“She’s a tremendous shooter and I asked her in the third quarter if she was going to start looking to score,” Knox Central coach Darren Mills said. “We had focused so much on not turning the ball over because that allows Chelsey to run with it.
“That was our game plan: Take care of the basketball, not allow Chelsey to have those run outs and double her when she got it. We executed, took care of the ball and made shots when we had to.”
Mills was referring to Pineville senior guard Chelsey Smith. Smith scored 31 points, including 16 in the third quarter as the Lady Lions battled back from a 21-14 halftime deficit.
“Chelsey Smith is such a tremendous athlete. We were trying to keep the ball out of her hands and sending two and three girls at her every time she got it,” Mills said. “I told our girls before the game if we could hold her to around 20 points we would win. She got 31 but we still found a way to pull it out.”
Mills, Shakira Gregory and Cassi Shippy all made baskets in the fourth quarter as Knox Central maintained a one-point lead. Rebekah Brooks had basket for Pineville and Smith scored six points, including a pair of free throws to tie the game with 53 seconds to play.
The Lady Panthers missed a free throw with 30 seconds to play — they hit just one-of-six from the line in the fourth quarter. The Lady Lions also failed to cash in their chances from the free throw line in crunch time — they missed five straight before Smith’s two to tie it.
Pineville called timeout with 28 seconds left in regulation to set up for a final possession. But Knox Central was able to tie up Smith to force a jump ball at the 11 second mark and the possession arrow was pointing the Lady Panthers’ way. .
Knox would miss another free throw and Brooks’ half-court heave at the buzzer was off line.
“We were down at half, brought it in to one by the end of the third. We had it tied up and it was our situation,” Lady Lion coach Matt Shafer said. “We had the ball with 28 seconds left, tied up. We just didn’t execute and ended up turning the ball over and it went to overtime.”
Mills was able to drive in for a basket on the opening possession of the extra frame and the Knox Central defense kept the Lady Lions from getting any kind of good look at the basket.
A Mills jumper made it 45-41 with 2:25 left and Jessica Sanders hit a free throw the 1:07 mark to push the lead to five.
Victoria Knuckles was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound and hit a free throw with 45 seconds to play, but that would be the only Lady Lion point in overtime. Gregory added a free throw to set the final at 47-42.
“I had a combination of a lot of young kids with some older ones and they came in with one focus and that was to win this game,” said Mills. “We led the whole game and then there at the end when they tied it up we could have folded our tents, but we didn’t. We continued playing and I’m proud of them.”
Though she couldn’t deliver the win, Smith delivered another standout performance in her final home game for the Lady Lions. She was 10-of-17 from the field, including 4-of-8 on 3-pointers, and hit 7-of-9 free throws. In addition to her 31 points, Smith led Pineville with eight rebounds and six steals.
Whitney Partin added five points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. Lacey Brooks and Knuckles both had two points and five boards while Rebekah Brooks added two points for the Lady Lions.
“All year long we’ve had somebody else step up. You can’t ask any more from Chelsey, we just never got anyone else going in the flow of the offense,” Shafer said.
Gregory led Knox Central with 14 points and 14 rebounds while Kayla Shelton added 12 points as the Lady Panthers ended Pineville’s run of district titles at two.
“Pineville has dominated this district and had a lot of success the past few years,” Mills said. “Their girls played with so much heart, they’re a well-coached team, and I wish them nothing but the best next week.”
Pineville (13-17) and Knox Central (13-14) both advance to next week’s 13th Region tournament at The Arena in Corbin.
“This game was icing on the cake if we could get it. It meant a lot, but we’re still going to the region.,” Shafer said. “The way some things have shaken out, we could still have a pretty good draw. We’re playing a game on Monday or Tuesday, it’s not over. I still want to keep playing and I think they’ll respond. Our group will want to put on a good show and good effort whenever we play.”
— — —
Pineville 9 5 19 8 1 — 42
Knox Cent. 11 10 13 7 6 — 47
PINEVILE (42): Chelsey Smith 31, Whitney Partin 5, Lacey Brooks 2, Victoria Knuckles 2, Rebekah Brooks 2, Kristen Brock 0, Annalee Adams 0, Stephanie Epperson 0.
KNOX CENTRAL (47): Shakira Gregory 14, Kayla Shelton 12, Jenna Mills 10, Jessica Sanders 6, Cassi Shippy 3, Cassie Tye 2, Elizabeth Barrett 0, Karley Hamilton 0, Amber Mills 0.