By Les Dixon / For the Times-Tribune
KNOX CENTRAL — It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but Brian Evans' Knox Central Panthers continue to pull off wins against some of the 13th Region's top teams while continuing to establish themselves among the region's best.
Knox Central overcame a 15-of-39 shooting effort, and managed to hold off Bell County by pulling out a slim 44-41 win over the Bobcats Friday.
The Panthers' Nate Cole turned in a solid effort from the floor and free-throw line by scoring a game-high 14 points while hitting eight-of-eight shot attempts from the free-throw line.
“It was a big win for us,” Evans said. “We were a bit flat to begin the game, and showed some effects of it after coming off a big win against Clay County, but there's no excuse. We have to do a better job attacking.”
With junior guard Matt Barger battling foul trouble the entire game while scoring only three points on one-of-five shooting from the free-throw line, his teammates stepped up and answered the call.
“Matt was in foul trouble and Nate Cole stepped up at the free-throw line and went eight-for-eight,” Evans said. “He has been injured and is beginning to get his game legs back, and did a great job tonight.
“We have good balance and we are really playing as a team and don't care who scores,” he added. “Our guys held their composure out there and I'm proud of them for that. I believe we are improving, not only physically, but mentally, too.”
Bell County jumped out to a 17-10 edge by the end of the first quarter while taking advantage of four Knox Central turnovers and a five-of-12 shooting effort from the Panthers.
Evans' squad managed to get back into the game in the second quarter by outscoring the Bobcats, 13-4, behind a stingy defensive effort. Knox Central forced Bell County into four turnovers and 1-of-6 shooting from the floor, and held a slim 23-21 edge at halftime.
The Panthers opened their lead up in the third quarter thanks to knocking down seven-of-eight shot attempts from the charity stripe, while getting four points from Chad Marsee, who finished the game with a 10-point effort. Knox Central's lead grew to 36-28 with eight minutes remaining in the game.
Tyler Potter began to catch fire in the fourth quarter and scored five straight points to begin a Bobcat rally. Bell County took a 41-40 edge after a Potter jumper with 1:05 remaining, but Knox Central followed with four straight points, including two free throws by Cole to wrap-up the win.
Knox Central 44, Bell County 41
Bell County 17 4 7 13 – 41
Knox Central 10 13 13 8 – 44
Bell County (41) – Woolum 3, Patterson 12, Potter 18, Partin 4, Collett 2, Asher 2.
Knox Central (44) – Cole 14, Adams 7, Barger 3, Hensley 8, Tye 2, Marsee 10.