Panthers rally to defeat Bell

Published 10:54 am Tuesday, November 28, 2017

There was no miracle shot, magic potion or trick play that allowed Cumberland Gap to rally against Bell County on Monday. It was pure grit and determination. Trailing by as much as 13 in the first half and 12 in the second, the Panthers used pressure defense and capitalized on turnovers to defeat the Bobcats 48-46 in the season opener.

Down by 12, Cumberland Gap made their move with less than four minutes to play in the third quarter. From that point, the Panthers outscored Bell County 28-14 to secure the two-point victory.

“It was a tale of two halves. I thought the first half Bell County just came out and punched us in the mouth. (They) got the crowd into it with some dunks. (They have) some very athletic kids. By watching (Frankie Smith’s) kids play, they play hard and they execute well,” said Cumberland Gap coach Ernie Clawson. “I just went into halftime and told my kids two things are going to have to happen — we’re going to have to suck it up and start playing basketball or we’re going to get our socks beat off.

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“The second half we got into our press, started getting a little rhythm going, tried to get some offense going, and finally quit trying to bomb 3-pointers and started taking the ball to the basket and did an outstanding job. (It was) really a gutsy performance second half. It wasn’t pretty, but we did what it took to win the game and I’m proud of them.”

Jayson Upton provided the spark that Cumberland Gap needed. The guard finished with a game-high 15 points with 10 coming in the second half. Evan Jackson added 11 to the scoreboard while Bubba Lake scored eight points off the bench.

For Bell County, it was a disappointing start to the season. Turnovers in addition to early foul trouble hindered the team’s ability to maintain the lead down the stretch. The Bobcats were held to just nine points in the fourth quarter.

“We’ve obviously struggled like crazy with presses, and we’ve worked on them. We just don’t have…somebody that can just break a press, get guys shots and get guys open,” said Bell coach Frankie Smith. “It did hurt us that both Colby (Frazier) and Sawyer (Brock) had three fouls in the first half. I’m not going to make excuses. We’ve got to grow up. This is a bad way to lose.

“We had the lead, we panicked, we made turnovers, (and) we missed free throw rebounds where we had the inside position. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Ryan Lambdin paced Bell County with 11 points with nine coming from 3-pointers. Trey Brock and Tyler Partin both finished the game with nine, while Dawson Atkins added eight points off the bench.

Both teams were even through the first quarter with Lambdin hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Bell a 13-11 lead. The Bobcats increased the lead to 16-11 early in the second with Trey Brock hitting a free throw and grabbing a dunk on an inbound pass.

The Panthers narrowed the lead to three on a pair of free throws by Lake before Bell County went on a 10-0 run midway through the quarter to balloon the lead to 26-13. Atkins capped the run with a jumper.

Cumberland Gap was able to narrow the lead to 27-18 at the half after Upton capitalized on a steal and scored on a layup at the end of the second quarter.

The Panthers picked it up in the third. After both teams traded buckets, a 3-pointer by Jackson sparked a 13-5 run to narrow the deficit to 37-33 heading into the final period. Upton scored six points during that stretch.

Cumberland Gap continued to battle until back-to-back baskets by Jackson and Kaleb Franklin tied the game at 46-46 with less than two minutes to play. The Panthers reclaimed the lead for the first time since the opening quarter off a layup by Upton that brought the score to 48-46 with 20 seconds remaining.

Coming out of a timeout with 8.2 seconds remaining, Sawyer Brock missed a shot. Trey Brock went for the putback dunk, but it rimmed out. Partin grabbed the rebound, but his shot attempt was blocked at the buzzer.

Up Next

Bell County (0-1) will travel to Lee, Virginia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

Cumberland Gap (1-0) traveled to Scott (1-0) on Tuesday.

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