Black Bears hold off Bell County

Alex Pace didn’t let two double-digit deficits get to him. The junior guard blocked out the chants of “overrated” when Bell County grabbed a nine-point lead with less than five minutes remaining in the game. He just shot the ball and shot it well.

Pace gave the Black Bears a spark offensively throughout the game, but it was his 11 points down the final stretch that helped the Black Bears overcome a near double-digit deficit to earn the 60-53 win Tuesday on Log Mountain.

Pace lit up the scoreboard, finishing with a game-high 31 points while going a perfect 17-for-17 from the charity stripe. Andrew Creech finished the night with 12 points with Taylor Spurlock adding nine points off the bench.

For Bell County, it’s the second loss the Bobcats have suffered by single digits after having a lead in the fourth quarter. Coach Frankie Smith said the team hasn’t figured out how to finish games just yet.

“I’m very happy at the end of the first quarter when we held them to three points. Then we turned around and gave up 24 points the second quarter,” said Smith. “We’re not finishing games. We were ahead on Cumberland Gap. We were ahead tonight. We’re just not finishing games.

“This was a learning game for us tonight. Harlan County is a good team. I thought that we made some good decisions tonight. I thought we made some poor decisions, but I think…that there’s a spark. We just haven’t got it yet. We’ve just got to put it together for four quarters, and I think we can beat anybody that we’re playing.”

Sawyer Brock put together an impressive performance for the Bobcats. Playing almost the entire game, the junior guard led Bell County in scoring with a team-high 23 points. Tyler Partin tallied 13 points on the night.

“The thing with Sawyer and Colby (Frazier) is it’s hard to take them out. Sawyer got 23 points, and he played every minute but the last minute of the third quarter,” said Smith about Brock. “He was a warrior tonight. He’s very vocal. He leads our team. He practices hard every day, which is an amazing thing since he didn’t play last year.”

The Bell County defense was on display in the first quarter holding the Black Bears to just three points. Spurlock’s jumper and free throw stopped a 6-0 run by the Bobcats and narrowed the deficit to four points.

Bell ended the quarter on a 5-0 run with Kyle Burnett hitting a free throw to give the Bobcats an 11-3 lead at the end of one.

Pace began heating up in the second, scoring Harlan County’s first nine points of the quarter to cut the lead to 13-12. Creech nailed a pull-up jumper with 4:26 remaining in the half to give the Black Bears a 14-13 lead.

A couple of baskets by Brock helped Bell claim a 17-16 lead before Creech hit a pair of free throws to give Harlan County an 18-17 lead with 2:55 remaining. Pace went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line during the final minutes of the period to help the Black Bears take a 27-19 lead into halftime.

Harlan County pulled ahead by as many as 12 in the third with a Creech jumper that gave them a 33-21 lead. Bell began chipping away at the lead from that point.

The Bobcats went on a 10-0 run, with Brock leading the way by scoring eight point during that stretch to narrow the deficit to 33-31. A jumper by Ty Simmons was quickly negated by a Frazier layup that cut the lead to 35-33 heading into the fourth.

Bell opened the final period with a 6-0 run that gave them a 39-35 lead. The two teams swapped baskets before a Frazier layup sparked another 6-0 run that increased the Bobcat lead to 47-38 with just over three minutes remaining in the game.

The Black Bears seized control with a 15-2 run that gave them a 53-49 lead and cut the clock to one minute. With less than a minute to go, Harlan County outscored Bell 7-4 to secure the seven-point victory.

Up Next

Bell County (1-2) returns to action at 7:30 p.m. on Friday when the Bobcats hit the road to play Harlan (0-3).

Harlan County (3-0) will host Middlesboro (1-2) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

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Isaac Eldridge scored 12 points and Sean Phipps added 10 as Bell rallied from a six-point deficit going into the final period to win 50-44 in junior varsity action. Dalton Mason and Dawson Woolum scored seven each. Andrew Caldwell scored six. Cameron Burnett and Jonathan Wilson each tossed in four.

Taylor Spurlock scored 13 and Tyler Cole added 10 for the 1-1 Bears. Josh Turner tossed in six, followed by Kobe Burkhart with five, Alex Nantz and Michael Simpson with four each and Matthew Simpson with two.

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Harlan County 60, Bell County 53

HARLAN COUNTY (3-0)

Andrew Creech 4 4-5 12, Drew Nolan 1 0-0 2, Alex Pace 6 17-17 31, Tyrese Simmons 2 1-4 5, Lamar Burkhart 0 1-2 1, Taylor Spurlock 3 3-3 9. Totals: 16 26-31 60.

BELL COUNTY (1-2)

Colby Frazier 4 2-2 10, Sawyer Brock 9 5-9 23, Ryan Lambdin 1 0-0 2, Tyler Partin 5 2-2 13, Kyle Burnett 1 1-2 3, Trey Brock 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 10-15 53.

HCHS 3 24 8 25 — 60

BCHS 11 8 14 20 — 53

3-point goals: HCHS 2 (Pace 2), BCHS 1 (Partin 1).

Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN