Marshall County vs. Bell County
8 p.m. Thursday
Winner plays Game 7 winner at 8 p.m. Friday
MARSHALL COUNTY MARSHALS
Region: 1 | Record: 27-6 | Enrollment: 1,457
Gus Gillespie is 161-55 in seven seasons and is the all-time winningest coach at Marshall County. Previously, he coached five seasons in Illinois — four at Robinson (92-23), where he reached the state tourney Elite Eight, and one at Centralia (22-8). Overall, he is 275-86 over 12 years.
Blake Clark5-10 Sr. 8.5 ppg
Peter Northcutt5-11 Jr. 7.1 ppg
Cole Nelson6-2 Jr. 9.9 ppg
Stephen Atkinson6-5 Sr. 19.0 ppg
Colby Wiseman6-1 Sr. 3.7 ppg
Although Stephen Atkinson is the clear leader in scoring, the Marshals are capable throughout the lineup as four players have scored at least 18 points in a game. "Defensively, they've done a pretty good job of holding teams' field-goal percentage down," Gillespie said. "And doing a good job of blocking out — rebounding the ball." The Marshals played mostly man-to-man defense early on but have been trapping more in recent weeks.
Fun to watch
"They're a fun team to watch," Gillespie said. "They've taken like 45 or 50 charges this year. We don't have any great players, but the kids have bought into their roles and they do what they're capable of doing and nothing else. As a coach, that's fun to coach. And as a Marshall County fan, I'm sure they're appreciative of the effort, whether it's diving on the floor or taking charges."
Player to watch
Stephen Atkinson, a 6-5 senior, leads Marshall in scoring (19.0 ppg) and rebounding (10.6 rpg), shooting 51.5 percent from the floor and 80.5 percent at the free-throw line. He also has a team-high 26 blocks and shares the team lead in steals (50). Said Gillespie: "He's got to be able to have a nice game for us to give us a chance."
Marshall County has made five previous trips to the Sweet Sixteen, the first in 1984. The Marshals made it as far as the semifinals in 1989 and in their last appearance, 1995.
BELL COUNTY BOBCATS
Region: 13 | Record: 22-7 | Enrollment: 870
Lewis Morris is 69-48 in four seasons at Bell County. Overall, he is 305-188, having won regional titles with Hazard (1998) and Horace Maynard (Tenn.). He is a 1985 graduate of Cumberland High School. He went on to East Tennessee State University for two years, completing his degree at Cumberland College (now known as University of the Cumberlands).
Tanner Lefevers6-1 Jr. 8.6 ppg
Ben Madon6-4 Sr. 16.9 ppg
Justin Patterson6-3 Sr. 5.4 ppg
Kyle Lee6-3 Jr. 13.1 ppg
John Dudley Hilton5-10 Sr. 5.5 ppg
"When we play our best ball, we're moving," Morris said. "We're not the best basketball players in the world. We've got a few kids that have decent skills. But when we guard and we rebound and play hard, we seem to get things done." By moving, Morris doesn't necessarily mean up-tempo. The Bobcats average 57.6 points, while holding opponents to 49.1. The Bobcats use multiple looks on defense. "We played all 'man' at the beginning of the year. We've played a lot more different types of zones throughout the latter part of the year," Morris said. "If something ain't working, we'll switch to something else. And if it ain't working, we'll switch to something else and, hopefully, we'll find something that we're doing well that night." The Bobcats press only on occasion. "We don't really have the numbers to do it night in and night out," Morris said. "As the season's went on, our scoring defense is probably the lowest in the region. We have to guard people and be physical or we have a hard time."
Hard to figure
"We're a funny team, really," Morris said. "I'd hate to scout us. You really can't tell nothing about us." Case in point: Ben Madon leads Bell in most offensive categories. In the regional finals, though, Madon was held to 12 points. Kyle Lee, averaging 13.1, scored 26. "One night we'll have one or two kids that haven't scored a lot for us in a couple games and they're stepping up and scoring," Morris said. "Next game, same thing. Somebody else will do it."
Player to watch
Senior guard Ben Madon leads Bell in scoring (16.9 ppg), rebounding (5.6) and assists (3.4), while shooting 51.3 percent from the field. Said Morris: "He does a whole lot for the team. He's an athletic kid and he handles the ball a lot for us. ... He's a strong kid. He moves good, jumps well. Going to the basket, he does a really good job of getting in the lane and pulling up and attacking the rim." Madon also played quarterback and punted for the football team.
Bell High made four Sweet Sixteen trips between 1956 and 1980. Morris says this is the school's first appearance, though, since consolidation in 1984.