BARBOURVILLE — Tournament favorite Jackson County survived a wonderful comeback attempt by the Middlesboro Yellow Jackets on Thursday in the semifinals of the 13th Region All “A” Classic.
The Generals led by as many as 22 points in the third quarter before MHS rallied to get as close as 78-76 with just under four minutes to play. Jackson’s Jacob Hammonds scored seven of his 19 points and hit 4-of-5 free throws down the stretch as they were able to pull out a wild 93-87 win.
“There is no quit in these guys,” Middlesboro coach Russell Thompson said of his team. “They may not be the greatest basketball players in the world, but they will go out and lay it on the line for you. That’s what I’m proud of them for and that’s how these young men grow to be successful men in the future. I’ll take these guys every night because they’re working that hard to play as a team.”
Army commitment Jordan Fox led the Generals with 27 points, 11 assists and six rebounds while Isaiah Collier added 18 points and Allen Asher hit four of six 3s off the bench for 14 points.
Middlesboro senior guard Donnie Foister went head-to-head with Fox for most of the night and finished with a game-high 28 points to go along with four assists. Austin Poindexter scored 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting and pulled down 15 rebounds. Brandon Hale added nine points and six assists with Tyshon Kincaide contributing eight points off the bench. Tyler Prater and Major Edwards scored six points each with Edwards grabbing ten rebounds and Prater seven. Josh Miracle chipped in with five points.
The Jackets enjoyed a 48-20 rebounding advantage, but lost the turnover battle 20-5.
Turnovers were the story early as Jackson took advantage of eight in the first quarter. Asher hit three treys and Fox handed out six assists as the Generals stormed out to a 28-14 lead despite eight points from Poindexter.
“A lot of those were silly turnovers. It’s not like Jackson was flying all over the floor or anything,” Thompson said. “I think a lot of it was nervousness and being in that situation for the first time for a lot the guys. And that cost us big because we had to try to dig out of that hole.”
Middlesboro settled down in the second period and got 3-pointers from Hale, Foister and Miracle, but Jackson County stayed hot. The Generals hit ten of their 14 shots, including two 3s from Fox and one each from Collier and Asher and by halftime their lead was 54-35.
“We had every opportunity to hang our heads and quit. But they didn’t want to do that, they wanted to represent their team and school with pride. I felt like all the way down the line they did that well,” Thompson added. “Jackson County is a great shooting team and when they’re shooting the ball like they did in the first half, it’s going to be tough for anyone to beat them.”
Jackson went up by as many as 22 points on a few different occasions in the third quarter and Fox’s driving layup with 2:04 to go in the period had them up 69-49. But the Generals missed their final five shots of the quarter and Middlesboro closed with a 9-1 run — Foister started it with a 3 and added two free throws, then Poindexter hit a pair of free throws and drove in for a layup that pulled MHS within 70-58.
Poindexter putback Foister misses on the Jackets’ first two possessions of the fourth quarter and Kincaide hit both ends of the bonus with 5:39 to play to cut the lead to six.
Two free throws from Poindexter brought MHS within 74-70, then Fox and Foister continued to exchange points until two Foister free throws made it 78-74. Fox came up short on his next drive into the lane and Poindexter grabbed the rebound and got the ball out to Foister. Middlesboro’s senior guard spun his way into the lane and knocked down a turn-around floater over two defenders and it was 78-76 with 3:58 to play.
“I said Donnie is going to take it to the hole and if he’s not finishing then Austin is going to stick it in for him and that’s the way it went,” Thompson said. “You saw Foister and Fox got at it as two of the better guards in the region and I thought Foister held his own and showed what he’s able to do offensively. He also stepped up to the challenge and guarded Fox man-to-man all night. He asked for that and represented himself very well.”
Following a timeout, Fox found Hammonds cutting to the basket for a layup. After the Jackets missed a 3-pointer, Fox scored again to push the lead back to six.
Prater scored for Middlesboro after grabbing an offensive rebound and a bucket from Collier had the Generals up 84-78. Kincaide was called for a charge on the following possession and as Collier flopped on the play his shoulder crashed into Poindexter’s knee. Poindexter stayed down in quite a bit of pain and had to sit out the final 1:50 of the game. The severity of his injury was unknown after the game.
“Even at that point, down six, I felt like with (Poindexter) in the game we would be alright. He just adds so much defensively with his length, athleticism and effort,” Thompson added. “At that point Major was out and Prater was out (due to fouls) and guys were looking around to see who was going to lead us defensively. We just weren’t able to get stops.”
The Generals hit 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch as they went on to win by six.
“We came up short, but we showed that we can compete with the best in the region. I think we can see that the district is still there for us to attain. I think they’re all starting to believe that we can do that, we can make a run in the district tournament and hopefully in the regional tournament,” Thompson said.
It was quite a turnaround from the previous meeting between the teams that Jackson County won 89-36.
“My kids need to understand the growth we’ve shown from the beginning of the season until now and how much farther we can still go,” said Thompson. “We’ve got two of the better athletes in the region and three or four of the hardest workers. If we put all of that together we’re going to be somebody to reckon with.”
Jackson County (13-5) advances to play host Barbourville in Friday’s championship game at 7 p.m. Barbourville pulled away in the second half for an 81-48 win over Oneida Baptist in Thursday’s other semifinal.
Middlesboro (4-13) hosts Harlan on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
— — —
|Jackson Co. 93, Middlesboro 87|
JACKSON CO. (13-5)
Jordan Fox 10-17 4-4 27, Seth Bingham 4-8 0-0 8, Isaiah Collier 7-16 3-5 18, Jacob Hammonds 6-10 7-9 19, Zach Lawson 1-5 3-3 5, Allen Asher 5-9 0-0 14, Jacob Hays 1-2 0-0 2, Tanner Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Lucas Moore 0-1 0-0 0.
Donnie Foister 10-24 5-6 28, Brandon Hale 2-10 4-6 9, Tyler Prater 3-6 0-0 6, Austin Poindexter 9-14 7-8 25, Major Edwards 2-3 2-2 6, Tyshon Kincaide 3-4 2-2 8, Justin Miracle 2-3 0-0 5, Abhishek Singh 0-0 0-0 0.
|3-point goals: JC 8-19 (Asher 4-6, Fox 3-3, Collier 1-3, Bingham 0-2, Lawson 0-2, Hammonds 0-1, Hays 0-1, Moore 0-1); MHS 5-17 (Foister 3-10, Hale 1-5, Miracle 1-2). Rebounds: JC 20 (Fox 6, Hammonds 5), MHS 48 (Poindexter 15, Edwards 10, Prater 7). Assists: JC 17 (Fox 11), MHS 14 (Hale 6, Foister 4). Turnovers: JC 5, MHS 20. Total fouls: JC 20, MHS 17. Fouled out: JC (Collier), MHS (Edwards, Prater). Technical fouls: JC (Hammonds).|