A slim halftime lead turned into a double-digit victory on Thursday when Pineville battled Barbourville in the semifinals of the 13th Region All A Classic. The Lady Lions outscored the Lady Tigers by 13 points in the second half en route to a 73-55 victory.
With the win, Pineville advances to the championship against 13th Region power Harlan on Friday. The victory also gives the Lady Lions a three-game winning streak heading into the title game.
“(Harlan) plays man, and we’ve got to be patient. We don’t need to come down and feel like we’ve got to make two passes and put it up,” said Pineville coach Jamie Mills. “We got to take or time, run our offense and get the shots we want.”
The Pineville offense was clicking on all cylinders Thursday with all five starters finishing the game in double figures.
Reminiscent of the district tournament a year ago, Sarah Combs paced the Lady Lions inside the Lynn Camp gymnasium. The junior guard ended the game with a team-high 21 points. She tallied four assist and four steals as well.
“She got aggressive. She was taking the ball at them, took the bumps, took the bangs, and just kept chugging,” said Mills about his junior point guard. “That’s what you have to have from your point guard. If she can’t take a hit or two, it’s hard to get an offense started.”
Autumn Short and Jill Enix both finished the game with 13 points. Short registered a double-double after hauling in 13 rebounds. Enix was one assist shy of a double-double finishing the game with nine.
Makenzie Fuson hit four baskets from the field to tally 11 points. Morgan Thompson finished the game with 10 points on the night.
Another asset during the victory was Anna Howard, who provided the team with quality minutes defensively.
“Anna came in and played solid defense. She played well for us off the bench,” said Mills. “She is always steady. When you put her in you know she’s not going to make any bad mistakes, and she’s going to give you a lot while she’s in there.”
Barbourville’s Anna Daniels led all scorers with 22 points. Abbagail Smith finished the night as the Lady Tigers’ seconding leading scorer with 12 points off four 3-pointers. Caylain Mills provided a spark off the bench with nine points.
Barbourville was able to hang around during the first half. Pineville’s largest lead in the half was nine points midway through the second. The Lady Tigers were able to narrow that margin to five before halftime.
“I’m really disappointed in our defense. They drove on us all night long,” said Mills. “I want them to learn to step over, make them pick their dribble up or take a charge with it. I was frustrated with the way we played our defense. I thought we were playing not to foul instead of just playing good defense.”
“Barbourville is a good team. We knew that. We were worried about this game. We were able to capitalize on their misses and get out and get some runs on them.”
After trading baskets to open the third, Short and Combs hit back-to-back baskets to increase the lead to 35-24 with 4:24 remaining in the third.
Barbourville went on an 8-2 run behind a floater from Daniels and consecutive 3-pointers from Smith. The run narrowed the deficit to 37-32.
Back-to-back baskets from Enix created a five-point swing for the Lady Lions and increased the lead to 42-32 with just over two minutes remaining in the third.
The two teams traded baskets down the stretch with Pineville taking a 48-38 lead into the final quarter.
The fourth opened up with both teams continuing to answer the other. With 6:31 remaining, the Lady Lions held a 52-43 lead.
The next two minutes of play belonged to Pineville. The team went on a 9-2 run. Combs scored six of those points with Caldwell capping off the run with a free throw. During that stretch, the Lady Lions pulled ahead to a 61-45 lead with 4:09 left in the game.
The Lady Tigers couldn’t rebound after the run, and Pineville walked away with an 18-point win.
Pineville (12-2) advances to the championship game against Harlan (13-4) at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Barbourville (8-8) travels to Red Bird (1-6) at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 21.
Reach Anthony Cloud at 606-302-9090 or on Twitter @AnthonyCloudMDN