“I was proud of the way the kids played,” Middlesboro coach Elgie Green said. “They were being smart with the ball and moving well on defense. This was a big win for us.”
Emily Osborne led all scorers with 11 points and Sophie Robinson and Brooklyn Jimison added nine each for the Lady Jackets.
Robinson had the hot hand early, hitting a three-pointer to start the scoring and driving inside for two more baskets. She had 8 points in the first quarter as Middlesboro built a 12-7 lead.
The Lady Jackets never trailed in the game. Whitley's Heather Jones and Holly Jones hit baskets to start the third quarter and cut the lead to four, 19-15. Following a timeout, Osborne hit a three-pointer and the lead would stay between seven and ten points for much of the rest of the game.
Shaleesha Coleman and Robinson keyed the pressing, full-court defense the Jackets used for most of the game and it created problems for the Lady Colonels guards. When they did get into their half-court sets, Middlesboro's post players Jimison, Mary Flanary and Ashley Williams were there to contest the shots from Whitley's taller players.
“In the post they had a height advantage on us, but our girls are very strong. I feel we can matchup down low with anyone in the region,” Green said. “And our guard did a good job of helping out and keeping the ball out of the paint. That was big for us.”
With the Lady Jackets up by seven in the fourth period, it looked like Whitley might make a run. But Flanary blocked a shot attempt by forward Kayla Haynes and Osborne hit a 3 on the other end and Middlesboro led 37-27 with 5:27 to play.
The Lady Indians scored on consecutive possessions to cut the lead to six. They got the ball back and got it to center Amanda Brimm, her shot was blocked by Ashley Williams and again Osborne hit a 3 to push the lead back to nine, 40-31 with 4:02 left.
Whitley again cut the lead to six, 41-35 on baskets by Haynes and Stephanie McCulloh. But Robinson hit a free throw and then found Jimison underneath the basket for a layup that pretty much wrapped it up. The Lady Jackets led 44-35 with 1:17 to play.
Green praised the effort put forth by his players and said one of the keys was that the girls coming off the bench came in ready to play defense.
“The style we play is about 100-percent effort,” he said. “We play better when we're running the floor and we did a good job taking care of the ball.”
He said the Lady Jackets usually turn the ball over 21 or 22 times a game, but only committed 16 turnovers Wednesday.
“We handled their press really well and did a good job of passing the ball up the court,” he said.
The Lady Jackets (7-5) will play Pineville at 7:30 p.m. as the First Priority Holiday Classic continues. Whitley County (8-4) will take on Hancock County in the 6 p.m. game at Middlesboro.
- - -
Whitley Co. 7 4 11 15 - 37
Middlesboro 12 7 11 16 - 46
WHITLEY COUNTY: Stephanie McCulloh 7, Heather Jones 6, Kayla Haynes 6, Randall Holbrook 5, Brittany Lawson 5, Holly Jones 4, Amanda Brimm 4.
MIDDLESBORO: Emily Osborne 11, Sophie Robinson 9, Brooklyn Jimison 9, Shaleesha Coleman 7, Mary Flanary 2, Ashley Williams 2, Danielle Gilbert 2, Amber Johnson 2, Samantha Coleman 2.