The Pineville Mountain Lions took second place in their annual Pine Mountain Classic, closing the tournament with a 61-47 win over Middlesboro on Sunday afternoon.
After leading by as many as ten points in the first half, the Lions saw the Jackets rally in the third quarter to get as close a one point. Pineville led it 43-40 after three quarters and then pulled away by hitting 14 straight free throws over the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. During that span, Middlesboro hit just one of six shots from the field and turned the ball over twice as the Lions took control.
MHS had won five of the last six games in the series, including the last four in a row.
“It was a big win for us. I think any win is good, but anytime you get Middlesboro and Pineville together it’s a good win for whoever wins the game. Fortunately we were able to do that,” Mountain Lion coach J.D. Strange said. “I thought our kids came in focused and played hard. From a fans’ standpoint it was a good game to watch because there were runs, we would get up and then Middlesboro would come back. Each time they made a run to come back we answered the bell and made some plays.”
Junior guard Cody Collett led Pineville with 25 points in the game. He also went 12-for-12 from the free throw line, including 8-for-8 in the fourth quarter. During the tournament Collett hit 36 of 37 free throws (97.3-percent). The Lions also got ten points from Dalton Ledbetter, nine from Conner Ford and eight from John Robbins. As a team, PHS hit 24 of 30 free throws on Sunday, including 16 of 18 in the fourth quarter.
Senior forward Austin Poindexter came off the bench to lead the Jackets with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Donnie Foister added 13 points while Major Edwards and Justin Miracle finished with six apiece.
“Pineville is a hard team to press given the fact that once they get into the bonus it’s almost automatic that they’re going to hit their free throws. Once we got up to six or seven fouls it was hard to keep the pressure up,” Middlesboro coach Russell Thompson said. “They were calling it tight and I had foul trouble with Foister and (Brandon) Hale both getting their fourth foul in the third quarter. Those two get most of the minutes at point guard and it really limited us in what we could do.
“Congatulations to Pineville for winning second place here in the Pine Mountain Classic, which has been a great tournament. Coach Strange and those guys do great job as hosts and we appreciate being in it.”
The game started out as a 3-point shooting contest between Foister and Collett. Foister hit three from long range in the first period while Collett knocked down two. Pineville also got five points from Ledbetter and took a 15-13 lead after on period.
Miracle tied the game with a driving layup early in the second quarter, but Robbins answered with a 3 and the Lions never trailed again.
Collett converted a three-point play after one steal and Isaac Longworth also converted a steal into a layup. Later in the half, Will Adams scored off nice spin move along the left block and a Ledbetter putback gave Pineville a 29-19 lead with 1:45 to play in the second quarter.
The Jackets were fortunate to close within six after a basket from Poindexter and two free throws by Tyshon Kincaide. The Lions failed to take advantage of several opportunities to add to their lead earlier in the quarter.
“I give Middlesboro credit for that because they pushed us and were rushing us down the floor. We felt like we had to make a quick play instead of taking our time and making them play defense a while,” Strange said. “We were trying get our kids not to take the first quick thing, but keep working to try and get a better thing. Sometimes we fall short of that, but (Sunday) when we answered those runs it was because we were doing those things.”
A late jumper from Collett gave Pineville a 31-23 lead at halftime.
That Middlesboro press continued to be effective in the third quarter. The Jackets weren’t forcing many turnovers, but they were forcing the Lions to play fast and rush shots. A Foister basket, a three-point play from Poindexter and a bucket from Edwards made it a two-point game. Kincaide came away with a steal, but the Jackets missed a pair of shots from close range that would have tied the game.
At the other end Collett drew a foul while hitting a 3-pointer and converted the rare four-point play and the lead was back to 35-29 with 4:46 to play in the third.
“Big play, big bucket. You could look at two or three others, but that was definitely a big play in the game,” Strange said. “Cody had a great tournament for us.”
“It was happening fast right there, which the way we want to play. That four-point play pushed their lead back to six and it seemed like from there they just dribbled the air out of the basketball,” Thompson added.
Robbins also hit a 3-pointer, but a Poindexter putback and a trey from Miracle pulled the Jackets within 38-37 at the 2:16 mark. Ledbetter answered by scoring inside and converting a three-point play to push the lead back to four and it was 43-40 going into the fourth.
The Jackets got six points from Edwards in the third quarter, five from Poindexter and four from Miracle to keep the game close while Foister and Hale were both sitting with four fouls.
“We had to find somebody. We’re looking for that third scorer and it’s a job that’s open,” Thompson said. “Major did a good job in the third quarter and that really sparked us. You can see that when we can get a third guy going, along with Foister and Poindexter, then we’re a lot more effective offensively. That also picks our energy up on the defensive end.
“I thought Poindexter did a great job of battling. It seemed like most of his points came off of offensive rebounds. He did a good job going after the basketball. We got it back down to a point, which showed a lot of guts and determination by our players.”
Pineville had started to run through their offense a little longer late in the third quarter and the trend continued in the fourth. Ford was fouled away from the ball and hit both ends of the bonus to push the lead to five. After an exchange of misses, Collett was fouled and also hit both free throws to make it 47-40.
Middlesboro missed a 3-pointer and Collett again got fouled and hit both free throws to push the lead to nine with 5:36 to play.
“When you’re not scoring and they are, you’ve got to do something to put on the brakes. For us it was going to more of a ball control, possession-type thing until we could re-establish ourselves,” Strange said. “We were able to shoot a lot of free throws and that comes from having the lead late and the other team really has no other choice but to try to come up with steals or foul. I thought our kids did a great job of taking care of the basketball and then they had the opportunity to hit their free throws.”
Collett, Longworth and Ford all added two free throws each as the lead grew to 55-44 and Pineville went on to win by 14.
It was a similar recipe to the one the Lions used in beating Eminence on Friday in their second game of the tournament, but Strange said his team is still far from a finished product.
“These kids are still learning. Hopefully they’ll continue to improve each game we play. It’s sort of like watching us mix a cake, hopefully you haven’t seen the cake yet because we’re still mixing,” he added. “We had some kids come off the bench and pick us up, they played with a lot more confidence. Obviously free throw shooting was big and I think our kids have played together enough that they’re starting to understand what our strengths are.”
Both teams return to action on Friday with Pineville (5-6) hosting Knox Central and Middlesboro (3-9) hosting Williamsburg.
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MIDDLESBORO (47) — Donnie Foister 13, Tyshon Kincaide 2, Tyler Prater 2, Major Edwards 6, Brandon Hale 0, Austin Poindexter 17, Justin Miracle 6, Abhishek Singh 1, Matt Mike 0, Jared Gullett 0, Josh Buttery 0, Cody Smith 0.
PINEVILLE (61) — Cody Collett 25, Isaac Longworth 4, Dalton Ledbetter 10, Conner Ford 9, John Robbins 8, Will Adams 5, Tucker Woolum 0, Thomas Brock 0, Jalen Byrd 0, Keith Sexton 0, Joseph Simpson 0.