The young Middlesboro Lady Jackets showed their resiliency once again on Saturday as they bounced back from a loss to Harlan in the semifinals of the 13th Region All ‘A’ Tournament with a 55-45 win over South Laurel.
Sophomore guard Bailey Hensley scored 19 points and eighth-grade forward Blair Green finished with 20 to lead the Middlesboro cause.
“Bailey did an excellent job running the offense tonight. In transition she found the open person and took care of the basketball. She hit shots when she had them and took it to the basket when it was there. She also played good defense,” Lady Jacket coach Elgie Green said. “Overall, that was just a really good team win for us.”
Freshman center Katie Reynolds led the Lady Cardinals with 16 points while junior guard Brittany Vandeventer added 10.
Defense was the story of the night. After finding themselves in a quick 4-0 hole, the Lady Jackets used their press to force some turnovers and get out and run. Hensley scored seven points and Green added five as Middlesboro jumped into the lead. Senior guard Amanda Biscardi hit a 3-pointer and Morgan Thompson added a basket as the Lady Jackets led 17-12 after one.
“We pressed them and got some quick fast-break points, hit a couple of threes and the next thing you know we’re ahead,” Green said. “Once we got ahead we never did loose the lead.”
Led by six points from Green, four each from Hannah Warren and Lauren Spurlock and a 3 from Hensley, Middlesboro led by as many as 15 points in the second quarter and went into the half up 34-23.
South opened the second half in a triangle and two defense with chasers on both Green and Hensley. The move not only slowed the pace of the game, but kept the Lady Jackets from scoring for nearly 4-and-a-half minutes.
“In 20-some years that I’ve coached I had never had a triangle and two played against me. It was new to me and I had to adjust to it. We kind of took the basketball out and held it to extend their defense,” Green added. “I thought our kids did an excellent job of taking care of the ball and not turning it over.”
The Lady Cardinals got single free throws from Vandeventer and Preslie Baker and a putback from Reynolds to pull within seven. Middlesboro missed their first five shots of the second half, but Hensley finally got free at the top of the key and hit a 3-pointer at the 3:35 mark to put the lead back to 37-27.
Reynolds would add two more baskets and Vandeventer one in the period before a Green block led to a break-away layup by Morgan Thompson that gave MHS a 40-33 lead after three quarters.
The lead stayed between five and seven points until South’s Taylor Cromer drove in for a layup and was fouled with 1:53 to play. She missed the free throw but Reynolds grabbed the rebound, was fouled and hit both of hers to make it a 42-39 game.
Green hit five of six free throws and Spurlock added one while the Lady Cardinals missed their next four shots as Middlesboro put the game out of reach.
Thompson and Spurlock both had two big rebounds during that stretch while Green and Warren also came away with boards during the fourth quarter.
“We really rebounded the basketball well, boxed out and some kids went after the ball. Down the stretch we hit our free throws, it was a total team effort,” Green said. “Spurlock got some big rebounds and we really need that out of Lauren. She got into early foul trouble and had to sit quite a bit, but in the fourth quarter she really picked it up and played like I know she can play.”
The Lady Jackets hit 15 of their 20 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter (Green was 9-of-11 and Hensley was 5-of-7) and went on to win by ten.
Middlesboro (6-9) has already exceeded their five wins from last year with 13 games left in the regular season. The Lady Jackets play at Bell County on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. South Laurel (4-12) was scheduled to play at Williamsburg on Monday.
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SOUTH LAUREL (45) — Brittany Vandeventer 10, Bailey Miller 7, Katie Reynolds 16, Preslie Baker 7, Shelby Davis 3, Taylore Cromer 2, Morgan Madden 0, Austin Hacker 0, Becca Phelps 0.
MIDDLESBORO (55) — Bailey Hensley 19, Blair Green 20, Lauren Spurlock 5, Hannah Warren 4, Amanda Biscardi 3, Morgan Thompson 4, Malorie Carter 0.