A pair of technical fouls against Middlesboro in the second overtime helped to bring an anticlimactic end to what had been an exciting game. Knox Central hit 10 of 15 free throws in the final extra period to pull away for a 73-64 win over the Jackets.
“What I told the kids is maybe the next time we get into an overtime game we’ll keep our composure better than what we did there and use this as a learning experience,” Jacket coach Russell Thompson said. “If we get into this situation in the district we’ll feel more comfortable with it.”
Jeffrey Adams led the Panthers with 25 points and went 9-of-12 from the line in second overtime. Adams also hit a 3 at the fourth quarter buzzer to tie the game. Knox also got 21 points from Matthew Barger, 13 from Dustin Hensley and 11 from Tobie Merida.
Middlesboro was led by juniors Donnie Foister and Austin Poindexter with 17 points each. Senior forward Zach Riddle added 16 points to go along with 11 rebounds, Poindexter grabbed 10 boards for the Jackets as well.
Hensley hit a runner in the lane with just seconds left in the first overtime to tie the game at 61. He also scored the first two points of the second OT to put the Panthers on top.
“You’ve got to give Knox Central credit because they hit some big shots to send the game into overtime,” Thompson said. “That takes a lot of character and a lot of courage to hit those shots and I thought for the most part we had them well defended.”
A Merida steal led to a free throw by Adams and emotions from a physical game started to reach a boiling point. A double foul was called on both Riddle and Merida, it was Merida’s fifth. The Panthers tied up a loose ball on the other end and had the possession arrow pointed their way. Knox seemed to get at least an extra second to inbound the ball and then was awarded a time out as an errant pass sailed out of bounds.
Middlesboro’s Blake Davis was called for his fifth foul a little later in the possession and Adams again hit one free throw to push the lead to 65-61 with 1:47 to play. Riddle answered with a free throw of his own after grabbing an offensive rebound, but was called for his fifth foul on the next possession. The Middlesboro bench was also called for technical following the play. Jared Hall and Adams both hit one of two free throws and the Knox Central lead grew to 67-62 with 1:30 to play.
The Jackets forced a turnover, but Foister was called for travelling after grabbing an offensive rebound and then drew another technical for slamming the ball down in frustration. This time Adams made both free throws and then hit two more on the following possession to put the game out of reach at 71-62.
“I didn’t use profanity or anything like that to the referee,” Thompson said. “I was just told him that it seemed to me like there were two times they had turned the ball over and he had called a foul on us both times when our hands were in the air. I said that’s twice you bailed them out and that’s when he called the technical.
“It was a big turnaround in the game and you hate for that to happen. It got our kids frustrated and that’s what led to our losing composure.”
There were still plenty of positives for the Jackets to take away. Riddle double-doubled and got Merida into early foul trouble. Senior center Boone Bowling finished with six points and eight rebounds and also did his part to match-up with the Panthers’ big man.
“Zach got off to a fast start and did a good job of maintaining it throughout the game. He really did a good job of controlling the glass for us, attacking the basket and hitting his free throws. If we carry that on to the tournament, that looks good for us,” Thompson said.
Middlesboro led by as many as nine midway through he third quarter after a consecutive baskets from Bowling and Riddle basket made it 35-26. But Barger answered with a two and then a three. He scored all 21 of his points before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we played pretty good defense for the most part but we had a hard time defending Barger without getting into foul trouble,” Thompson added. “We shot the ball well from the free throw line, which is a positive for our team and most times when we shoot that well from the line we’ll come out victorious.”
Both teams will be back in action on Friday with Middlesboro (14-11) hosting Clay County for Senior Night and homecoming while Knox Central (15-12) plays at North Laurel.
— — —
Knox Central…12…10…16…16…7…12 — 73
Middlesboro….11…13…16…14…7…..3 — 64
KNOX CENTRAL (73): Jeffrey Adams 25, Matthew Barger 21, Dustin Hensley 13, Tobie Merida 11, Nathan Cole 2, Jared Hall 1, Jacob Wilburn 0, Blaine Wyatt 0, Hunter Tye 0.
MIDDLESBORO (64): Donnie Foister 17, Austin Poindexter 17, Zach Riddle 16, Boone Bowling 6, Michael Wilson 6, Derek Smith 1, Blake Davis 1, Major Edwards 0, Seth Barton 0.