Harlan rallies for victory over Bell
With just over four minutes to play in the third quarter, the Bell County Bobcats looked like they were well in control with a 16-point lead.
Just under a minute into the fourth quarter, Harlan had cut the deficit to two. The Dragons grabbed the lead off a Cade Barnes 3-pointer with 50 seconds remaining and Harlan never looked back, outscoring Bell County 6-0 in the final 30 seconds of the game to earn a 65-58 victory.
“Tubby Smith used to say there is nothing in this world less important than the score at halftime because it doesn’t mean anything,” Bell County coach Frankie Smith said. “We came back out (after halftime) and they started beating us off the dribble. (Harlan) started getting easier baskets, and they also started hitting the shots when they had to penetrate and pitch.
“For us, if we’re not getting stops on defense and we can’t transition then we struggle a little bit in our offense. (Harlan) did a great job. They deserved to win the game, period. There is no doubt. Coach (Derrick) Akal did a great job. Their kids kept fighting, and I thought that they outhustled us tonight.”
The victory for Harlan helps set the seeding for the district tournament in stone with the Dragons locking up the No. 3 seed. Bell County will have the No. 2 seed and will play Harlan in the first round.
“I think we competed on the defensive end in the second half,” Akal said. “It got physical, but we stayed in the fight. We also got great defensive contributions from our reserves. It was a good district win.”
Kilian Ledford and Cade Barnes increased their aggressiveness in the second half. Ledford tallied 14 of his game-high 16 points in the second half. Barnes finished with 15 points, with 10 coming in the fourth quarter. Jacob Wilson chipped in 13 points, with nine coming from beyond the arc.
Colby Frazier paced Bell County offensively with 13 points, while going 7-for-8 from the charity stripe. Sawyer Brock and Trey Brock both finished the night with 12 points apiece. Issac Collett added 11 points off the bench.
A layup by Carter Barnes moments before the buzzer narrowed Bell County’s lead to 18-13 at the end of the first quarter. Treys from Dawson Atkins and Ryan Lambdin helped the Bobcats gain a 24-15 lead.
Harlan created a four-point swing after Bell committed a foul while Wilson’s 3-pointer was in the air. Wilson nailed the 3 and Jordan Akal hit one of his two attempts to narrow the defict to 24-19.
Bell’s lead reached double digits with 1:57 remaining in the half after a pair of free throws from Trey Brock brought the score to 31-21. A 7-0 run by the Bobcats at the end of the half increased their lead to 16. A coast-to-coast layup by Sawyer Brock ended the second with Bell leading 38-22.
Harlan began making their move in the second half. After trading baskets with Bell for most of the third quarter, a layup by Carter Barnes sparked an 8-0 run at the end of the frame for Harlan. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Ledford narrowed the deficit to 45-39 heading into the final period.
The Dragons opened the fourth with a pair of baskets that cut the lead to two, 45-43. The Bobcats were able to hang on to the lead and eventually increased it to six points, 53-47, with a pair of free throws from Frazier with 3:36 remaining.
Three-pointers from Ledford and Wilson tied the game at 53-53 with 2:30 remaining. The two teams swapped baskets down the stretch before a Cade Barnes 3-pointer gave the Dragons a 58-55 lead with less than a minute remaining in the game.
Akal hit one of his two free throws after being fouled to increase the Harlan lead to 59-55 with 45.4 seconds left. Lambdin came back down the court and hit a 3-pointer to bring Bell to within one, 59-58, with 38.5 second to go in regulation.
A foul and a technical against Frazier essentially sealed the game with 24.9 seconds left. Wilson hit three of his four attempts to give the Dragons a 62-58 lead. Harlan went three of four from the charity stripe in the final 28 seconds to earn the seven-point victory.
Bell County (16-6) will host North Laurel (22-4) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Harlan (4-14) will host Pineville (4-18) at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Harlan 65, Bell County 58
Jordan Akal 0 6-8 6, Kilian Ledford 6 0-1 16, Cade Barnes 5 3-4 15, Jacob Wilson 3 4-6 13, Jon Eldridge 1 2-2 4, Tyler Carmical 0 1-2 1, Austin Adams 1 0-0 2, Carter Barnes 4 0-0 8. Totals: 20 16-23 65.
BELL CO. (16-6)
Sawyer Brock 4 4-7 12, Colby Frazier 3 7-8 13, Trey Brock 5 2-2 12, Tyler Partin 0 0-0 0, Kyle Burnett 0 0-0 0, Issac Collett 2 5-6 11, Ryan Lambdin 2 1-2 7, Dawson Atkins 1 0-0 3. Totals: 17 19-25 58.
Harlan 13 9 17 26 — 65
Bell Co. 18 20 7 13 — 58
3-point goals: Harlan 9 (Ledford 4, Wilson 3, Cade Barnes 2), Bell Co. 5 (Collett 2, Lambdin 2, Atkins 1).
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN