By John Henson
For the Times-Tribune
Bell County overcame a bad first quarter and an inspired comeback by Lynn Camp in the fourth quarter to advance in the 13th Region Tournament.
After hitting only one of 14 shots in the opening period, Bell County found itself down 6-4. The Lady Cats recovered to build a 16-point lead before Lynn Camp reeled off 11 straight points to get as close as five.
Bell County finally pulled away for good in the final three minutes to win 57-44 and advance to a semifinal matchup Saturday afternoon against Whitley County.
“They never quit,” Bell County coach David Teague said of Lynn Camp. “We went a little nuts and started throwing it away some. We told them they would keep coming after us, and I thought at times we didn’t handle it well. Luckily, we made enough free throws and plays down the stretch to hold them off.”
Bell County improved to 26-5 as guards Morgan Garnett, Maci Morris and Jessica Sanders combined for 40 points. Garnett led the way with 15, while Morris had 14 points and 13 rebounds and Sanders contributed 11 points.
They never quit. Bell County has an excellent team, but if we could have made a few more shots maybe we could have scared them a little more,” Lynn Camp coach Richard Jones said. “Bell County has a legitimate shot to win this thing. I think these girls have brought our program up another level. We have to learn to win, but we’re getting there.”
Lynn Camp completed the best season in school history with a 23-10 record.
“Since about a week after the state tournament, these girls would come down and run drills. None of them missed a day during the summer,” said Jones, who was not surprised that his Lady Cats fought back in the fourth quarter. “I’ve seen us get behind Barbourville and Knox Central and battle back. These girls never give up.”
Senior guard Kayla Smith scored 16 points and junior forward Heather Wilson added 10 to lead Lynn Camp.
Garnett’s three-pointer was the only field goal for Bell in the opening quarter as Lynn Camp took the lead on baskets by Jessica May and Smith.
“We settled for way too many jump shots,” Teague said. “I was trying to get them to attack. We've worked against that in practice because I felt they would play a zone of some sort. We were rushing instead of being set and penetrating and kicking it out. But give them credit because they did a good job defensively. And our defense allowed us not to be behind by eight or 10 at that point, so I was happy with that."
Sanders hit two three-pointers and Garnett added one in a 9-0 run that put Bell ahead in the second quarter. Garnett and Sanders each had two baskets in the period as Bell built a 22-13 lead by halftime.
“I think we missed six wide open shots in the first half. Defensively, I thought we had a good gameplan, but we left Sanders open a couple of times and went from one up to five down just like that,” said Jones.
Led by three baskets from Garnett, Bell pushed its lead to 39-26 heading into the fourth quarter. A field goal by Morris stretched Bell’s advantage to 16 before Lynn Camp made it interesting.
Wilson hit a three-pointer to start the 11-0 run, which also included baskets off turnovers by Smith and Miranda Miller. Smith’s two free throws cut the deficit to 42-37 with 3:35 left.
A basket by Katrina Johnson on an out of bounds play broke the Lynn Camp run. Morris hit six straight free throws helped Bell pull away for the win.
The first round concludes tonight at Harlan County High School as Harlan County plays Barbourville and Corbin takes on North Laurel.
13th Region Girls Tournament
at Harlan County High School
Bell County 57, Lynn Camp 44
Lynn Camp 6 7 13 18 44
Bell County 4 18 17 18 57
Lynn Camp (44) – Smith 16, Burke 6, Wilson 10, Miller 5, May 9.
Bell County (57) – Sanders 11, Garnett 15, Morris 14, Smith 2, Johnson 9.