Bell County wins girls 52nd District

By Paul Lunsford

Bell County placed four players in double figures on Thursday as the Lady Cats defeated Harlan County 62-55 for the 52nd District Tournament championship.

The Black Bears committed 21 turnovers on the night, and led to several layups for Bell County, including five by tournament MVP Nadine Johnson.

“At times, we made a complicated pass instead of taking the shot. We had a lot of careless mistakes, but considering where we were in January from now, we eliminate some of those sinceless mistakes, we have a different outcome,” said Harlan County coach Anthony Nolan.

Johnson, a freshman guard, poured in 17 points for the Lady Cats, including all eight field goal attempts. Junior guard Mataya Ausmus followed with 16 points while Ashtyn Meyers, also a junior guard, scored 15. Talyah McQueen added 10 points.

“Nadine played extremely well. She had a great tournament,” said Bell County coach David Teague. “She played really well the other night against Harlan. She does a lot of good things for us.”

Senior guard Jacey Lewis kept the Lady Bears in the game, by firing in a game-high 26 points, including seven of nine 3-pointers. Ella Karst contributed 11 points.

“Jacey stepped up and been the leader we needed her to be,” said Nolan. “She’s not only knocking down shots, she’s vocal. The kids are feeding off of her, and there confidence is growing.”

Johnson had three baskets as Bell County took an 8-3 lead at the 2:39 mark of the opening quarter.

Following an HC timeout, Lewis nailed a pair of treys and Karst added a basket as the Lady Bears led 11-10 after eight minutes.

Kellybeth Hoskins opened the second period with a 3-pointer, but Bell County used a 12-0 run to take a 22-14 with 3:43 remaining in the first half.

Harlan County fought back as Lewis hit another 3 and Karst and Jaylin Smith each scored as the Lady Bears pulled within 25-21 at halftime.

HC committed eight turnovers in the second quarter.

“We should’ve been up five or maybe 10 in the first half if we take better shots and make better decisions,’ said Nolan. “A lot of ha comes from confidence, and I think the kids are confidence going into next week though, I do.”

Hoskins nailed her second trey and Smith added a jumper in the paint as the Lady Bears tied the game at 28 with 6:46 to play in the third period.

Bell County scored five straight points to take the lead, but Lewis hit two straight 3-pointers as HC led 34-33.

Two free throws by Taylor Lunsford and a basket by Kylie Jones allowed the game to be even at 38 entering the final quarter.

Bell opened the fourth period with Meyers hitting a 3-pointer, and McQueen connected on four-of-four free throws to take a 45-38 advantage.

The lead swelled to 14 following baskets by Ausmus and McQueen with 3:49 to play.

Harlan County fought back as Lewis and Karst combined for the final 15 points of the game to pull within five.

“All the kids are contributing in a big way. I’m excited about going into next week and confident we can go down there and compete,” added Nolan.

Meyers closed the game by hitting four free throws to give Bell County their second straight district title.

“We had several kids step up in that fourth quarter and made some plays,” said Teague. “You’ve got to give Harlan County a lot of credit. They shot the ball well and we missed a few shots early.”

Both teams will advance to the 13th Region Tournament in The Arena at Corbin.

Besides Johnson being named MVP, the all-tournament team included Ausmus, McQueen, Kidwell and Meyers from Bell County, Karst, Lewis, Smith and Owens from Harlan County, Kylie Noe and Alli Thompson from Harlan; and Kailey Owens and Gracie Gent from Middlesboro.

Bell County 62, Harlan County 55

HARLAN COUNTY (10-12)

Ella Karst 4-12 2-2 11, Jacey Lewis 8-13 3-4 26, Jaylin Smith 2-6 1-4 5, Kassy Owens 1-11 0-0 2, Kellybeth Hoskins 2-3 0-0 6, Kylie Jones 1-4 1-2 2, Taylor Lunsford 0-0 2-2 2, Paige Phillips 0-0 0-0 0, Hailey Austin 0-0 0-0 0, Taytum Griffin 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 18-50 9-14 55.

BELL COUNTY (21-4)

Nadine Johnson 8-8 0-1 17, Ashtyn Meyers 4-8 4-4 15, Mataya Ausmus 6-15 2-2 16, Sara Kidwell 0-4 1-6 1, Talyah McQueen 3-10 4-6 10, Abigail Cornett 0-0 0-0 0, Lauren McGeorge 1-5 0-0 3. Totals: 22-50 11-20 62.

Harlan County 11 10 17 17 – 55

Bell County 10 15 13 24 – 62

3-Point goals: Harlan County 10-15 (Lewis 7-9, Hoskins 2-3, Karst 1-3), Bell County 7-18 (Meyers 3-4, Ausmus 2-8, Johnson 1-1, McGeorge 1-3, Kidwell 0-2). Rebounds: Harlan County 32 (Owens 9, Karst 6, Smith 5, Lunsford 5, Jones 4, Hoskins 2, Lewis 1), Bell County 25 (Johnson 7, Kidwell 7, McQueen 6, Meyers 3, Ausmus 1, Cornett 1). Assists: Harlan County 9 (Smith 3), Bell County 6 (Johnson 2, Meyers 2). Turnovers: Harlan County 21, Bell County 14. Fouled out: None.

52nd District Champions

2021 – Bell County; 2020 – Bell County; 2019 – Harlan County; 2018 – Harlan County; 2017 – Harlan County; 2016 – Harlan; 2015 – Bell County; 2014 – Bell County; 2013 – Bell County; 2012 – Harlan County; 2011 – Harlan; 2010 – Harlan County; 2009 – Middlesboro; 2008 – Middlesboro; 2007 – Harlanl 2006 – Bell County; 2005 – Cumberland; 2004 – Cawood; 2003 – Cawood; 2002 – Cawood; 2001 – Cawood; 2000 – Harlan.