There were three ties and three lead changes in the fourth quarter and the game wasn’t decided until Lady Lion Chelsey Smith 30-footer at the buzzer came up just short.
Smith led all scorers with 29 points while Kristen Brock added eight for Pineville.
Middlesboro was led by junior guard Ashley Mason’s 14 points. Carissa Overbay finished with 11 and Rayann Moyers 10 for the Lady Jackets. Overbay and Moyers did all of their scoring in the second half as Middlesboro rallied after trailing by as many as 13 in the second quarter.
It was all Pineville early as the Lady Jackets were held to just a 3-pointer from Mason in the first quarter. Smith scored seven points and Brock four while Victoria Knuckles added a bucket to help the Lady Lions to a 13-3 lead after one.
Middlesboro coach Elgie Green pulled most of his starters during the slow start and played the backup for most of the second quarter.
“My group of starters were just not ready to play, for what reason I don’t know. We weren’t moving the ball, we weren’t making good decisions so I put my young kids in,” Green said.
Jesslyn Turner scored inside for MHS but Pineville answered back with two baskets from Brock.
Both teams were playing physical defense and there wasn’ a lot of scoring from either side for much of the period.
Turner hit one free throw, then Smith hit two to give the Lady Lions their biggest lead of the game at 19-6 with 2:08 remaining in the half.
Mason returned to the lineup and scored five points late in the half. Carissa Padgett and Anajae Stephney combined for three free throws, but Smith had a pair of free throws of her own and hit a late 3-pointer push Pineville’s halftime lead back out to 24-14.
“The young kids kept us close, even outscored our starting five in the second quarter and that gave us a chance to come out in the second half and have a chance to win,” said Green. “At halftime basically all I did was challenge them. I told them I was tired of the pouting and feeling down on themselves and either the five starters were going to step up and get the job done or I was going to go back to that middle school bunch and let them play.”
It worked as the Lady Jackets came out in the second quarter with much more energy. Moyers and Overbay hit 3s to open the scoring and a steal and layup from Mason cut Pineville’s lead to 24-22 at the 5:11 mark.
The Lady Lions missed their first four shots of the third quarter and turned the ball over five other times. There seemed to be an emphasis on players dragging their pivot foot before starting their dribble and the Lady Lions were called for travelling multiple times.
Overbay blocked a shot at one end, then scored the tying basket at the other to tie the game at 24. Smith and Moyers traded baskets before Padgett converted a three-point play after grabbing an offensive rebound to give the Lady Jackets a 29-26 lead.
“We came out making better decisions passing the basketball, getting it where it needed to be,” Green said. “We were breaking the press, our kids were being more aggressive and even our three-point shooters were squaring up and being aggressive with their shot.”
A 3-pointer from Overbay put MHS up 32-28 early in the fourth quarter, but Pineville didn’t go down without a fight.
Smith hit a free throw (her second was wiped away on a lane violation, then Knuckles and Whitney Partin delivered layups after steals to put the Lady Lions back on top 33-32.
Knuckles fouled out with 6:02 to play, then after the team exchanged turnovers Mason putback an Overbay miss to put the Lady Jackets back on top.
A steal and layup by Padgett gave Middlesboro a 36-33 lead with about 5:15 on the clock.
“Padgett is playing well. We try and get her the ball in scoring position and we keep working on her finishing. She’s getting position and we’re getting the shots we want from her,” Green said of his sophomore forward. “Once she starts finishing those shots it’s going to take some pressure off our perimeter players and we’ll be able to do more inside-out. She’s just a little ways away. Her form is great, we just want to keep building her confidence. Once she has that one big game I think it will click for her.”
Smith hit a pair of free throws then Partin came away with a steal and that led to a Smith putback as the Lady Lions went back on top. Smith would add a basket with 4:20 to play for a 39-36 Pineville lead.
One free throw from Overbay and two from Moyers tied the game again with 3:13 left.
Both teams missed a pair of shots from the free throw line before Overbay was fouled in the backcourt. The senior hit both free throws with 1:21 to play.
Smith tied the game with a pair of free throws of her own but Moyers sank a 3 at the 1:00 mark for a 44-41 lead the Lady Jackets wouldn’t give up.
Mason went 2-for-6 from the line down the stretch. Smith scored a late basket for Pineville and her last second shot hit off the front of the rim as Middlesboro held on for the three point win.
Pineville is 8-13 following Monday’s 59-40 loss at Clay County. The Lady Lions host Jackson County as part of a girls-boys double header on Friday.
Middlesboro improves to 6-7 on the year. They’re off until Friday when they visit Bell County as part of a girls-boys double-header.
Saturday’s win snaps a four-game skid for the Lady Jackets and Green said he’s hopeful the game can serve a turning point with seven game left in the regular season.
“The attitude after the game was really good, our kids were enthusiastic,” he said. “Our schedule down the stretch is tough, we don’t have any easy games. But since the Corbin game we really haven’t had that energy and that confidence. If we can somehow get that back we can win a few of these.
We’ve got few days off so we’re going to try and get our bodies healthy and get ready to go to Bell on Friday and go from there.”
— — —
Pineville 13 11 4 15 — 43
Middlesboro 3 11 15 17 — 46
PINEVILLE (43): Chelsey Smith 29, Kristen Brock 8, Victoria Knuckles 4, Whitney Partin 2, Lacey Books 0, Annalee Adams 0, Rebekah Brooks 0, Stephanie Epperson 0.
MIDDLESBORO (46): Ashley Mason 14, Carissa Overbay 11, Rayann Moyers 10, Carissa Padgett 6, Jesslyn Turner 3, Anajae Stephney 2, Taylor Moyers 0, Kelsie Hensley 0, Bailey Hensley 0.