Gilbert was fouled as she came down with a loose ball off a Bell County in-bounds play with 3.2 seconds left in overtime and the scored tied at 73. After missing the first free throw and sitting through a time-out the 5-foot senior hit nothing but the bottom of the net on her second shot to lift the Lady Jackets to a wild 74-73 road win over the Lady Cats.
“As soon as she got fouled and knew she was going to the line it was a lot of pressure,” said Middlesboro coach Elgie Green. “You could tell on that first free throw — it wasn’t close. They called time-out and we were able to settle her down and she went up there, bent her knees and followed through and it went in.
“That’s a senior stepping up. Our seniors stepped up and hit big shots when we had to have big shots.”
Bell County trailed 20-8 after the first period but came roaring back to lead by as many as eight late in the fourth. Junior Whitney Howard sank both ends of the bonus to give the Lady Cats a 58-52 lead with 1:10 remaining in regulation.
But Bell managed to hit just 3-of-8 free throws down the stretch to leave the door open for the Lady Jackets.
“Free throws just killed us down at the end,” Lady Cat coach David Teague said. “We’ve got a five or six point lead and they’re trying to foul us and get the ball back. We’ve got to make those.
“I’m not making excuses for anybody but for a lot of these girls its the first time they’ve been in that situation,” Teague added. “We’ve got to get better because that’s two games now that free throws have cost us.”
Mallory Shoffner hit a 3 for MHS and later added one free throw. Carissa Overbay rebounded her missed free throw, was fouled, and hit a pair to bring Middlesboro to within 59-58 with 15.1 seconds to play.
Lady Cat senior Erin Enix hit one of two free throws and Howard came away with a steal, was fouled, and hit one of two to put Bell up 61-58 with 5.2 seconds to play.
Lady Jacket senior Samantha Coleman, who led all scorers in the game with 23 points, took the in-bounds pass all the way up the court and pulled up for a 3-pointer to tie the game as the buzzer sounded.
“After the first quarter it was like were satisfied with the lead and just sat back,” Green said. “But when we got down the kids could have very easily quit but they kept battling, hit some shots and did what we needed to to win.”
In overtime Ashley Mason scooped up the ball off the tip and took it all the way in for a layup to give Middlesboro their first lead since midway through the third quarter.
Bell sophomore Makayla Neal and Shoffner exchanged 3-pointers and Howard hit two free throws to tie the game at 66.
After a Lady Jacket turnover Bell 7th-grader Maci Morris hit a jumper to put the Lady Cats up by two at the 2:25 mark.
Two free throws from Gilbert tied the game again with 1:42 to play, but Howard scored inside and later added one free throw to push Bell’s lead to 71-68 with 51.2 seconds remaining.
Middlesboro’s RayAnn Moyers converted a three-point play to again tie the score with 40.7 on the clock. Howard fouled out on the play.
Lady Cat senior guard Jamie Shepherd drew a foul driving to the basket and made both free throws, but Coleman quickly answered with a basket to tie the game at 73 with 20 seconds remaining.
Bell called a timeout with 7.5 seconds to go to set up for a final shot but never got the chance. Taylor Moyers deflected the ball away from Neal and it bounced high into the air where Gilbert jumped up to pull it out of the reach of Brittany Smith. She was fouled by Shepherd after coming down while trying to maintain control of the ball.
Following Gilbert’s free throw the Middlesboro press prevented the Lady Cats from getting a good look. They had to settle for Smith’s contested heave from three-quarters of the court away and it never came close to the basket.
“My kids battled, they fought hard, they wanted to win the game,” Teague said. “It was a case of two teams laying their hearts out on the line (Middlesboro) wanted to win it, too. Either team could have folded at one time or another, you just have to tip your hat to both teams for going out there and giving their all.”
Overbay hit three 3-pointers and finished with 16 points for the Lady Jackets while Shoffner and Mason added ten each to join Coleman in double figures.
Bell County was led by Howard’s 17 points, Shepherd added 16, Morris 13, Smith 10 and Neal nine.
The Lady Cats (9-4, 2-1 in district play) are back in action tonight at Harlan County with the varsity game tipping off at 7:30 p.m.
Middlesboro dropped a 43-35 decision at Corbin Monday night. Now 6-6, 2-1 on the season, the Lady Jackets will next play Williamsburg on Saturday at 3 p.m. in the opening round of the 13th Region All “A” Classic at Harlan.
— — —
Middlesboro 20 8 11 22 13 — 74
Bell County 8 17 15 21 12 — 73
MIDDLESBORO (74): Samantha Coleman 23, Carissa Overbay 16, Mallory Shoffner 10, Ashley Mason 10, Shanice Gilbert 7, RayAnn Moyers 3, Taylor Moyers 3, Emily Pannocchia 2, Lauren Cox 0.
BELL COUNTY (73): Whitney Howard 17, Jamie Shepherd 16, Maci Morris 13, Brittany Smith 10, Makayla Neal 9, Brianna Freeman 4, Erin Enix 4, Courtney Carroll 0.