“I just want to congratulate everybody’s effort. These kids have worked hard and they deserve a lot of credit. I’m really proud of them for getting to 16 wins, that’s a big accomplishment,” Thompson said.
Senior forward Cameron Rancher had another big night with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He was also crowned Homecoming King during a ceremony at halftime. But Thompson was eager to talk about his team’s depth and the overall effort.
That depth affords the Jackets a lot of flexibility in their starting line-up and all through the rotation. Friday night Boone Bowling started at center with Rancher and Derek Smith at the forwards. Michael Wilson remained the starter at point guard and forward Austin Poindexter saw time at the two.
“We’re playing ten guys deep and they’re all solid and they all contribute. That’s what I’m proud of,” Thompson said. “Austin Poindexter came in at 6-4 and guards their point guard which allows us to do a lot of things defensively. Zack Riddle comes off the bench and played well, Donnie Foister gave an offensive spark in the fourth quarter. Everybody played well defensively and it’s hard to talk about individuals when we play as a whole team like that.”
Rancher scored eight points in the first quarter. Wilson and Bowling added baskets and Jarrell Stephney converted a three-point play. Williamsburg hung tough early as Dalton Sizemore scored ten of his 19 points in the opening period and the score was 15-15 after one.
The Jacket defense turned it up a notch in the second quarter as they held Williamsburg to just baskets by Cameron Smoak and Andrew Griffith to go along with two free throws by Jared Barton. Meanwhile Riddle was a force on the offensive glass and scored seven of his nine points in the period. Rancher also had a basket and Blake Davis hit a 3 and MHS lead 27-21 at the half.
Middlesboro put the game out of reach in the third quarter. Bowling scored inside and Smith came away with a steal and a layup to push the lead to 33-23 by about the 6:30 mark. Rancher and fellow senior Jake Taylor scored six points each late in the quarter with two free throws from Taylor give the Jackets a 47-29 lead going into the fourth.
MHS continued to pull away. Riddle hit two free throws early in the final period to make it a 20-point game. He later blocked consecutive shots by Williamsburg players. The lead hovered around the 20-point mark until another late surge by the Jackets. Foister drove in for a layup with just under two minutes to go for a 62-40 Middlesboro advantage.
Thompson was able to empty his bench late and sophomore forward Tyler Prater scored two late baskets as the largest Jacket lead was 66-41 and they went on to win by 23.
The game never came down to free throws, but Middlesboro had one of their best nights of the year at the line. They hit 13 of 17 freebies while Williamsburg was 19 of 25 from the line.
“I’ve been saying it everywhere: If we can get to where we’re hitting free throws and scoring the basketball and keep playing with the same effort on defense then we’re going to be beating teams,” Thompson added. “I felt like they were able to put it together for four full quarters. They executed offensively, finished at the rim and at the free throw line.”
Middlesboro (16-11) is scheduled to play Saturday at Paris. Williamsburg (14-14) will host Owsley County on Tuesday.
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Earlier this week the Jackets held senior night and honored their two seniors Rancher and Taylor.
“I couldn’t ask for any two better seniors to lead us in trying to get this program pointed in the right direction. They’ve done a good job of that,” Thompson said.
Rancher has been the teams leading scorer and rebounder the past two seasons.
“Cameron is a guy we look for to produce a double-double every night and that’s a lot of pressure on a kid. For the last two years he’s been able to come out most nights and get at least ten points and ten rebounds consistently. That shows how much hard work he’s put in to get himself to be in that role. At the same time it shows how tough he is to be able to maintain that. He’s averaged a double-double over the last two years,” Thompson added.
Taylor has been a cog in the Middlesboro rotation for the last two seasons and fills an important role as a defensive stopper off the bench.
“Jake came in late last year and has been able to step up and bring what he does defensively. That’s made everyone else steep up on the defensive end and it’s made us better just with his effort,” Thompson continued. There’s nothing soft about him. He’s tough and plays hard and brings that intensity every game.
“I kept telling both of them, ‘If you’ll lead and do the right things people will follow that.’ These younger kids have followed them and I’m really blessed to have those two guys as my senior leaders.”
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Williamsburg 15 6 8 16 — 45
Middlesboro 15 12 20 21 — 68
WILLIAMSBURG (45): Dalton Sizemore 19, Cameron Smoak 6, Jared Barton 5, Skylar Griffith 4, Andrew Griffith 4, Chris O’Dell 4, Chase Lowrie 2, Donnie Bowlin 1, Corey Shelton 0, Hunter Williams 0.
MIDDLESBORO (68): Cameron Rancher 19, Zack Riddle 9, Blake Davis 7, Boone Bowling 6, Jake Taylor 6, Donnie Foister 6, Jarrell Stephney 5, Michael Wilson 4, Tyler Prater 4, Derek Smith 2, Austin Poindexter 0, Cole Frazier 0, Major Edwards 0, Matt Schneider 0.