of effort or putting in the time. We’re a little bit limited in what we can do.”
Harlan’s physical limitations were obvious early as the Dragons were outrebounded 10-0 in the first quarter. The Bobcats built a 22-9 lead by hitting 10 of 13 shots. Morris hit four of five shots, including two 3-pointers.
Partin had three baskets in the second quarter as Bell hit five of six shots and stretched its lead to 32-17 at halftime.
The Dragons were able to get as close as 12 points in the third quarter as Busroe had a three-point play. Bell ran away at that point, outscoring Harlan 21-5 to take a 57-29 lead into the final period.
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134