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Bell ends Lady Bears’ district winning streak

LOG MOUNTAIN — First there was Bell County, then Harlan and then Harlan County following a familiar pattern of winning 52nd District titles before capturing 13th Region championships on the way to the Sweet Sixteen.

Those three teams combined to win four straight 13th Region crowns from 2015 to 2018. Harlan County won the last of those titles and continued to dominate the district last season with an 8-0 record on the way to a fourth straight district championship.

Bell County served notice Monday, with a 54-46 win over the visiting Lady Bears, that it’s time for a new favorite.

“It’s good to get a district win. They’ve had our number for a few years,” Bell County coach David Teague said. “We had a great run a few years back, then Harlan and Harlan County had great runs. Harlan County still has a nice team and they play real physical.”

The Lady Bears’ effort was still good, but their execution was lacking with 31 turnovers. Their decision-making and ability to finish around the basket were also big problems as they fell to 0-2.

“The good thing is we are playing hard and getting better,” Harlan County coach Debbie Green said. “We have to do a better job of handling the ball. We knew these first few games would be tough, but there is no quit in them. We have to finish around the basket and box out better. I think they are trying too hard.”

Freshman center Taliyah McQueen, one of the Lady Cats’ new starters, dominated around the basket with a 16-point, 16-rebound effort. Abby Harris and Sarah Kidwell added eight points each as Bell County improved to 3-0.

“We talked the last few days about keeping them off the boards. Morgan Blakley does a good job on the boards for them,” Teague said. “Taliiyah did a great job on the boards for us. She’s averaging about 16-17 in our three games

“We did better as the game went on as far as handling the ball, but then we gave up too many rebounds,” Green said.

Blakley, a senior forward, led the Lady Bears with 16 points and 18 rebounds. Junior guard Kelly Beth Hoskins kept the Lady Bears in the game in the first half and hit five 3-pointers in a 15-point effort.

“She’s a streaky shooter and she was hitting today before she got in foul trouble,” Green said.

Bell County built a 16-11 lead as HCHS turned the ball over 11 times in the opening quarter. Hoskins kept the Lady Bears close with three 3-pointers, then Kassy Owens hit consecutive shots to tie the game at 17 going into the second period.

Blakley scored four straight points and Jaylin Preston hit a 3-pointer for a seven-point lead as Bell missed its first five shots in the quarter. The Lady Bears didn’t score again in the half, almost six minutes, as Bell was able to close with a 9-0 run to go up 26-24 at halftime.

Another Hoskins 3 gave HCHS its last lead at 29-28 early in the third quarter. Bell hit only three of 13 shots in the period but was able to take a 39-37 lead into the fourth quarter.

Bell’s lead grew to nine in the final period before Hoskins started a 7-0 run with her final 3-pointer. Owens’ basket cut the deficit to 46-44 with 4:21 left in regulation, but it was the last basket for the Lady Bears, who missed 10 of 12 shots in the period. Bell closed the game with an 8-2 run.

“It wasn’t the prettiest on either side,” Teague said. “We’d play pretty good in stretches, then it would flip and Harlan County would play good in stretches. It’s early in the year and both teams have a lot of kids who don’t have a lot of varsity minutes. We’re learning.”

Harlan County will return to acton Tuesday at home against Middlesboro in a girls/boys doubleheader.

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The HCHS-Bell County boys game was postponed until Thursday as road conditions grew worse Tuesday evening after the girls game began.

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Bell County 54, Harlan County 46

HARLAN COUNTY (0-2)

Hannah Wood 0-4 0-0 0, Kelly Beth Hoskins 5-9 0-0 15, Jaylin Smith 2-6 0-3 4, Morgan Blakley 3-17 10-10 16, Kassy Owens 3-8 0-0 6, Dixie Ewing 0-2 0-0 0, Jaylin Preston 1-6 0-0 3, Haley Middleton 0-0 0-0 0, Taytum Griffin 0-1 0-0 0, Taylor Lunsford 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 15-54 10-13 46.

BELL COUNTY (3-0)

Ashtyn Meyers 3-7 0-0 9, Abigail Cornett 1-8 4-4 7, Abby Harris 2-6 6-6 8, Sarah Kidwell 3-5 1-4 8, Taliyah McQueen 4-12 8-15 16, Nadene Johnson 1-6 1-2 3, Mataya Ausmus 0-6 1-4 1, Mary Kate Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Lenia Miracle 0-0 2-4 2. Totals: 13-51 23-40 54.

Harlan County 17 7 13 9 — 46

Bell County 17 9 13 15 — 54

3-point goals: Harlan County 6-23 (Hoskins 5-8, Preston 1-6, Griffin 0-1, Blakley 0-2, Owens 0-2, Wood 0-4), Bell County 5-19 (Meyers 3-6, Kidwell 1-2, Cornett 1-3, Harris 0-1, Johnson 0-2, Ausmus 0-5). Rebounds: Harlan County 42 (Blakley 18), bell County 39 (McQueen 16). Turnovers: Harlan County 31, Bell County 19. Fouled out: Bell County (Harris).