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Bell overcomes slow start, advances to district finals

District favorites for the first time since the Maci Morris era, the Bell County Lady Cats found themselves trailing by two points at halftime of their 52nd District Tournament opener Monday against Middlesboro at Harlan County High School.

“I think we came out a little tight, and that first game is usually the toughest one,” Bell County coach David Teague said. “I thought Middlesboro played really well. They played extremely hard and were ready to go. They took it right to us.”

The Lady Cats went back to the formula that had worked for them all season long during the second half, picking up the pressure on the defensive end and turning turnovers into points. Bell County outscored Middlesboro 17-4 in the third quarter to take control, then used a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter to blow the game open on the way to a 61-36 win that put the Lady Cats in Thursday’s district championship game against Harlan County.

“I told them at halftime we had to get back to doing the things we did all year long and had success with,” Teague said. “I thought the second half we were more focused in defensively and got some things done in transition and started making a few shots. We finally settled down and played.”

Senior guard Abby Harris scored 18 points to lead the 23-4 Lady Cats, including six in the third quarter when Bell turned the momentum. Harris closed the period with a 3-pointer to give Bell a 40-29 lead.

Taliyah McQueen, who scored 13 points, and Nadene Johnson, who added 11, led Bell in the 14-0 run to open the fourth quarter as the lead grew to 54-29. Ashtyn Meyers tossed in 10 for the Lady Cats.

Emrey Glover led the 5-23 Lady Jackets with 10 points. Kailey Owens scored nine.

Glover hit a 3-pointer late in the opening quarter as Middlesboro took an 11-9 lead after one period. Kirsten Keith and Owens also had treys in the period for the Lady Jackets.

Bell reeled off 11 straight points to start the second quarter and led by nine before Middlesboro fought back. Keevi Betts and Grace Moles each hit 3-pointers as Middlesoro pulled even before two free throws by Glover put the Lady Jackets up by two at the break.

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Bell County 61, Middlesboro 36

MIDDLESBORO (5-23)

Kailey Owens 3-14 2-2 9, Emrey Glover 3-6 2-2 10, Gracie Gent 1-3 0-0 2, Kirsten Keith 2-3 0-0 5, Grace Moles 2-9 2-3 7, Grace Temple 0-5 0-0 0, Keevi Betts 1-3 0-2 3, Kamryn Keith 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 12-43 6-9 36.

BELL COUNTY (23-4)

Abby Harris 6-15 3-6 18, Ashtyn Meyers 4-13 0-0 10, Abigail Cornett 1-9 0-0 3, Taliyah McQueen 4-5 5-8 13, Sarah Kidwell 2-5 0-1 4, Mataya Ausmus 1-4 0-0 2, Nadine Johnson 5-12 1-2 11. Totals: 23-63 9-17 61.

Middlesboro 11 14 4 7 — 36

Bell County 9 14 17 21 — 61

3-point goals: Middlesboro 6-18 (Glover 2-4, Kirsten Keith 1-1, Betts 1-1, Moles 1-5, Owens 1-6, Gent 0-1), Bell County 6-23 (Harris 3-3, Meyers 2-10, Cornett 1-6, Johnson 0-1, Ausmus 0-3). Rebounds: Middlesboro 30 (Moles 9), Bell County 37 (Harris 12). Assists: Middlesboro 8 (Owens 3), Bell County 10 (Harris 3). Turnovers: Middlesboro 28, Bell County 13. Fouled out: None.