It took two overtimes and a little late game heroics, but Middlesboro snapped its 30-game losing streak on Tuesday. The Yellow Jackets grabbed the lead with just over three minutes left in the second overtime en route to an 80-71 victory.
“I am extremely proud of our guys right now. Going through what these guys have the last year and a half, it definitely takes a toll on you,” said Middlesboro coach Isaac Wilson. “It would have been very easy late in the third after I got a technical and (Thomas Walker) went back up double digits, it would have been very easy to let the balloon deflate.”
Middlesboro didn’t let the balloon deflate. They wiped away a 13-point Pioneer lead with the help of a 9-0 run that narrowed the lead to one point (48-47) midway through the fourth.
Thomas Walker went up 60-57 with 12.1 seconds remaining in regulation, but Josh Overbay hit a 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds remaining to send the game into its first overtime.
The Jackets jumped out to a 64-60 lead early in the first overtime, but an Austin Williams 3-pointer quickly narrowed the deficit to 64-63. A 3-pointer from Taylor Williams gave the Pioneers a 66-64 lead as the clock inched closer to zero.
Christian Hubbard scored a basket on the putback to send the game into the second overtime with the score tied 66-66.
The Middlesboro defense kept Thomas Walker in check during the second overtime with the Pioneers tallying only five points. The Jackets garnered 14 points in the period to secure the victory.
One player who received praise from Wilson was Rhyan Rogers. The sophomore entered the game late in the third quarter and provided a spark that helped keep Middlesboro in the game down the stretch.
“That kid came off the bench. He’s not played the most minutes by any means. He has kept a positive attitude. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him in practice,” said Wilson. “He gets his number called tonight. If I was to give an MVP tonight, he’s the one kid (I would give it to). He come off, provided a spark, got our guys going and really turned it around for us there.”
Middlesboro had to overcome double-digit deficits twice including a 13-point deficit late in the third quarter. The Jackets used a strong full-court press to create turnovers that helped them narrow the lead each time.
“We knew we had to pick up the tempo. There was one thing about it. We needed some guys to bring some energy,” said Wilson. “Rhyan really brought that for us. I thought that we were kind of lackadaisical for quite a while tonight. Like I said, his number got called and he brought a little life to the team.”
“I always talk about that to our guys. All it takes is one. When one brings it, all of a sudden two has it. When two has it, four has it, and then all of sudden the whole team has it. It took a team effort tonight. Everybody is going to remember Josh’s shot. Without that we’re not even in overtime.”
Three players for Middlesboro scored in double figures. Hubbard paced the offense with 24 points with all but two points coming in the second half. Jabari Kyle scored 19 points, while Overbay finished the game with 16.
The Jackets won the rebounding battle as well with the team tallying 42 while holding Thomas Walker to 36.
“The thing that we fixed from our last game against Red Bird was the rebounding,” said Wilson. “We absolutely got our tails whipped on the boards against Red Bird. We came in here tonight with just a little different mentality. It felt like, for the most part, we gave them one shot and one shot only. I think that’s the difference.”
It was a two-man show for the Pioneers Tuesday with Taylor Williams scoring a game-high 26 points and Austin Williams tallying 21 points. Kaleb Sharrett and Tanner Cope finished the game with seven points apiece.
Middlesboro (1-5) will travel to Williamsburg (0-4) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday for a Region 13 matchup.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN