Middlesboro looked like it was heading for its first district win in two years following an impressive second quarter that gave them a six-point lead on Tuesday against visiting Harlan. The Jackets were still leading heading into the final quarter, but Harlan put together a 21-point fourth quarter to pull away to a 53-41 victory.
“We executed the gameplan, and we come in rough for three quarters,” said Middlesboro coach Isaac Wilson. “I’m really proud of our guys in that aspect. We’ve been talking about how we find ourselves in ball games in the second. That’s something we didn’t do very much of last year, and now we’re finding ourselves in that role.”
“As bad as this is, there’s a learning process. I think tonight was one of them. It’s a tough pill to swallow for myself and the players, but I think you’ve got to go through a few of these lumps. As long as we learn from this, it’s a long season. I’d rather learn it the third game than the 20th game.”
Jake Wilson set the pace for the Green Dragon offense in the fourth quarter, hitting three consecutive 3-pointers to open the quarter. His efforts were good enough to give Harlan the lead. Middlesboro wasn’t able to bounce back from that point.
Joey Swanner led Harlan with 14 points off the bench. Wilson and Noah Busroe finished the game with nine points apiece.
Freshman Tanner Brush paced the Jacket offense with 10 points. Jabari Kyle and Christian Hubbard both finished the game with eight points.
One positive for the Jackets was their ability to control boards. Brush, Padgett and Danny Wilson were able to bring double multiple rebounds throughout the game.
“That was a big emphasis. We told them we were the bigger basketball team and we needed to hit the glass hard,” said Wilson. “I thought there were a lot of opportunities for us to get offensive boards, and we really knew we needed to win the rebounding war. Sitting here right now, I feel that we did that.”
The first quarter went back and forth with the game being tied at 6-6 following a basket by Brush. The Jackets claimed a brief lead following a basket, but they quickly surrendered it after a 3-pointer by Cade Barnes gave Harlan a 9-8 lead.
Following a basket from Middlesboro, the Dragons finished the quarter with back-to-back field goals that gave them a 13-10 lead at the end of the first.
The second quarter belonged to the Jackets. Middlesboro outscored the opposition 16-7 to claim a 26-20 lead heading into halftime.
The quarter was highlighted by a 9-1 run at the end of the second that gave the Jackets the lead. Tyler Wilson started the run with a basket. Hubbard capped the run off with a layup at the end of the quarter.
The Dragons narrowed the lead in the third. Harlan started the quarter with a 5-1 run that cut the lead to 27-25. Baskets from Tyler Wilson and Hubbard increased the Jacket lead to 31-25.
Harlan finished the quarter on a 7-2 run that brought the score to 33-32 in favor of Middlesboro.
The Dragons regained the lead they lost in the second quarter after a Wilson 3-pointer that brought the score to 35-33. After a brief tie, Wilson hit a second 3-pointer that gave Harlan a 38-35 lead.
Harlan never relinquished the lead from the point outscoring Middlesboro 15-6 to secure the 12-point victory.
Middlesboro (0-3) returns to action at 6 p.m. on Friday with a home district game against Harlan County (3-0).
Harlan (2-1) will travel to Bell County (0-4) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN