The Bobcats scored 27 points off 21 Harlan turnovers, most of which ended with a layup as Bell turned its full-court press and halfcourt trapping defense into an effective offensive tool.
"That's where we thought some constant pressure, either picking them up man and making them work, or to set up and then go into a trap, kept them off-balance and was pretty effective," said Bell County coach Eddie Whitaker.
"The downside is we let them back in the game a couple of times. I don't know if it was losing focus or whatever, but that's probably high school basketball."
With the exception of two runs, one in the first half and another in the second, Harlan played with Bell for much of the game.
In the end the Bobcats proved too consistent, hitting an astounding 61 percent (31 of 51) from the field. The Bobcats starters were especially impressive, combining to go 24 of 34 (71 percent) from the field.
Junior guard Larry Helton led the Bobcats, hitting eight of 11 shots and five of five free throws for 23 points. Jordan Marcum added 10 points and six rebounds while Ryan Whitaker also finished with 10 points on three-of-three shooting.
Bell also held Harlan's leading scorer, freshman point guard John Smith, to just seven points, 11 below his season average. Junior guard Ryan Clem led
Harlan with 20 points. Nearly half of Clem's points came at the free throw line, where he was nine of 11.
"I think our effort was there, we played hard. I thought we did a good job doing a couple of things we talked about in preparation for Harlan, which was controlling their scorers with Smith and Clem," said Eddie Whitaker.
"Clem had 20, but I want to say he had three field goals in the first half and maybe two in the second half and none in the third quarter. So I thought, overall, with Smith and him we did a good job."
Junior center Seth Haywood made his season debut for the Dragons, scoring two points, pulling down three rebounds and dishing out two assists. Haywood was forced to miss the first two months of the season after breaking a bone in his hand during football season.
Haywood left the game after apparently aggravating the injury. His status is unknown.
Harlan coach Casey Lester was unavailable for comment following the game due to a pulled muscle suffered earlier in the day.
The game was neck-and-neck throughout the first five minutes as a Casey Huff jumper tied the score at 10-10.
But Bell County hit its last eight shots of the period, going 10-15 in the frame to lead 25-11. Harlan committed three of its five first-quarter turnovers during the run, leading to eight Bell County points.
Jeremiah Gibson opened the second quarter with a three-point play and Ryan Whitaker scored on a layup after another Harlan turnovers as the lead grew to 19 barely one minute in.
But Harlan hung tough behind Clem, who poured in nine points in the period. Senior center Kevin Harris added a pair of baskets.
Harris was perhaps Harlan's most consistent offensive threat of the night, hitting seven of eight shots for 15 points and pulling down five rebounds against the much larger Bobcats.
Clem picked off an errant pass and converted a three-point play to cut Bell's lead back to 14 as the Bobcats led 38-24 at the half.
Harlan opened the third quarter with a 7-2 spurt, including two baskets by Harris and a Stephen Brown 3-pointer to cut the lead to nine with 6:17 on the clock. But Bell County harassed the Dragons into eight turnovers in the frame.
Jeremy Sanders closed the period with seven straight points on a 3-pointer and a pair of layups to put Bell on top 59-40 heading into the fourth quarter.
Following a pair of Whitaker free throws to push the Bell lead to 21, Harlan looked poised to rally again with Clem reeling off seven straight points to trim the margin to 61-47 with 6:17 to go, but Bell County closed the game with a 16-5 run to seal the win.
"Overall I'm pretty pleased with the win," said Eddie Whitaker. "I thought we could come up here and really have a fight on our hands. I feel the same way at Cumberland or at Evarts. It's tough to play up here."
Bell County (15-7), which lost at Cawood on Friday, will continue its tour of Harlan County on Thursday, traveling to Cumberland. Harlan (7-15) will look to snap a five-game losing streak Friday against visiting Knox Central.
Brent Slusher scored 11 points and Cody Miller added seven to lead Bell County to a 47-34 win in junior varsity action.
Will Pope led Harlan with nine points while Robbie Curtis tossed in six. Derrick Sheffield scored five with Ralph Hamblim adding four. Jeremy Halcomb and Jon Graham each scored three while Alan Rose and Casey Huff added two points apiece.
BELL COUNTY (15-7)
Jeremy Sanders 4-8 0-0 9, Larry Helton 8-11 5-5 23, Ryan Whitaker 3-3 3-4 10, Trey Harbin 4-5 1-2 9, Jordan Marcum 5-7 0-1 10, Brian Wagner 3-8 1-1 7, Jeremiah Gibson 3-4 1-1 7, Jeremy Abner 0-1 0-0 0, Steven Hunter 0-1 0-0 0, Brent Slusher 1-3 0-0 2, Cody Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Turner 0-0 0-2 0. Totals: 31-51 11-16 77.
John Smith 2-11 2-4 7, Ryan Clem 5-11 9-11 20, Jon Brown 0-1 0-0 0, Stephen Brown 2-4 0-0 5, Kevin Harris 7-8 1-2 15, Seth Haywood 1-4 0-0 2, Casey Huff 1-4 0-0 2, Jonathan Graham 0-0 0-0 0, Mark O'Neill 0-0 0-0 0, Robbie Curtis 0-0 1-2 1, Zack Goins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-43 13-19 52.
Bell County 25 13 21 18 77
Harlan 11 13 16 12 52
3-point goals: Bell County 4-9 (Helton 2-3, Whitaker 1-1, Sanders 1-2, Wagner 0-2, Hunter 0-1), Harlan 3-13 (S. Brown 1-2, Smith 1-5, Clem 1-6). Rebounds: Bell County 26 (Marcum 6), Harlan 23 (S. Brown 7). Assists: Bell County 13 (Wagner 6), Harlan 9 (Smith 3). Turnovers: Bell County 18, Harlan 21. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: Harlan (bench).