When it comes to basketball, size can play a major factor in the outcome of a game. For Bell County, size proved to be the determining factor of a 56-35 loss to South Laurel on Wednesday.
“They’re really good,” said Bobcat head coach Lewis Morris. “The first time we played them we did a really good job against them. They played us different, which I knew they were going to come out tonight and put pressure on us up front. They’re so big, it changes shots.”
“You’ve got to be able to score the basketball a little bit, and we didn’t do that. They (Bell) didn’t quit. They battled. That’s all you can ask.”
Morris continued to stress that the talent level of the Cardinals.
“They’re a good team. They really are,” said Morris about South Laurel. “They’ve got a lot of tools. They’ve got a lot of weapons. I think they will be a tough out.”
Rebounds and second chance opportunities aided South Laurel in their victory. Bell County was outrebounded by the Cardinals 29-14. Of South Laurel’s 29 rebounds, 13 were on offense.
“I don’t know that we weren’t blocking out. They’re just so much bigger than us that we were just bumping off,” said Morris. “That big boy (Caleb Taylor) is a load. The Griffith kid that they got from Williamsburg is a load. You throw him (Andrew Griffith) in there with the other kids they’ve got, and one kid can make you a really good team.”
The Cardinals were also more efficient shooting the basketball. In the first half, South Laurel shot 51 percent from the field while the Bobcats shot at a 35 percent rate.
In his final game as a Bobcat, Zach Partin led the team with 14 points. Senior Jacob Hunley scored nine points in his final game.
For South Laurel, Caleb Taylor registered a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Jared Grubb led the Cardinals in points with 15. Ryan Anders also finished the game with 14 points.
Bell jumped out to a 5-4 lead early in the first following a 3-pointer from Issac Collett. A Taylor basket quickly returned the lead to South Laurel, 6-5. A layup from Andrew Griffith extended the lead to 8-5.
The Bobcats answered with a layup from Partin to narrow the lead to one. A floater from Grubb near the end of the quarter gave the Cardinals a 10-7 lead heading into the second.
South Laurel took control of the game in the second quarter. Free throws from Grubb and a layup from Zach Feltner increased the Cardinal lead to 14-7. A basket from Partin narrowed the lead to 14-9 moments later.
A layup from Taylor started an 8-0 run that extended the lead to 22-9 heading into halftime. Anders capped the run with a steal and layup to finish the half.
The Bobcats bounced back at the beginning of the third. Bell opened the quarter with a 6-2 stint that was capped off by a hook shot from Partin at the 6:20 mark in the period. The run brought the Bobcats within single digits, 24-15.
South Laurel answered with a run of their own. Over the next three minutes, the Cardinals outscored Bell 13-2 to increase their lead to 37-17.
South Laurel ended the quarter with a Griffith free throw and an Anders basket to widen the margin to 40-18 heading into the fourth.
The Bobcats outscored the Cardinals 17-16 in the final quarter, but South Laurel walked away with a 21-point victory. The Cardinals will square off against Knox Central at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the semifinal round of the 13th Region tournament.
“They’re a good bunch of kids. They’ve played hard for me all year long,” said Morris about his team. “We’ve played a tremendous schedule, and they got to do something that a lot of teams didn’t and that’s play in the region.”
Bell County loses three seniors this year — Partin, Hunley and Peyton Collett. Partin finishes the year averaging 17.6 points and 10.9 rebounds. Hunley finishes shooting a team-high 66 percent from the field while averaging 6.9 points per game. Peyton Collett ends the year averaging 3.2 points and two rebounds while being a premier defender on defense.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN