Middlesboro overcame a game effort from Oneida Baptist to pull out a 66-62 win on Tuesday for their first victory of the season.
“We had been struggling a little bit, giving up a lot of points. But I thought some of our guys sort of discovered their roles tonight,” Middlesboro coach Russell Thompson said. “It was nerve-wracking game. This was a big one for us to win in front of the home crowd for the first time this season. Before the game I challenged our guys to step up, I told them it was time to start believing in each other and playing team basketball. They made a step toward the right direction.”
Senior forward Austin Poindexter came off the bench to score 25 points and grab 11 rebounds for the Yellow Jackets. Senior guard Donnie Foister finished with 18 points and seven assists and Brandon Hale chipped in with 12 points.
For OBI, Samuel Robinson hit six 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 26 points and D.K. Kiawu added 18 points off the bench.
“This is a good OBI team. They’re well-coached and they’ve a couple of nice athletes that finish real well and some good shooters. They’ve come a long way,” Thompson said. “For them to come here and compete as hard as they did and for our guys to rise to that challenge, that’s a lot of progress for our guys that don’t have much experience at the varsity level.”
The Mountaineers outscored MHS 21-12 in the second quarter behind eight points from Kiawu and seven from Robinson to take a 31-27 lead into halftime.
The Jackets pushed the pace in the third quarter and Foister scored 10 of his points in the period. A three-point play from Poindexter gave Middlesboro a 40-39 lead and Foister’s 3 had the Jackets up 43-39 with 3:20 left in the period. Robinson answered with a 3 of his own and the teams went back-and-forth for most of the rest of the game.
It was 48-all after three quarters and the Mountaineers took their first lead of the fourth when another Robinson 3 made it 55-54 with 5:51 to play.
Middlesboro got a putback from Poindexter and then a 3 from Foister to go up by four. But Daniel Decker hit a trey for OBI and the Jackets missed four straight free throws. That opened the door for Robinson to hit a baseline runner with 2:32 remaining for a 60-59 Mountaineer lead.
Hale made a little move on the left wing and drove in for a basket and was fouled. He converted the three-point play to put the Jackets up 62-60 at the 2:19 mark.
“That was big. Brandon is stepping into role at point guard where I had Michael Wilson start the last three years,” Thompson said. “I stay on him because I need him to think like I do when he’s on the floor. He’s starting to put it together piece by piece and that was a huge play to put us over the top and finish at the free throw line.”
Tyler Prater rebounded a missed OBI 3-point attempt and the teams traded turnovers. Then the Jackets were content to let the clock run down under a minute before the Mountaineers tried to foul, but Poindexter found a path to the basket for a layup to stretch the lead to four with 47 seconds on the clock.
Kiawu’s putback cut it to two and Hale hit one of two free throws with 25 seconds to go for a 65-62 Jacket lead. Oneida called a timeout with 10 seconds remaining to set up for a potential tying shot. But Middlesboro played aggressive defense on the inbounds play and trapped Kiawu near the corner where he stepped on the sideline for a turnover.
“That’s a trapping spot for us there. Austin and I think Donnie read it and had the trap on the sideline. Now, it was a dangerous situation because if they get out of that then they’ve got us outnumbered. They were able to move their feet and he stepped out of bounds,” Thompson said. “That’s big for our seniors to step up and show leadership there.”
Poindexter hit a free throw with six seconds left and OBI’s last-second shot was off the mark as the Jackets held on for the four-point win.
Both teams return to action on Thursday with Middlesboro (1-2) opening 52nd District play at Harlan County while Oneida Baptist (0-4) hosts Leslie County.
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ONEIDA BAPTIST (62) — Samuel Robinson 26, Derryn Tagune 2, A.J. Shackleford 2, Kaylob Harrell 0, Jonathan Osam 0, D.K. Kiawu 18, Daniel Decker 8, Samuel Elendu 4, Alex Quarshie 2.
MIDDLESBORO (66) — Donnie Foister 18, Brandon Hale 12, Tyler Prater 6, Major Edwards 5, Tyshon Kincaide 0, Austin Piondexter 25, Justin Miracle 0, Abhishek Singh 0.